Bryne: Best of 2009Best of 2009 (2009) staff picks
Reviewer Rating: 5
Contributed by: InaGreendaseBryne (others by this writer | submit your own) What a difference a year makes. In 2009 I quit a cushy, high-paying job, sold my car, moved to a new city, was struck by a car on my bike which left me wheelchair-ridden for nearly a month, collected a massive amount of debt, and most importantly, slid into a news editor position here at Punkn.
What a difference a year makes. In 2009 I quit a cushy, high-paying job, sold my car, moved to a new city, was struck by a car on my bike which left me wheelchair-ridden for nearly a month, collected a massive amount of debt, and most importantly, slid into a news editor position here at Punknews.org. It's really been the best and worst year of my life, but I don't know where else I would be without this website and the opportunities it's given me, as well as the sense of community it has fostered over the past decade. Writing and editing news articles for Punknews.org has been really fun and extremely rewarding so far, and everyone on our staff has been extremely helpful to the 'new guy,' and most of the commenters have been okay, too. Thanks, buddies.
On another bittersweet personal note, my webzine/podcast What We Hate effectively ended in 2009, making way for my latest project, Overheated, which is slated to launch on January 4. It's going to be more Florida-slanted than my previous work, and I hope you'll check it out, even if you're not a resident of The Sunshine State.
As you'll read, 2009 was an awesome year for music. Put it this way: When I wrote my first draft of a list, it had sixty-five full-lengths on it. That's more than one release per week that I found to be at least decent. Cutting said list down to twenty was extremely difficult, and there isn't much of a gap from 1-20 here. Nevertheless, the mathletes on staff insisted that they be ranked, so here we go.
If you thought Jason Navarro sounded pissed on the final two Suicide Machines records, his vocal work in Hellmouth brings to mind a man possessed, driven by nihilism and misanthropy, and most importantly of all, reborn. I'm a sucker for well-executed thrash-punk, and DEWN has it in spades.
Red Collar's sound on Pilgrim takes the boisterous bar rock 'n' roll of the Hold Steady and fuses it with the angular guitar trappings made most famous by Fugazi, and it sounds awesome. These guys are definitely one of the most unique, innovative and thoroughly exciting bands in the underground today.
Simply put, this is the Gamblers' potential fully realized. The production, the songwriting, the vocals, it's all amplified and improved on Underneath the Owl. See this band live if you ever have the chance; Mike Wiebe is the most entertaining frontman in punk right now.
The barren wasteland that is country music still has hope, and it rests solely on the vocal chords of Austin Lucas. Somebody Loves You is fun for the whole family, and definitely the only record on this list that my grandma (or yours) wouldn't yell at me to turn down.
Better production, a stable home in Fat Wreck Chords and a year of maturation did Banner Pilot quite a bit of good. Collapser has all the elements of Midwestern punk that many of us have come to enjoy -- gruffness, fuzzy melodies and plenty of heart -- but the genre has become so saturated in the past couple of years that it's doubly refreshing when a band does it right.
While the Copyrights -- the best pop-punk band in America, for those of you keeping score at home -- didn't release a full-length this year for the first time since 2005, Adam and Brett (along with Brad and Zack, formerly of Rivethead) helped ease the pain with Dream Homes, a quick listen meant to be played loudly and snottily sung along to in the room of one's choice.
Another year, another awesome record from Lansing, MI power trio Cheap Girls. This time around, the band's on a more visible label, but their sound -- '90s-influenced alternative rock rife with unbelievably catchy melodies and Ian Graham's distinctive croon -- remains intact.
A last-minute addition to this list, Guiltmaker and this record, Dilemmas, have flown completely under the radar. It's a shame, too, because this is how good post-hardcore should sound. It's chaotically beautiful, dramatically engaging and the best record none of you have heard this year. Those disappointed in the surprisingly direct and somewhat derivative nature of Moneen's The World I Want to Leave Behind should sell back that record and use their store credit to buy Dilemmas instead.
These guys were right to ditch the 'Cobra in every song title' gimmick. American Rubicon is an impressive collection of folk-tinged punk rock that never drags despite its large number of songs and somewhat long running time.
Frank Turner is the Mack truck on the road of punk-influenced Americana-by-way-of-England, and Poetry of the Deed is an unstoppable force of heartfelt, poignant folk that confirms the importance of Mr. Turner's voice in the scope of the scene.
The band's decision to ditch their screamo leanings and embrace melody really helped them craft one of the year's best and most interesting records. Seasons in Verse will be difficult to top, but something tells me My Heart to Joy hasn't shown us all they're capable of just yet.
Thrice's thoroughly interesting career arc continued with Beggars, a cohesive, heavy, bluesy, dissonant record that, surprise, sounds like nothing else in the band's catalogue. This band's refusal to remain stagnant and fall into a pattern perpetuated by a small, yet vocal number of fans (which a lot of bands can't escape) is admirable.
Those who have dubbed Jeff Rosenstock the voice of a new generation aren't as misguided as one might think. No one in the scene does poignant commentary -- be it personal, political or otherwise -- as well as Rosenstock right now, and it doesn't hurt that his compositions are always original, engaging and throughly interesting, not to mention catchy.
Folks in my generation are just now beginning to hit that age where the '90s nostalgia rears its head, and the Sidekicks took all the best parts of that criminally underrated era and wove them into a sound all their own, replete with heartfelt sentiments and enough charmingly off-key yelling to excite anyone who remembers rock 'n' roll radio.
Naming another band that made bigger strides this year than Flint, MI's the Swellers would be difficult. The group's relentless touring schedule (including a willingness to play anywhere with anyone) and hard work paid off huge dividends in the form of a deal with massive indie label Fueled by Ramen and an album, Ups and Downsizing, that saw the band refine their sound into something less wanky, more anthemic and more memorable overall.
There were so many good records released in 2009 that could've easily cracked the top 20 in any other year. Here's just a sampling:
Heartsounds - Until We Surrender; Polar Bear Club - Chasing Hamburg; Dead to Me - African Elephants; Person L - The Positives; Teenage Cool Kids - Foreign Lands; Andrew Jackson Jihad - Can't Maintain; American War - Rhetoric; Teenage Bottlerocket - They Came from the Shadows; Used Kids - Yeah No; The Thermals - Now We Can See; Tegan and Sara - Sainthood; The Takers - Taker Easy; Strike Anywhere - Iron Front; Soul Control - Cycles; Shark Speed - Sea Sick Music; Set Your Goals - This Will Be the Death of Us; Russian Circles - Geneva; Red Fang - S/T; Paramore - brand new eyes; Orphan Choir - S/T; The Only Sons - Steel Hearts; O Pioneers!!! - Neon Creeps; Nothington - Roads, Bridges and Ruins; North Lincoln - Midwestern Blood; Noise by Numbers - Yeah, Whatever...; No Friends - No Friends; Nakatomi Plaza - Ghosts; Lucero - 1372 Overton Park; Low Red Land - Dog's Hymns; Jon Snodgrass - Visitor's Band; Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown; The Golden Age - Unlock Yourself; Doomriders - Darkness Come Alive; Converge - Axe to Fall; Dave House - Intersections; Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen; Mariachi el Bronx - Mariachi el Bronx; Brand New - Daisy; Attica! Attica! - Napalm & Nitrogen; Annabel - Each and Everyone; American Steel - Dear Friends & Gentle Hearts; Alexisonfire - Old Crows/Young Cardinals.
It always seems like the second chapter of a trilogy is superior to the other two, and while we've yet to hear Act III, the second 7" from Sakes Alive!! in as many years is another engaging slab of pissed off, raging political hardcore.
Hold On, Dodge could've been released as a one-sided 7" featuring just "Sunday Morning" and it still would've made this list, but the rest of the songs here showcase a growth for the Menzingers that, above all else, is exciting.
Get acquainted now, because once To the Sons & Daughters of Woody Guthrie sees a re-release through Eyeball Records, Red City Radio will suddenly become everyone's favorite band around these parts. Are you ready for the not-too-distant future?
I haven't spent as much time with this record as I would like, but it's the Lawrence Arms. It's catchy, it's gruff, it's densely intelligent, and it's a worthy addition to the band's impressive catalogue.
Hyperbole aside, Tigers Jaw is the most promising young band on the planet right now. The title track of this 7" is the best song of the year. Get familiar.
The Wild - The Wild; Cave In - Planets of Old; Iron Chic - Shitty Rambo; Lipona - Pigeonholed; Make Do and Mend - Bodies of Water; How Dare You / The Knockdown - split 7"; Young Hearts - Nowhere Kids; We Are the Union - The Gun Show Must Go On; Such Gold - Stand Tall;
Small Brown Bike - Composite, Volume One; Kudrow - Lando; Psyched to Die - Sterile Walls; Only Thieves - Greetings from Levy Park, T.L.H.; Balance and Composure - Only Boundaries
My 2009 mixtape
Tigers Jaw - Spirit Desire
The Lawrence Arms - The Slowest Drink at the Saddest Bar on the Snowiest Day in the Greatest City
Paramore - Ignorance
Castevet - Space Jam: The Return
The Swellers - Fire Away
Lemuria - Ozzy
Frank Turner - The Road
Bomb the Music Industry! - Sort of Like Being Pumped
Banner Pilot - Starting at the Ending
Sakes Alive!! - The Open Maw
Broadway Calls - The Wake Up Call
Austin Lucas - Somebody Loves You
Defeater - The Red, White and Blues
My Heart to Joy - Seasons in Verse
Farewell Continental - Do You Wanna Tangle?
Guiltmaker - Convocation
Red City Radio - We Are the Sons of Woody Guthrie
Transit - Stay Home
The Sidekicks - Small
Thrice - Doublespeak
Dear Landlord - Last Time I Checked
Red Collar - Hands Up
City of Ships - Wraiths in Flight
Fake Problems - Heart BPM
Riverboat Gamblers - Catastrophe
Hellmouth - Crooked Teeth
Cobra Skulls - There's a Skeleton in My Military Industrial Closet
A Wilhelm Scream - Skid Rock
Cheap Girls - Ft. Lauderdale
The Menzingers - Sunday Morning
Records that will be out in 2010 that are verifiably awesome
Gatorface - Wasted Monuments; Native - Wrestling Moves; Pianos Become the Teeth - Old Pride
Most anticipated in 2010
2010 looks to be a fantastic year on paper, with new material expected from Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Against Me!, Motion City Soundtrack, Bayside, Alkaline Trio, Bad Religion, Tim Barry, Crime in Stereo, Castevet, Dillinger Escape Plan, the Menzingers, Murder by Death, Look Mexico, Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves, forgetters, Swingin' Utters, the Riot Before, Hostage Calm, the Thermals, Spanish Gamble and probably several others.