It's weird. Every year, I keep having the best year yet, and I always wonder how I can possibly top the previous. But so far, so good. Maybe not for my Punknews output, asgrad school, work, music, and volunteering ate up the vast majority of my time, but I still enjoyed digging into all the new records that came my way and spewing forth my thoughts on each. Of particular interest was the Heat Tape's debut, an album I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around trying to figure out how something so simple can be so perfect. And as cliche and hyperbolic as it might be to exalt a sound recording on the basis of personal context....well, that's what this list is about. Without further ado, MY top records of the year...
This band has held a special place with me ever since their appearance on the ancient Punk Bites 2 compilation on Fearless. I was stoked to find out they were still around, and even more pleased to hear Local State Inertia.
This record grew on me. "The War Unseen" is one of the year's best hardcore tracks, and despite the changes, it's interesting to see how the Warriors have evolved their brand of metallic Nardcore over the last nine years.
One of the more invigorating NYHC bands of late, Backtrack delivers on Darker Half. Here, they walk a nice line between following the paths of Long Island hardcore before them and forging their own way.
This album is especially impressive in that it sounds just like a Dead Milkmen album...26 years after the release of Big Lizard in my Backyard. While I could have gone for a little more Joe Jack Talcum, the opening instrumental was enough in itself to announce the triumphant return of the Dead Milkmen.
You can put me in the camp of "people who never thought Rival Schools would put out another record after United by Fate but really like Pedals." Yep. I'm one of those guys. I guess it'd be fair to assume by now that Walter Schreifels can do no wrong.
You wanted straight edge party thrash? In Defence brings it hard on their first record with Minneapolis crust punk institution Profane Existence. Covering a much richer base of topics than many of their beer-chugging, bong-ripping, pizza-eating peers, Party Lines and Politics packs more fun than just about any hardcore/crossover thrash release out there.
It took me a few spins to appreciate the straightforward punk approach the Utters took here in lieu of some of their more eclectic offerings. But hot dang, this is still a great album with buckets of hooks and lyrics only Johnny "Peebucks" Bonnel could churn out.
Swan song? Well let's hope not. Either way, Fucked Up deliver another almost-too-intelligent punk album with enough melody for the hipsters and enough angst for the hardcore kids. But still, if I never get to see Pink Eyes strangle himself with a microphone cord wearing nothing but tighty-whiteys again, there will be serious mourning.
It was really a toss-up for the number one spot with Banner Pilot and the Heat Tape. But since I gave them the blue ribbon for Collapser, I hope there's no hard feelings. For those who still don't know, Banner Pilot are back with a worthy follow-up to their Fat Wreck debut that encapsulates everything there is to love about the band with a sugary pop-punk slant that works better than one might expect. I can't wait until "Forty Degrees" describes my day like it will on the other side of winter.
This an album that above all, reminds me of what it is to be human. It's simple while thoughtful, honest though cynical, and reveling in sloth, despite the ambitious song-a-day writing schedule and video series. The fact that it's the catchiest album of the year is just the icing on the cake.