[Renaldo Matadeen is a Staff Reviewer. Classic Renaldo.]
Top 20 Albums of 2012
Political pop-punk that shockingly doesn't come off severely political and preachy. I expected them to be firing more political missives and flagship salvos like they did in the past, but instead, I got a well-balanced punk act that shone with tracks like "It Gets Better With Age" and "What's Not To Love?". This record turned out to be a guilty pleasure.
Infectious poppy anthems and melodic choruses with nice blends of ska injected? This is the record you're looking for. They've improved on an already decent resume and if you loved their past records, this would prove no different. "And Fuck The Rest" and "Delta.Oscar.Whiskey" says it all!
Razor and Tie
Couldn't let this fly under the radar. It's a great take on pop-punk with a more brash and aggressive feel than the older melodic anthems they were accustomed to putting out. Ben Kotin uses the impressive musicianship of the band well, and takes their more fervent stance in stride, as he continues to improve behind the mic. It's pretty sweet to see an already decent band getting much better and if songs like "Higher Places" and "Locked out of the Magic Theatre" are signs of things to come, then I'm eager to see how they continue this progression in the upcoming months. It's a highly solid record to say the least!
That album title, right? What the fuck. That aside, there's no need for exposition here. It's fast, thrashy and keeps kicking your teeth in. It's a badass punk record and what made it stand out more is the "don't-care and not-give-a-fuck" vibe permeating off the album. It has boatloads of grit and still maintains a melodic dynamic to it. One of the top in-your-face records this year for sure...
Toronto stakes its claim with an upbeat and solid punk record. "40 Hours" exemplifies the strength of the album and amid the punk chaos and dissonance here, it's hard to ignore how powerful the record sounds. Couldn't argue with anyone who called this spectacular, simply because "For Julie" and "Last Call" could shut down your argument against this album. If this self-titled is indicative of what they've planned for 2013, I expect Punknews to be keeping closer tabs on Bathurst.
If you want a slick and explosive screamo record that tears your ears open with emotional angst, look no further. They've gone from strength to strength on the screamo spectrum and this is testament to what a record should encapsulate in this genre. Justin Pallas' gut-wrenching vocals are punctuated by the stellar drums of Matt Nissley and if anyone missed Touché Amoré's music this year, then WWS readily made up for that with this record. It's that good...and then some.
Pine Street Records.
They continually step up their game and here, MWY upped the ante once more with another meaningful and fun record. They stuck to their vintage strong points but there's a nice sense of evolution off the album. "Cardiff Giant" echoed how MWY slips great songs off their tongues with relative ease and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's easy to chalk this down as another in the win column. Couldn't have asked for a better offering.
If "Ava House" is one of the weaker songs on your album, then you've got a really brilliant fucking album. I wanted and hoped for the best...and got a near-perfect Menzingers record. Each track flows so seamlessly into the next and it's such a smooth transition, it's hard to pinpoint what's better than what. I had this on repeat for months and every song delivered. If you wanted a winner from Tom and company, this is the album you should be listening to. It's highly captivating.
I didn't grow tired of this album. That sums it up. It's amazing how enjoyable their vibe is constantly, and I love that they rarely disappoint. It's a great punk record from one of the most underrated punk bands around. They're worth the buzz and I see the hype growing more next year.
This album was one to fall in love with. The indie-punk atmosphere proved another great surprise here from another relatively lesser-known band. It's beyond words how pleasantly shocked I was with songs like "That's How What Works" and "I'm Gonna Deck Your Halls, Bub!". Dikembe conjured a winning recipe no doubt and this hit the mark to the point that I was already anticipating more new music as soon as the 2013 turns. If it's one band I'm craving a new EP or split from very soon, it's these guys. They genuinely have one of the most awesome sounds at present!
They brought their A-game in a resounding fashion. Anthony Heubel showed his powerful capability as a frontman here with one of the most impressive vocal outputs in 2012. It's an alluring record that matched their old sound well with some neat intricacies and chances they've thrown in the mix. "Settling" and "Braddock Beach" resonate impeccably in one of the most tremendous albums this year. I can't see this not cracking the top ten for any lover of rock music.
They've never prided themselves on being the traditional punk rock band, but despite their unconventionalism, they've given some of the best music of the past few years. I didn't think Shed could be topped, but this album blows it away. Displacing its predecessor was no easy feat, and it seems Title Fight keeps finding the ingredients to deliver amazing music. Carry on gentlemen.
"Those Miles Meant Everything" and "21" are the epitome of great screamo songs. The musical craftsmanship is spot-on and the lyrics hammer away at your core. Glasgow should be proud of their rock scene and Departures show just why on this album. They give off a fearless and resilient energy and I couldn't ask for more in a year where I wondered who'd come near to contesting The Lack Long After. They couldn't topple Pianos Become the Teeth's 2011 piece of perfection but they gave a majestic account of themselves, and this is one band that'll surely be making bigger waves in the U.S. very, very soon.
These guys have a knack for taking the disjointed segments of the world and grinding them into cohesive, fun, folk tunes that swirl from melancholic to hilarious at times. Whatever they do, it always seems to work. They've got so much spunk in their streamlined sequences of musical releases and while it gets a tad weird at times, you can't help but enjoy them. "Fantastic" doesn't even begin to crack the ice when talking about how good this record sounds. "Incredible" is another word; "sumptuous" is another. I can go on and on. Dare I call it...classic? It's a well-written blend of folk, heart and soul. It's marvelous to take in another provoking record from them, steeped in earnest. In its simplicity and its concept, there's warmth and a coherent fun vibe to it. Indie or not, it's a great listen
I've always been a fan of Jeramiah Pauly. He's a great songwriter and a great singer...and when backed by such sound musicians, it's rare to get a miss from such a band. This self-titled has all the makings of a top 10 album with its lyrics, emotional content and layers of empathy that listeners can relate to. It's a thought-provoking record, but not in a preachy manner. It's simple and effective. There's great melody and charm to the indie/alternative layers embedded in their pop-punk sound. I was enthusiastic for the record, and thank God the legal issues didn't stop it, because it exceeded my expectations.
This is one of the most beautiful, soothing and poetic records you'd be privy to. There's a great deal of sentimental value placed in it and you can tell from the get-go it's moving. It's heart-warming, provocative and their best work to date for me. Every song is spectacular and I don't know how they're gonna top this elegant record. If they never make another record again, I can safely say I got to hear them at their best because this rings so perfectly to me. This duo has a strong continuity to them that always leave a lasting impression and to dab such a musical imprint on listeners time and time again, that's fucking priceless!
They're back with a bang! This is one of the most diligent and emotional records of the year with Nathan Ellis proving why he's not only an underrated vocalist, but a genius with the pen. It's got classic throwbacks to fans of their signature rhythm and melody ,but they add heavy doses of rock as well. I could go on and on but the best advice would be to immerse yourself in the album, and see what a great alternative/post-hardcore album should sound like.
"Covet" and "Wish" fucking rock. There's great rage, distortion, rhythm and melody in this album and it's soundly diverse. This is a stroke of genius. The raw, unfiltered honesty of Andrew Fisher comes full-circle with his drawn-out and captivating vocal delivery that we'll miss heavily. It has something for all fans of various rock genres and they sign out guns blazing. If you go out, go out in a blaze of glory...well, so said...so done. I couldn't ask for anything more from them. They exited by giving us their best musical arrangement, so here's hoping they reunite sometime soon.
This Richmond quintet proved that relative unknowns are never to be underestimated, especially when they pack their arsenals with amazing riffs, piercing hooks and a raw grit filled with all sorts of kick-ass. This is one of the most well-produced albums I heard in awhile with enough polished segments to add to the furious structure and overall aggression that the boys have mustered. It's hardcore-punk with interesting metal influences, and this kind of fervent rage can't go unnoticed when it sounds so good. The vibrancy and energy definitely seared a sonic signature that has me hoping these guys drop new music as soon as January hits. If you're wondering who these guys are, head to Bandcamp and enjoy their music. "Arrivals and Departures" says it all. No wonder, they've left a big mark on my 2012.
Pure Noise Records
I should've known what was coming when they put out that EP in January. "Dottie" and "La Jetee" signalled big things, and they ended up delivering even bigger later in the year. This record proves as resonating and powerful as it is poetic. Mike Scornaienchi's prose has evolved from wordspeak into a more vocal tone and it fits the record just right. "Lonely States," "Confidence" and "Northwest" show how much Troubled Coast have stamped their authority on 2012. After years of testing the waters and showing tremendous potential, this band seems to have found their sound, and their fans couldn't ask for a better showpiece from the gents. As a long-standing fan of them since before the days of Letters, I'm grateful to see this transition from a decent band to one that really stands out as unique. Their evolution and musical progression has been a joy to partake in and I can only see them getting better. They've raised the bar further and my standards are enormously higher for them, but I'm fully confident these guys are ready for the challenge. Whatever comes next, they know they've set a gold standard here.
TOP 10 EPs of 2012
The Shell Corporation / The Mighty Fine: Split [7-inch]
Solidarity / La Escalera
Great dose of punk. TSC delivered amazingly on "Atlas Needs a Hug" and they show that they have that ska feel down when they need to call on it. Mighty Fine should have delivered a bit more but "Weathered" showed that there's much more than promise to them come 2013!
Catchy choruses ...check. Melodic pop-punk...check. Infectious hooks and great drums...check and check. Didn't expect much from this EP the first time around but the shock factor was immense. "Flux Capacitor" and "Price of Admission" show the band's prowess amid the cheeky musical deliveries and this six-tracker has a lot of surprises in it.
Unadulterated and in-your-face. The energy here's mind-blowing and "Uneasy" riles you up. This record is amped and one of the EPs I implore you guys to check out. It's a torturous tease with a sound so good, four songs again proves too little. There's a lot of pent-up rage in the EP and makes for a sweet punk outlet.
"I'm Still A Loner Dottie" proved just why this band was gonna blow up bigger in 2012. They reinvent themselves by the record and to great effect. Four songs; four great ones. They've refined their sound into a post-hardcore wordspeak which even evolved further in their LP later down the year, and 2013 is sure to hold greater things for one of the most stellar sounds I've heard in recent years.
The technical craftsmanship here is sublime; couldn't help but wonder how far they're gonna go. David Raymond's impressive songwriting and vocal ability shows how much they have the chops to carry their game further. One of the most astounding shorts this year for sure. The musicianship is so solid here that it sucks the record was so short.
Pure Noise Records
Proved to be one of the edgiest punk-pop records this year and it blew me away. They threw out impressive catchy anthems and topped it off with extra-dimensions of indie-punk to show why they're one of the most underrated bands doing this style.
Gave this a re-listen to gear for their Christmas release and fell in love with it more. It didn't hit as hard as I wanted to early on in the year but "Desperate Vespas" exemplifies the tenacity and dissonance of yet another great screamo band. They're one of the rawest and grittiest bands in the genre and this shows how much punch they pack.
Pure Noise Records
A great post-hardcore screamo record from a band's that always been cool, but now they stepped their game up. A frenetic album that's chock full of energy and it's a good sign of things to come. Looking forward to a full-length soon.
Couldn't help but love this six-track EP that meshed indie, alternative and pop-punk together with such a welcomed synergy. "Basement Talk" and "Animals" characterize the energy and charisma they bring to the table with Steve Kennedy's poppy voice backed up very strongly by bassist Matt Libiecki. There's a rush and fervent feel to the record that left me clamoring for more, and it's easy to see bigger things looming if these guys keep churning out this kind of material come 2013.