Best of 2010: Punknews.org's picksPunknews.org's picks (2010) staff picks
Reviewer Rating: 5
Contributed by: InaGreendasePunknews.org (others by this writer | submit your own) 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 fitt.
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 about your list, the top 20 releases of the year as voted by the Punknews community. That list should be posted shortly.
I first saw Ceremony this year when I went to see Paint It Black at 924 Gilman. Although I had never heard Ceremony before, as their set went on, I knew something was special. Intrigued, I picked up Rohnert Park to find a hardcore album that was undeniably hardcore at heart, but was also deft enough to add in weird elements like surf instrumentals, sampled monologues and tunes that wouldn't be out of place on a Jane's Addiction record. If this is the future of hardcore, we've got a lot to look forward to. JohnGentile
While I had no problem with Neon Bible, I have to agree with those who've commented on how much better the Arcade Fire sounds with some bounce back in their step. The Suburbs deserves all the praise it's been getting. It's ambitious, subtle, emotionally resonant and wonderfully varied without being overwrought, overthought, over-produced or inconsistent. It's easy for us in the punk scene to sneer at bands like this, to write them off as more self-important fodder for the holier-than-though Pitchfork crowd and their mainstream followers. I dare you to look past all that. There's indisputable quality here. Adam
Four years after the classic-but-grower This Is Satire, None More Black have returned in a big way. I wasn't expecting this album to just plain rock as much as it does, but I'm glad these guys can pull off those riffs without it sounding forced. Jason Shevchuk's intensely personal lyrics are great, as always. Bryne
The Upsides is a collection of uplifting and nostalgia-inducing tunes. It reminds me of all those "gateway" bands that were around when I was getting into punk, except with...talent. In a nutshell, it's just got ridiculous amounts of playability. mikexdude
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. OverDefined
Moving ever-so-slightly closer to the mainstream hasn't hurt Off with Their Heads at all, as In Desolation combines some of the band's best tunes in "Drive"
with their biggest hooks like "Trying to Breathe." America's reigning road warriors have amassed a legion of followers over their years of touring, and In Desolation is the perfect album to introduce OwTH to all the rest. GlassPipeMurder
I was late to the party with these mopey Ohioans and even then it took me awhile to appreciate Boxer. They are like the modern Joy Division: chill
vocals over tightly-wound, perfectly constructed backing. Greg0rb
Expanding on the momentum of last year's Learn to Surf EP, Superchunk really came out swinging with their first album in nine years. As the EP hinted, Majesty Shredding takes all of the band's previous output and runs it through a ringer, cutting out the excess, mixing the sophistication of their later recordings with the edge of their early '90s material for the best indie pop album of the year. The lyrics are odd and progressions dart off unpredictably, but it is all held together by one of the most original senses of melody in modern independent music. SloaneDaley
I may have dropped the ball on this one. My bad. Ted Leo makes solid albums, and I said "Eh" after a few listens the first time through. Fast-forward to the Year-End Album Crunch, and me going "Oh, shit. A Ted Leo album." Ted Leo is totally badass, and The Brutalist Bricks is probably better than how I'm ranking it here. Like I said. My bad. Jesse
Ignore the dubious title and got-damn horrendous artwork, and you'll find a slinking, atmospheric juggernaut awaiting. In some ways, Crime in Stereo's I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone outdoes Is Dead's ideas, becoming more atmospheric, more dissonant, more willingly un-hardcore. I remember a lot of people calling CiS too experimental circa 2007. Three years later, the band makes seemingly "experimental" numbers like "Choker" and "Third Atlantic" sound like outright pop songs. I'm still bummed about CiS breaking up, but like my friend Nate and I always say, "Drugwolf forever!" Jelone
Another entry in this list that proves [our] soft side for progressive melodic hardcore acts. On their sophomore full-length, Hostage Calm fits this bill steadfastly. The band is pushing forward but they aren't afraid to look back–plenty of nods to the Smiths and the Clash infect this album, but there's a playful angularity and melodic manipulation respectively reminiscent of modern cult faves like Gatsbys American Dream and Crime in Stereo. It's all tied together with some of the most articulate, socially and politically aware subject matter this subgenre's seen in a long time. Brian
A band that takes its name from Shakespeare and writes a concept album about the American Civil War should have no business occupying so much time in my
stereo. Leave it to Titus Andronicus to turn that assumption on its head. With a mix between Desaparecidos and the Hold Steady (Craig Finn drops in for a visit), the band gallops through indie rock that is bursting at the seams with angst and done with enough energy to get me to sing aloud with a chorus that is simply, "You will always be a loser." Ben
This is everything that New Wave should have been. It's totally 100% over the top in every manner. While Tom will probably never pen "Walking Is Still Honest," why should he? We don't expect any other iconic songwriter to revisit the past. Once you're over this band's past you can embrace the total poppy goodness of an album like this. It's a 16-year-old's guide to punk rock politics and the lost soundtrack to an unmade John Hughes movie all in one. Why think about it any harder than that? Justin
Like Against Me! with White Crosses, Gaslight continue to dig into their American origins for inspiration, bringing everything from the obvious (Bruce Springsteen, the Replacements) to the surprising (Van Morrison, Exile-era Rolling Stones) It's a shock how much this band has grown and accomplished since 2007's Sink or Swim. Aubin
The age-old story about a Canadian ska band that gets signed by a large indie label, changes up their sound on their next album, ditches most of the ska, gets some mixed reviews, then comes back with a face-splattering, technically sound rager of an album. Tale as old as time. Rich
If Fake Problems have taught us anything during their nearly 10 years as a band, it's been that we shouldn't ever try to pigeonhole them. We thought they were the next Against Me! and then we thought maybe they were the next Gaslight Anthem. With Real Ghosts Caught on Tape I'm not sure just what they are. They've certainly matured and are willing to take more risks, writing darker and more dense songs than we've heard in the past. But through it all they held onto the spunk that made them a favorite of so many in the first place. The risks the band took in writing Real Ghosts have paid off in spades. Ben
Around four years ago, Punknews Editor Justin August sent me a demo by a band he swore was the best thing he heard in years. Later that year at The Fest, Justin, myself and about four others caught the Menzingers at 1982 and I knew he had been right about them earlier. It's been amazing following the Menzingers the last couple of years, not just because they've grown in popularity but because they've done so by making some of the best music out there. Chamberlin Waits is the sound of maturation done right. Rich
World class bonafide shitshow indeed. Is there an award for "most improved band"? So good. Classic, early '00s Fat Wreck punk rock taken from the playbooks of the Lawrence Arms, Lagwagon and Kid Dynamite. Killer tunes. Justin
Like many an emotionally sensitive punk, I grew up on Jawbreaker. I committed frontman/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach's words to memory, using songs like "Accident Prone" and "Chesterfield King" for armor. When 'bach's band forgetters came together, featuring Kevin Mahon (Against Me!) and Caroline Paquita (Bitchin'), I was ecstatic to hear his return to punk (although I loved the indie-leaning Jets to Brazil. Can we finally acknowledge as a society that they were just as good as Jawbreaker?). Their four-song debut does not disappoint, issuing grainy, throaty, passionate punk rock with Schwarzenbach's trademark hyper-literate lyrics and perhaps his best vocal takes yet. Sometimes it's political ("Not Funny"), sometimes it's personal ("Too Small to Fail"), sometimes it's about vampires ("Vampire Lessons"), but it's always great. Jelone
It's hard to say what the highlight is here: the second half of Touché Amoré's "Hideaways" or the absolutely banging pair of post-hardcore ragers by Make Do and Mend. Either way, both sides have some of each band's best moments, from TA's scrappy, screamo-driven hardcore to MDAM's pounding rhythms. Brian
If I had a section for "Best Band of the Year," Mixtapes would get it. Every single release (one LP, two EPs and one split 7") this year has been fantastic, fun bursts of pop-punk goodness, and this particular release is my favourite, like sunshine in audio form. Anyone not down with this shit probably doesn't like candy, or puppies or kittens or breathing very much. SloaneDaley
Returning from a seven-year leave of recording absence, the Swingin' Utters have evidently not lost a step. Of course, they've been releasing outstanding music as members of Druglords of the Avenues, Filthy Thieving Bastards and the Re-Volts in between, but the excellence of songs like "Lepers Thieves and Whores" is on par with
anything they've ever done. Can't wait for more. GlassPipeMurder
Torche has quickly become one of my favorite bands. Who are you to tell a sludge metal band that they can't write poppy, minute-long finger-snappin' ditties? Meanderthal expanded on their sludge metal roots by incorporating melody and harmony to the album–Songs for Singles is 21 minutes of positivity and toe-tappin', poppy rock tunes. Okay, it's a smarter album than that, but those of you waiting for another "Warship" probably shouldn't hold your breath. These dudes just jumped the cliff on the genre map, and their jeep is in unknown territory right now. And it couldn't be more awesome. Jesse
I stand by what I said last year in my write up of their full-length Scrambles: Jeff Rosenstock is one of the most important people in punk rock. He and his collective remain the absolute gold standard example of how to embrace the Internet and online distribution to connect, create hype, and keep the fans engaged for the long haul. Of course, it helps that the music is so clever and exciting, which this EP most certainly is. I can't wait for more and given how BtMI! operates, I know I'll get it sooner rather than later. Adam