Tyler Barrett is a staff reviewer at Punknews.org - ed.
Another year, another barely believable chapter in life, and of course another great pile of CDs to enjoy (among another pile of CDs that’s significantly less great). It’s funny... MP3s have been spreading around the internet for the better part of a decade now, but I find nothing to be as convenient, satisfying and worth my money than a shiny, plastic compact disc. Neither the cumbersome vinyl LP or the “soulless” (per Tony Victory) MP3 can come close to what I get out of opening up a new compact disc and finding a spot for it on my shelf. Speaking of Victory, what happened to that label? And for that matter, what happened to Drive-Thru, Fearless and Equal Vision Records? Labels that had financially (and sometimes critically) successful outputs a few years ago pumping money into whatever was trendy at the time barely seemed to make a mark the last two years. Meanwhile, companies like Fat Wreck Chords, Red Scare and No Idea haven’t slowed their yield of quality albums at all. Hmmm...talk amongst yourselves. Anyways, enough with the spontaneous analyses...on with the list:
The man, the myth, the moustache. In between touring and recording with the Hold Steady, World/Inferno Friendship Society, Guignol and a host of other acts, Franz delights with songs like “Nightratsong” and “Jeff Penalty” among others that made this album a winner.
This Las Vegas trio broke onto the scene in a big way in 2009, scoring opening spots for NOFX and Off with Their Heads among others, and spreading their gruff reggae punk styles through Songs of Freedom.
Yeah, we know, Warning was better, and frankly, American Idiot was better, too. But 21st Century Breakdown is still a good listen, and more importantly, it succeeded in further pissing of the incessantly irritable John Lydon.
French hardcore that would be just as capable of grabbing one’s attention without the over-the-top name. 2009 seemed like a fairly quiet year for youth-crew-revival hardcore, but Nine Eleven’s effort made up for the lack of others'.
Featuring the Subhumans/Citizen Fish duo of Dick Lucas and Jasper Pattison and a more varied set of styles than Until We’re Dead, this disc further demonstrates the far-reaching capabilities of the Choking Victim family.
Take legendary contributors from the Minutemen, Black Flag, Rocket from the Tombs and Saccharine Trust among others, let them write beat poetry and play whatever they want, and you get the trippy dreamscape that is Funland.
Influencing everyone from Modern Life Is War to Off with Their Heads, Rancid was given an unfair shake in the review of their ska-filled comeback this year. Sure, it’s no Life Won’t Wait, but with songs like “East Bay Night,” “New Orleans” and “Up to No Good,” it’s the next best thing.
Sonic Youth’s last two albums have been so focused and consistent, it’s almost like the legendary band has hit a kind of renaissance period after a time when the art had begun overshadowing the enjoyment. The Eternal’s post-punk-meets-garage rock proves Rather Ripped was no resurgent fluke.
Forging onward without Jack Dalrymple as Chicken’s foil proved a difficult task, but Dead to Me was up to the challenge. Diverse and divisive, this record moved the band into uncharted territory, losing some fans but hopefully winning over a few of the skeptics.
Forget the rivalry between Minneapolis and Chicago. With the Arrivals first and now the infectious pop-punk of Dear Landlord spreading through the country faster than H1N1, Dream Homes captures the fun in a half-hour of infectious tunes.
It’s hard to fully explain what makes this album so good, because it’s more a feeling than a qualitative analysis. At any rate, it’s one of the most intelligent, thoughtful pop-punk records to come out in a long, long time.
“Spy Diddley” was a great song that finally found its way onto a studio release after appearing on the Fat Christmas comp three years ago, and the Loved Ones’ cover of Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros’ “Coma Girl” is second only to the original.
The triumphant return of Jesse Michaels in a band that overflows with the unpredictable punk spirit and the thoughtful musical poetry one would expect from the 20-year punk veteran.
Why Being Poor Sucks (albums and EPs excluded because I haven’t heard them in their entirety)
NOFX - Coaster; Propagandhi - Supporting Caste; Thursday - Common Existence; A Wilhelm Scream - A Wilhelm Scream EP; Shook Ones - The Unquotable A.M.H.; Polar Bear Club - Chasing Hamburg; American Steel - Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts; Anti-Flag - The People or the Gun; The Sidekicks - Weight of Air; Pulley - Time Insensitive Material
We didn’t get a new Swingin’ Utters album in 2009, but Red Scare came to the rescue reissue this fantastic self-made debut fronted by Johnny 'Peebucks' Bonnel. Not only is it one of the catchiest street punk albums in a long time, the lyrics hold up against the most literate of wordsmiths out there.
Top 3 “New to Me” albums or albums I didn’t fully appreciate until this calendar year
At first I considered this a guilty pleasure, but as time has worn on, I've realized it's one of the most listened albums I own. With the classic pop hooks of the Beatles and the mod-punk energy of the Jam, there's no guilt in this pleasure.
OK, this is actually a compilation, but this category is for old stuff anyway so who cares. Radon is one of the hidden legends of punk rock, and their ability to write a catchy tune with whacked-out lyrics is second to none.
Banner Pilot - Central Standard
Rancid - East Bay Night
The Loved Ones - Coma Girl
Noise by Numbers - Northern Lights
The Manix - NO Country
Dear Landlord - I Live in Hell
Teenage Bottlerocket - Skate or Die
Green Day - Murder City
The Lawrence Arms - Demons
Classics of Love - Countdown
Sonic Youth - Malibu Gas Station
Cursive - I Couldn’t Love You
Star Fucking Hipsters - Dreams Are Dead
Unknown Instructors - Frownland
Franz Nicolay - This World Is an Open Door
TSOL - Go to Bed Sleepy
Strike Anywhere - I’m Your Opposite Number
Dead to Me - Fell Right In
I don’t really know what to expect aside from a Good Clean Fun reunion. But the surprise is half the fun, right? Seriously though, Swingin’ Utters, the Queers and Off with Their Heads are all due for new releases, and before long I’ll have another great pile of CDs to list in order of appreciation.