OverDefined is a staff reviewer for Punknews.org - ed.
Two years ago for my first Punknews list I wrote that best of lists shouldn’t be taken too seriously—that these lists are just ways to find new music that you might not have heard. Underneath that thought was the simmering opinion that the majority of year-end lists from magazines and websites were absolute bullshit and evidence of a total sheep mentality. With these lists starting to surface in early December, I was again struck at the utter lack of diversity, reality and truly personal taste evident. An easy scapegoat might be Pitchfork; however, Pitchfork is just the tastemaker the sheep are following. I mean really, how many people’s taste is really lo-fi indie and mainstream hip-hop? This seems to be the taste of every magazine and website. Somehow it became acceptable
to be focused on unknown acoustic/reverb duos that have never played a show AND to love Drake. It just doesn’t make sense. The lists have become a parody of themselves.
Now, let’s get specific. Every list includes the following ridiculousness: (1) Sleigh Bells. What the fuck is that garbage? And it will be on every list. (2) Lots of lo-fi indie that no one has ever heard of. It will feature tons of effects on the vocals, which are sung in some throwback accent, and will feature an album cover that looks like a Jandek record. Actually, the whole thing smacks of Jandek. If you aren’t familiar with this cultural phenomenon, look it up. He was a musician with a complete lack of actual musical ability who pressed an album yearly of his atonal outsider music. Seriously, the similarities between this and the modern indie movement are too numerous to deny. (3) Drake. Drake is a former child actor who released a bad mainstream hip-hop record. I actually like hip-hop, but this uncreative, self-obsessed record should be nowhere near the words “best of” anything. I’m not even going to
get into Kanye West being #1 on every list. In conclusion, I’m calling for the dismantling of the year-end-list religion.
That said, ‘Org readers, I want you to know that our personal lists and combined staff list features none of this posturing. These are the records I jammed this year. The records I loved. I don’t care if it fits in some pre-conceived notion of what was the “best” this year. Everyone has perfect taste for them and people should like what they like. Moving on...
It's neither the best Alkaline Trio record nor the return to form that many were expecting, but the hooks, depressed lyrics and perfect execution are still there. That said, this is the most comfortable and free the band has sounded since From Here to Infirmary.
Matt Skiba still has a great voice and Dan just keeps getting better as a songwriter. Long live the Trio.
I didn't check out this record until the vinyl boxset showed up at my house. I was really looking forward to owning all the classics, but this record was a pleasant surprise. Bad Religion still has it and this record proves it.
I ignored this band for a long time thinking they were just another heavy hardcore band that wouldn't offer anything but being hard. However, after giving it a chance I have to say that it is, in fact, super hard. But actually, my friends, there's nothing wrong with that.
With long, dirty songs calling for the dismantling of civilization, Caulfield is not easy listening. However, for fans of basement anti-mainstream hardcore, this band delivers its apocalyptic approach in spades.
Going further along the path started on Is Dead, Crime in Stereo gives us their farewell full-length. With tons of guitar effects and chances taken, this is another interesting record from the Long Island natives. RIP CiS.
Following my opening rant, this might seem like an odd choice for me, but I think this guy is an absolute genius. He writes great songs, can go simple or complex, and here even takes a whole new approach. This is one of the indie artists truly worth paying attention to.
End of a Year as an entity is more than just a group of musicians. From their amazingly entertaining Twitter account to vocalist Patrick Kindlon's poignant advice column on Formspring, End of a Year is probably the most interesting thing in punk rock. Oh yeah, this record is good too. Check out the spoken-word advice on how to listen to this record in the intro track for proof.
Forget that throwaway opening track and you've got a solid followup to everyone's 2008 favorite, From the Bottom. While not quite reaching the peaks of that release, OwTH still knows how to turn depression and disgust into great pop-punk.
"Everybody's got a master's degree in telecommunicationary tactics with a minor in therapy; a mix when ingested produces an asshole." Clever wordplay mixed with great melodies is a winner every time. Plus they're from Ohio and Mikey Erg plays guitar with them sometimes, so what's not to love?
Another great record from these Japanese atmospheric masters. The light parts are compelling and release into emotionally affective heavy parts. For me, Envy evokes deep contemplation on a still winter day.
Finally releasing a full-length after two great EPs, MDaM manages to deliver on its promise by upping the rock and maintaining its intensity for 10 songs. Emotionally affective and creative, this band is one of the most honest and exciting bands out.
This is a style of pop-punk I usually pass over, but the lyrics on this release are just too well-written and relatable to deny. The Upsides is a fun record that explores a whole lot of aspects of dealing with your early 20s. Forget your bias and check this out.
Taking influence from the Smiths, the Clash and even some Latin styles, Hostage Calm delivered a surprisingly diverse followup to their fast hardcore approach on Lens. This has great songs and highly intelligent lyrics.
Super heavy with great riffs, great vocals, entertaining lyrics, an amazing live show...should I just keep going ? Awesome Entombed-influenced metal/hardcore. Check out "I Am Beyond" for 4.5 minutes of perfection.
One new track and a cover of the other band is perhaps the best format for 7" splits. EE delivers as usual, and Into It. Over It. succeeds at reinterpreting EE's "Raw Bar OBX 2002," smartly choosing the best song of the year to cover.
Vocalist Kristia Moya steps back a bit from the complexity of her last band, Exit She Calls, and the result are some great and fun pop-punk songs. Fans of Lemuria and old New Found Glory should check this out.
It's only one song, but it's a GREAT song. Starts with a doomy stoner riff before ripping into the rest of the track. Limited to 3000 copies, this is probably for superfans only, but it's no secret that includes me.