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Best of 2008

Best of 2008: Punknews.orgPunknews.org (2008)
staff picks

Reviewer Rating: 5


Contributed by: brianBrian
(others by this writer | submit your own)

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Who We Are

Punknews.org is staffed by volunteers, writing when they have time and largely of their own individual motivations. There is no editorial mandate here, no bands that we collectively plan coverage of, and likewise none that we collectively plan to praise or pan in reviews. It's fitting then that this overall site list is first seen by most of the editors when the public sees it.

Thus this overall list is determined entirely by math, scoring the albums on the individual Punknews.org writers' lists and running the totals. Once again, we believe you'll find a nice cross-section of the tastes of the Punknews editors and reviewers here.

Of course, the real meat of our yearly retrospective can be found in the individual staffers lists. Make sure to check them out, there are quite a few this year. Also, don't forget the most important list of all, which is yours.

Without further ado...

Punknews.org's Top 20 Albums of 2008

Bridge Nine
By moving away from crisp, rapid-fire youth crew anthems and embracing the ragged, restrained mid-tempo brilliance of Modern Life Is War's Witness, Have Heart have crafted an emotionally complex and nuanced hardcore album. Vocalist Patrick Flynn manages to elicit feelings of desperation, anger, exhaustion, loneliness and confinement while the rest of his band employ a masterful sense of dynamics. They shift from sparse and moody moments of tension to brash minor-key barrages like it's the most natural thing in the world. (Matt Whelihan)
Deathwish
I will admit I went overboard on the review for this record, but it really is a profound piece of heavy music. They are hands down the best hardcore band out right now. If you don't like the record at first, catch them live and they will win you over. (OverDefined)
Scream Hello
Red Leader
Scream Hello was definitely not the most popular band to drop an exclamation point from their name this year. But where a certain other act exercised their love of the Beatles on a long-gestating album, Scream Hello expertly and effectively referenced the heroes of '90s emo rock on their own. Splicing jagged Texas Is the Reason guitar riffs with soaring, mildly quirky vocals resembling Travis Shettel's younger cousin would be enough for most people, but employ it with their complex and ambitious pop songwriting and James Caverly's thematic narratives and the resulting sound is stunning. (Brian)
Sleep It Off
14 ska-punk songs like the kind I used to find on Hello Rockview and Borders & Boundaries. Is GNV FLA a pandering retread after the utter failure that was In with the Out Crowd, Less Than Jake's last album? I don't care. (Jelone)
Sub Pop
There's a fine line between gratuitous noise and welcome chaos, and on Nouns, No Age dance dangerously close to that line. Layers of fuzz, echoing guitars and buzzing loops only strengthen what lies at the base here: a guitar-and-drum duo that simply want to pound the shit out of their instruments. Throw in the fact that these dudes know how to write buried melodies like it ain't no thing and you've got songs that are just as memorable as they are abrasive. (Matt Whelihan)
The Loved Ones
Fat Wreck Chords
The Loved Ones traded in their conventional pop-punk sound forged on 2006's Keep Your Heart for a sound deeply rooted in Midwestern Americana by way of New Jersey. The end result is Build & Burn, a record that will likely stand the test of time as a result. (Bryne)
XL
No matter where they're drawing their inspirations from (no, it's not purely a Graceland rip), you can't deny the great songs that fill this record. If you hate them for their image or because you're anti-hype, then you're missing out. (Greg0rb)
Go Kart
Their first EP could have been a fluke, but with their first proper album they prove to be one of the best pop-punk bands around. The band's gruff yet superbly melodic sensibilities are juxtaposed against some of the most world-weary lyrics around on songs like "Empty Your Bottles" that few bands can match. (JonDaley)
No Idea
It is always satisfying when a band delivers on its promise and this album does just that for Bridge and Tunnel. With a dense wall of sound that perfectly marries the aggression of hardcore with '90s Midwestern emo, each time you listen to it there is a bassline or guitar part that you didn't notice before. (JonDaley)
The Constantines
Arts & Crafts
This band kills me they're so good. It's indescribable. I've never played them for someone and had them go "meh." Kensington Heights is the first album from the band that shows their wide range. Their debut self-titled album was more of a subdued rocker; Shine a Light was a raw, kick in the pants from some singer/songwriter punks. Tournament of Hearts was a mindblowing experiment in minimalism. This album sees the band attack full-on rockers paired with folksie finger-pickers and even a few ballads. It's a message to the world: "Hi world, we're Constantines. And we play a few different types of songs, just like they used to do." (Jesse)
4AD
John Darnielle continues to be the most engaging storyteller in all of music. His tales of love and redemption backdrop Heretic Pride, but there is so, so much more. (Anchors)
Red Scare
I consider Teenage Bottlerocket to be the greatest active example of an archetypal punk rock band. Their influences are classic, rooted directly in the Ramones, and yet they never sound like revivalists. It's fast, fun, dumb and the attitude's perfect. The band never falls into `70s anachronisms nor do they make the mistake of co-opting currently trendy ideas. If decades from now friends are still getting together to play punk music, it's going to sound a hell of a lot like this. (Adam)
Lemuria
Asian Man
This is only their first LP? Really? The past two years have been insane for this band and you can hear it on the album. It sounds like they finally got a chance to slow down and spend some time just playing and hanging out. When I last talked to them, they said their songs seem to change a lot over the time that they play them and you can hear that her. Get Better has a real "sessions" feel to it. It's a complete document -- even if it isn't their best material, it's cohesive and tight and helps to shed the inevitable yet obnoxious comparisons to Discount and Fifth Hour Hero. (Justin)
No Idea
Part of me thinks that someone ought to form the Ryan Young Needs a Hug Committee, but the rest of me thinks he should just continue to be pissed and suffer, since his suicidal, sardonic lyrics are what separate Off with Their Heads from the rest of the gruff pop-punk pack. (Bryne)
Polar Bear Club
Red Leader
Once I finally accepted the fact that Sometimes Things Just Disappear was merely missing the flooring consistency of the band's powerhouse debut, 2006's The Redder, The Better EP, it emerged as a compelling force in my playlist. Polar Bear Club propel themselves with an honest-to-goodness nod towards Third Eye Blind's first record in the warm and resonating guitar textures while referencing Small Brown Bike's gruff emotion through Jimmy Stadt's commanding, small man / big throat voice. It's a great and original base to begin with, but Polar Bear Club have the complex and constructive songwriting to back it up. (Brian)
Vagrant
Craig Finn could very well be the voice of a generation. His lyrics seem to perfectly capture the purgatory between being young and being grown up as well as the wondering and self-doubt that goes along with that. The band continues to sound more and more like the E Street band, largely due to an increased keyboard presence. Everything falls perfectly into place on Stay Positive and its 11 songs, making it the perfect album to listen to as I stumble through my own life. (Ben)
Jade Tree
Forty years on this earth and Dan Yemin still mops the floor with people half his age. Intense, intelligent and with interesting production to say the least, New Lexicon is this year's finest album. (GlassPipeMurder)
Fucked Up
Matador
I tried to explain Fucked Up to someone and realized that Fucked Up isn't Black Flag or the Fugazi; they're the Who. Just like the Who aimed to stretch the vocabulary of rock'n'roll, Fucked Up want to create a new one for hardcore. Songs like "Black Albino Bones" and "Royal Swan" stretch hardcore to the point of breaking, but push it forward rather than abandon it. Not since the Refused has any band played so fast and loose with the "rules" of hardcore while creating more opportunities for those who follow. (Aubin)
Fat Wreck Chords
I guess I wasn't expecting it to be this good. They always wrote catchy hooks but they stepped it up into straight-up amazing songs that can stand on their own against anyone. It's nice to actually see a band (and people for that matter) age gracefully; check the lyrics to "A Jingle for the Product" for proof. (OverDefined)
Gaslight Anthem
SideOneDummy
Relentless touring and an amazing debut LP were just part of why these guys are enjoying so much success so early. A combination of varied influences, personal reflection and a classic storyteller mentality blend together resulting in one of the best records of not only the year, but the decade. (Chris)


Past #1s



Honorable Mentions

Smoking Popes: Stay Down (Appeal); Verse: Aggression (Bridge Nine); Good Luck: Into Lake Griffy; The Bronx: The Bronx (White Drugs); Able Baker Fox: Voices (Second Nature); Tim Barry: Manchester (Suburban Home); the Riot Before: Fists in Pockets (Say-10); Akimbo: Jersey Shores (Neurot); Chad VanGaalen: Soft Airplane (Sub Pop); 31Knots: Worried Well (Polyvinyl); Vivian Girls: Vivian Girls (In the Red)

Top 5 EPs

Tie - 4. The Mountain Goats: Satanic Messiah
4AD
A perfect companion piece to Heretic Pride, this is probably the closest we will ever get again to old-school MG -- not in a lo-fi sense, but in a stripped-down sense with simple accompaniments to four soft yet lyrically-biting songs. John Darnielle's other EP with Kaki King probably would be on this list too had he come close enough to me to grab the tour-only release. He was a busy man in 2008. (Greg0rb)
Tie - 4. Look Mexico: Gasp Asp [7"]
Tiny Engines / Lujo
Simply put, the best batch of song these guys have put to tape thus far. The interplay of the instruments is unique and memorable and Matt Agrella's voice has never sounded better. The band's next full-length shouldn't disappoint. (Bryne)
Temporary Residence
A bit of a curveball from the Japanese screamo superstars, Abyssal saw Envy pulling out some of their older stylistic tendencies and colliding them with their newer focus on expansive sounds. (Brian)
Dead To Me
Fat Wreck Chords
My favorite "Punk Rock" band finally released some new music. And it sounds like Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. Seriously, the title track from this EP could have been on Rock Art or Streetcore -- and it's damned near perfect. "Ran That Scam" is another fantastically introspective look at one of our favorite former scumbags -- and it still works. Here's to hoping African Elephants appears and the band doesn't implode. (Justin)

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Suicide Machines - Destruction By DefinitionAustin Lucas - A New Home in the Old WorldFace to Face - Laugh Now, Laugh LaterMischief Brew - The Stone Operation.Touché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and MeFucked Up - David Comes to LifeThe Wonder Years - Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm NothingGrim Luck - Alexandra Volume II: The DreadDead To Me - Moscow Penny AnteToh Kay - Streetlight Lullabies

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
inagreendase (January 19, 2009)

Soapy:

or still listening to jock hardcore...

What exactly is "jock hardcore"? Have Heart? Blacklisted? You obviously aren't paying much attention to modern hardcore if this is what you think represents the "meathead" side of hardcore. Just because a band doesn't sound like Career Suicide or Government Warning means they played high school football and date rape.

gaslight are like an independent punk rock boy band or something. no one really likes that band

We're not bullshitting you. We have no reason to fake enthusiasm for a band. If they're on a list it's because -- get this -- we enjoy them!

banner pilot is a really good band, and i'm glad they got some props, but it seems weird to have them on like at least 5 lists, and be missing stuff like the copyrights, the ergs, pink razors, etc.

Banner Pilot don't sound anything remotely like the Copyrights, the Ergs! or Pink Razors. Maybe most of us just prefer gravelly pop-punk over the Weasel-esque kind. Hard concept to grasp, I know. Also, the Ergs! didn't even put out a full-length in 2008.

its like you guys were just like, "we gotta have one underground punk record to make our nas and fall out boy picks look better" and sent it to everyone. i dunno

I'm pretty I can speak for all of us when I say we're not reserving spots for "underground" or "mainstream" albums in our lists. My top 20 was the top 20 records I enjoyed, period. And I'm pretty sure that goes for everyone. There wasn't any affirmative action or whatever for someone like Banner Pilot or whomever.

and to the guy that said the shorebirds LP was criminally underrated and then put it last on his list, ok that makes sense?

I routinely listen to 150 albums a year. For something to be at 20, that's pretty high.

also you shouldn't count up the ep's for the final thing if only like 3 people put some

Plenty more than three people made EP lists. I encourage everyone every year to make an EP list so it's as least skewed as possible. Considering at least half made EPs, that's not entirely skewed, and if someone didn't make an EP list it could very well be because no EP or 7" particularly rubbed them the right way.

for the definitive 'punk' site its sad that you didnt even try.

What are we supposed to "try" to do? Change our personal tastes? This is what we listen(ed) to. Most of it could pretty easily be considered "punk." I don't see the problem.

soapyhandrecords (January 6, 2009)

wow i just read all of the lists and they are all pretty piss poor. i'm really not sure what some of you guys are trying to do with your life, ranging from 'getting married and just mellowing out.... sorry if my list isn't all punk rock but i'm cultured, or still listening to jock hardcore... i dunno here's the 'ol 2 cents:

gaslight are like an independent punk rock boy band or something. no one really likes that band, especially if you consider yourself a fan of underground music or punk. eeeeesh

also we get it, dillinger four are old, and they took 6 years to put out a record, this does not mean that civil war was the equivalent of chinese democracy (mentioned a few times) or that they are 'aging gracefully'. i dunno that just bugged me.

banner pilot is a really good band, and i'm glad they got some props, but it seems weird to have them on like at least 5 lists, and be missing stuff like the copyrights, the ergs, pink razors, etc. its like you guys were just like, "we gotta have one underground punk record to make our nas and fall out boy picks look better" and sent it to everyone. i dunno

and to the guy that said the shorebirds LP was criminally underrated and then put it last on his list, ok that makes sense?

also you shouldn't count up the ep's for the final thing if only like 3 people put some, cause then its just totally skewed. I personally thought that this year was way better for 7"s than LPs and for the definitive 'punk' site its sad that you didnt even try.

conebone69 (January 3, 2009)

New D4 wasn't that good.

But since LTJ made this list, I'd chalk it up to a weak year overall.

That said, not only is the '59 Sound one of the better albums I've heard all year, it's still better than Sink or Swim.

Suck on that

imisschampion (January 3, 2009)

very surprised the LaGrecia album didnt make it on here. solid from start to finish and got a lot of praise on here.

drHankMcCoy (January 3, 2009)

new fucked up and D4 were solid. punk or hip hop, i like it hardcore.

and they're excused for excluding Jake One - White Van Music. its a retail album. J1 is a producer and the album puts together some serious underground with some quality mainstream. De La Soul and Slug, Freeway and Brother Ali, and even some solo terror from MFDOOM.
DOOM doesn't perform with other mcs nearly enough, but here he is rippin it up with UKs Sean Price - http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/audio/id.5947/title.dj-babu-f-mf-do om-sean-price-the-unexpected
word up to the extended duck hunt metaphor

--one--

xshoutoutx (January 2, 2009)

the shorebirds release should be on here without a doubt.

... and D4 > Gaslight
... and Bridge and Tunnel > Lemuria
... and The Riot Before should have definitely made it to the top 20

inagreendase (January 2, 2009)

Dead To Me's kinda boring. Am I alone in this thought?

Somewhat, maybe. I'd rate both their releases a 6/10.

"Reader's choice" (ie. based on user votes not staff reviews)

Technically, these aren't necessarily based on staff reviews either. Just the math that's derived from everyone's top 20 list.

If anyone's interested in what our top 20 of 2004 was, I did the math a few years ago for this:

#1 - Green Day - American Idiot
#2 - the Dillinger Escape Plan - Miss Machine
#3 - Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News
#4 - Circle Takes The Square - As The Roots Undo
#5 - Audio Karate - Lady Melody
#6 - Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First
#7 - Descendents - Cool To Be You
#8 - Blood Brothers - Crimes
#9 - Jimmy Eat World - Futures
#10 - Planes Mistaken For Stars - Up In Them Guts
#11 - Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Shake The Sheets
#12 - Social Distortion - Sex, Love And Rock'N'Roll
#13 - A Wilhelm Scream - Mute Print
#14 - Muse - Absolution
TIE #15 - Rise Against - Siren Song Of The Counter Culture
TIE #15 - Isis - Panopticon
#17 - the Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives
TIE #18 - Say Anything - ...Is A Real Boy
TIE #18 - Big D And The Kids Table - How It Goes
#20 - Hot Water Music - The New What Next

sporadicpunk (January 1, 2009)

The Riot Before should be on the top 20. Hell top 10 if you ask me. And D4 so beets Gaslight

Scruffy (January 1, 2009)

Two thoughts:

1) The Riot Before album IS that good. It took me a while to really get it, but his lyrics are better than most of anything on these lists. It's not my favorite album of the year, but it's sloppy, intelligent, full of heart, catchy, honest, immensely powerful and it brings something new to the table (lyrically, at least)-everything that punk should be.

2) It IS sad that Lemuria gets compared to Discount and Fifth Hour Hero, because they don't sound anything like those bands. Jawbreaker would be a better comparison.

GlassPipeMurder (January 1, 2009)

Wasn't Career Suicide #1 last year?

"Reader's choice" (ie. based on user votes not staff reviews)

chrisafi (January 1, 2009)

Love Ire and Song SHOULD be on the list but hey, Frank Turner hasn't penetrated the US at all really, despite taking off in the UK.

Loved Ones is definitely top 5 for me - Gaslight abit too predictable at 1

maverick (January 1, 2009)

Dead To Me's kinda boring. Am I alone in this thought?

-Scott

RYANGP (January 1, 2009)

where's the love for Lower D?

coltonlloyd (January 1, 2009)

I can't believe love, ire, and song didn't make the cut

HooverStreet (January 1, 2009)

The Loved Ones made the best record on this list.

ding_dong (December 31, 2008)

Best Band of the Year: The Thorns of Life

despite the fact all they released were two shitty live videos

JackingItSoHard2LISTS (December 31, 2008)

JackingItSoHard2LISTS

victim (December 31, 2008)

Musta flubbed the last comment. Question was supposed to be:

Wasn't Career Suicide #1 last year?

victim (December 31, 2008)

Past #1s

2004: Green Day: American Idiot
2005: Paint It Black: Paradise
2006: Brand New: The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
2007: The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour

inagreendase (December 31, 2008)

It was good, but not Top 20 good.

My thoughts exactly. With the improvements they've made since Horseshoes and Handgrenades, they definitely have a shot the next go-round.

jag (December 31, 2008)

The lack of Riot Before on the list speaks to the fact that the Riot Before album wasn't that great. It was good, but not Top 20 good.

mattramone (December 31, 2008)

Where's the Riot Before?

ifgabeldiesiwilldie (December 31, 2008)

still no fucking TOM GABEL!!!

Rudy87 (December 31, 2008)

this years list just didnt cut it for me for some reason

thesandwiches (December 31, 2008)

still no riot Before love

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