Best of 2012: Punknews.org's picksPunknews.org's picks (2012) staff picks
Reviewer Rating: 5
Contributed by: JeloneJelone (others by this writer | submit your own) Here's the Deal
Punknews.org remains, as always, staffed by volunteers. We write, edit and bring the mosh on our own time 'n' dime. There is no such thing as a full time staff, nor is there a guided mandate for how editorial content turns out. In other words, we don't all agree on the same .
Here's the Deal
Punknews.org remains, as always, staffed by volunteers. We write, edit and bring the mosh on our own time 'n' dime. There is no such thing as a full time staff, nor is there a guided mandate for how editorial content turns out. In other words, we don't all agree on the same bands (except for Hot Water Music, who is in fact our spirit animal), and nobody tells us to tell you otherwise. As far as reviews go, Joe Pelone literally made the schedule up last minute all year-long. If something wasn't covered, it wasn't because of politics or money; it's because nobody thought to write about it.
Basically, we can't believe how seriously ya'll take us, but then again, nobody is as serious as the punx.
Regarding Number Magic
This overall list is determined by your good friend, math. In late November members of the Punknews.org editorial, review and interviewer staff, along with Org alumnus Brian Shultz, were asked to submit a ranked top 20 list of LPs and a separate list of EPs. These lists were submitted in isolation and each person's list was kept private from the rest of the staff. While a majority of the people involved in Punknews.org submitted lists, several missed the deadline or otherwise chose to abstain, and as such their opinions may not be reflected here. The individual lists were weighted so that we could tally up the results. For example, a person's #1 pick was worth 20 points, #2 was 19 points, and so on down to #20 being worth 1 point. The summation of those rankings determined the list you see below. No additional weighting was given to how many times a record appeared on those lists, except in the instance of ties. Over 150 full-lengths were voted on; these 20 are the closest we came to an agreement.
While we believe you'll find a nice cross-section of the tastes of the Punknews editors and reviewers here, the real meat of our yearly retrospective can be found in the individual lists. Make sure to check them out, as there are quite a few this year. Also, don't forget about YOUR list, the top 20 releases of the year as voted by the Punknews community. That list should be posted following this one. Feel free to leave observations and conspiracy theories in the comments section below.
I've missed Jack Dalrymple's voice so much. This nifty little EP sounds far more like a follow-up to Little Brother than anything Dead To Me has done since then. I want more, as soon as possible. Tori Pederson
I'm a bigger fan of this than the full-length. Even the songs which were re-recorded for the latter sound better to me here. While I get that the '50s pop sweetness is part of the band's shtick, it's more balanced here. Adam White
Look, I'm just glad they're back, OK? That they would take on Arizona's immigration issues (something near and dear to me), and do it with one of the best songs in their admittedly brief canon just makes the reunion that much better. I forgot how awesome Conor Oberst is when he's politically pissed off. Joe Pelone
Candy Hearts becomes the first act on Violently Happy Records, and knocks it out of the park with their debut EP for the label. Everything sounds great, especially the layered vocals from Mariel, and the songwriting is top-notch. If you're gonna be heartbroken, you've got one hell of a soundtrack here. John Flynn
Restorations just keep getting better and better. Their self-titled album for Tiny Engines was utterly captivating, and this new EP shows the band continuing to grow and engage. If this doesn't get you stoked for their new full-length, your ears may be broken.John Flynn
Hands down, my favorite record of the year. I still feel like this band is heavily underrated but if they are anywhere near you, do not miss the chance to see them. Flawless live, they are so explosive and bring a new light to post-hardcore.Amelia Cline
Of all the sick ink I have, 40% of my tattoos are Bouncing Souls-related. Real talk. I never miss a chance to see them live and as goofy and sometimes cheesy as they can be, I find pretty much everything they do endearing. And although I'm not sure any album will ever touch the greatness that is How I Spent My Summer Vacation or Hopeless Romantic any new release they do I fully support. Kira Wisniewski
"Covet" and "Wish" fucking rock. There's great rage, distortion, rhythm and melody in this album and it's soundly diverse. This is a stroke of genius. The raw, unfiltered honesty of Andrew Fisher comes full-circle with his drawn-out and captivating vocal delivery that we'll miss heavily. It has something for all fans of various rock genres and they sign out guns blazing. If you go out, go out in a blaze of glory...well, so said...so done. I couldn't ask for anything more from them. They exited by giving us their best musical arrangement, so here's hoping they reunite sometime soon. Renaldo Matadeen
This year alone there've been quite a few reunion records emerging from the "scene" I've followed most closely for the last decade or so. While a few are conspicuouslymissing from this wrap-up, none have been particularly bad; however, the Casket Lottery are the only band that somehow woke from their slumber musically and lyrically peaking. Real Fear is the best thing this Kansas City, Mo. trio (now a quintet) have conceived. Far more expansive and more haunting than the already emotionally damaged content of their last opus (2002's aptly titled Survival Is for Cowards), Real Fear took a risk by adding keyboards to the mix, but it merely enriches and illuminates the atmosphere, while the band stylistically touch upon a wider timeline of styles, from grunge to early new wave and '90s emo/alternative, operated at a punk-minded tilt and perfectly complemented by pedals and disconsolate uncertainty. It's aggressive, dynamic, ambitious and rewrites the odds for what a group of musicians can accomplish after considerable time away from each other. Brian Shultz
If I had to describe this record in a single phrase it'd be "Occupy Hip-Hop." A much more focused album than Never Better, We Don't Even Live Here sees P.O.S articulate the righteous fury that can often seem like the default position for thinking people of our generation. This is a record about a generation which has been failed by the institutions our parents paid into, by the governments we trusted to back us up in tough times, and our peers, many of whom seem more interested in conspicuous branding than equality of opportunity.
Basically, it's an unapologetically pissed off record, and although there's a lot of humor here too, it's got an edge to it. In terms of overarching themes, there are a lot of similarities with ill Manors, but P.O.S. forgoes the concept album route in favor of a collection of individual tracks that, while they sit well together, are works in their own right. Likewise, where Plan B follows an individual character through, the closest P.O.S gets to this is dropping into the first person plural. As such, it's a much less grueling work, and this allows much more comfortable listening, which in turn allows the lyrical content to get under the skin in a much more intense and insidious fashion. Andrew Waterfield
Oh, you think your band rocks? Keith Morris is better. Oh, you think your band has clever lyrics? Keith Morris is better. Oh, you think your band has explosive sound recordings? Keith Morris is better. Oh, you think your band tears it up on stage? Keith Morris is better. Oh, you think your band has cool dreadlocks? Keith Morris is better. No one beats Keith Morris at punk. No one. Long live the King. John Gentile
Being from New Jersey originally myself I can relate to some of the self-loathing documented on this album and in Titus Andronicus' other LPs. I mean, the state is sandwiched between two of the country's largest cities and is the butt of every joke nowadays it seems. Frontman Patrick Stickles' line in "In a Big City" sums up the Jersey mentality: "I'm a dirty bum / But I wipe my own ass." Andrew Clark
Every time I think I'm done with pop-punk, I realize that pop-punk isn't done with me. Do you people realize that Teenage Bottlerocket might yet best the Ramones' discography? This is dawning of a new era shit right here. Joe Pelone
I've missed this band. "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume" completely blew me away upon first listen and gave me a feeling I haven't felt since the first time I heard Brother, Sister back in 2006. It's sprawling, it's epic, the spoken/shouted lyrics come so fast it takes a lyric sheet to fully appreciate the gravity of Aaron Weiss' words. On the other side of the coin, "Cardiff Giant" has a huge, immediately singable chorus that REFUSES to quit. Ten Stories is a consistently great, stylistically diverse album that ranks among the group's best. Tori Pederson
The days of supernova female-fronted punk bands never really ended, they just sort of ebbed and flowed as the scene evolved. Is Mish Way this generation's Kathleen Hanna? Her sharply revealing lyrics tackle warped beauty standards, drugs and bad decisions in a way that hasn't been this awesomely brazen in a long, long time. It certainly doesn't hurt that the band behind her follow suit, particularly guitarist Kenneth Williams, whose jagged riffs are never recycled, twisting and turning to fit the mood and delivery of Way's lyrics and vocals. Bryne Yancey
I am a sucker for catchy pop-punk and Masked Intruder stole my heart with their self-titled debut. I love the harmonizing vocals, woah-ohs, chants and hand claps. The lovesick criminal schtick is adorable and hilarious with lines like "Every single day is lonelier than the last / Cried so many tears that I had to wring out my mask." One minute they're trying to unsuccessfully serenade the object of their affection ("Heart Shaped Guitar") and the next they're making a living off their criminal ways by robbing people at knife-point ("Stick 'Em Up"). It must be hard to find love when you're a criminal but at least a good song or 13 can come of it. Brittany Strummer
Everything I could have hoped for and more from one of my favorite bands of all time. There's not much I can say about HWM that hasn't been said before; if you like HWM you probably own this record. If you don't like HWM, your loss. Chris Moran
Torche have never been louder, sludgier or catchier than on Harmonicraft. Their songwriting has improved, their musicianship is as impressive as ever, and as one of the last bastions of heavy music that's fun but not dumb, they're a formidable representative. Listen to "Reverse Inverted" and try not to bang your head. You can't. Bryne Yancey
I completely fell in love with Yellow & Green on first listen. It's rare that a band can completely reinvent themselves without even a trace of awkwardness in the transition. Every experiment here, and there are a lot of them, works on every level. There are remnants of the group's sludge metal past apparent, but for the most part they are replaced with the three "posts;" post-punk flourishes, angular post-hardcore riffs and soothing instrumental post-rock passages. However, upon hearing the news of their near-tragic bus crash, and knowing that this will be the last music we're getting from Baroness for a long time, possibly ever, many of these songs took on a new poignancy. Yellow & Green is a masterwork, one of the best rock records in years, and probably for years to come. Tori Pederson
Ceremony's most complete and engaging album since their aptly titled, polar-opposite-of-this-kind-of-punk debut, Violence Violence, Zoo is a surfy post-punk record in the most literal and figurative senses, finding the band sneering and slurring their way through cuts that unexpectedly crib notes from acts like Dead Kennedys and Gang of Four. Brian Shultz
They've never prided themselves on being the traditional punk rock band, but despite their unconventionalism, they've given some of the best music of the past few years. I didn't think Shed could be topped, but this album blows it away. Displacing its predecessor was no easy feat, and it seems Title Fight keeps finding the ingredients to deliver amazing music. Carry on gentlemen. Renaldo Matadeen
Pardon my language, but this album is fucking flawless. From start to finish, what you have here are eight perfect tracks. It makes me want to pump my fist in the air, dance real hard and yell every lyric while in my living room, my car and with best friends in a million degree venue in Washington, D.C. the night after the Derecho hit and left us without electricity. With sweat pouring out of every pore in a sold out crowd, yes, I want to walk on heads singing along to "The House that Heaven Built." Kira Wisniewski
Jesse Michaels and Hard Girls doing hardcore punk. Oh, you didn't catch that? Here, let me say it again. Jesse Michaels and Hard Girls doing hardcore punk. You still didn't catch that? I know, I know, the pure awesomeness IS hard to perceive. JESSE MICHAELS AND HARD GIRLS DOING HARCORE PUNK. The sheer lyrical genius of Michaels backed by the uncompromising viciousness of Hard Girls combines like a sledgehammer to the head. No band has ever combined deep musings with berserk energy like this before. Also, there is a little bit of ska. John Gentile
The jump to a major label and a legendary producer had no negative impact on the best record of the year. The title track alone makes this album worth the purchase, and the rest is far from filler. Chris Moran
More than any other band today, the Menzingers feel less like performers or artist and more like peers to me. I'm not certain why, perhaps it's just the artificial intimacy created by the Internet. Perhaps it's that this hooky yet melancholy set of melodic punk has been influenced and borrows from by pretty much everything I've come to love in music. In any case, this is the record that, more than any, I'm coming back to this year. I just want to shout along with these songs live, over and over. Adam White