Best of 2012 - John Flynn's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2012

John Flynn's picks (2012)

staff picks

[John Flynn is a News Editor and gentleman.]

My first full year as part of the editorial staff here on the site has been a great pleasure. I've enjoyed your many comments on my stories, most of them being "uh, I thought this was PUNKnews." No matter. It's been great, and I'm looking forward to the coming year. But in the meantime, there has been a huge amount of really great music that's come out this year.

Best Full-Lengths of 2012


Birds in Row: You, Me, and the Violence

Deathwish Inc.

France's Birds in Row have delivered a killer slab of hardcore that takes some influence from the screamo greats: pageninetynine and the like. "There is Only One Chair in This Room" in particular stands out, with a driving guitar and tortured, larynx-shattering vocals.


Great Lakes USA: Live Fast, Die Whenever

Black Numbers

Combining some of the best elements of bands like No Trigger, Elway, the Lawrence Arms and others, Boston's Great Lakes USA carve out a sound that's all their own, and deliver a rocking, catchy debut full-length.


We Were Skeletons: Blame and Aging

Topshelf Records

PA's We Were Skeletons followed up their self-titled debut with this fantastic screamo/post-hardcore record, and it shows that the band is growing and evolving in an exciting way.


The White Wires: WWIII

Dirtnap Records

More great garage rock/punk coming out of Canada. Is there something in the water? Who knows, but this is record is the Wires' most hook-laden yet, and that's saying something. Get up and dance!


White Lung: Sorry

Deranged Records

Deranged Records can usually be relied on for quality releases, and the latest from White Lung is no exception. Fast and furious punk rock, female vocals, and a healthy amount of rage.


Slang: Glory Outshines Doom

Pizza of Death

Japanese hardcore band Slang have been kicking it for a long time, and their music hasn't gotten any softer with age. On their latest, the band delivers 15 songs of heavy riffs and throat-destroying vocals. Moshtastic.


John K. Samson: Provincial

Anti- Records

Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson has taken his sweet time in delivering an actual solo record, and it's been worth it. Even if some of the songs previously appeared on EPs, the record sounds like a complete, fully-realized work. Samson is definitely one of the best songwriters active today.


Now, Now: Threads

Trans Record / Atlantic Records

Indie rockers Now, Now were completely off my radar before this year, but their swirling, ethereal post-punk compositions were completely enthralling.


Red Collar: Welcome Home [12-inch]

Tiny Engines

Red Collar burst onto the scene with Pilgrim in 2009, and a breathtaking live show. The band's Tiny Engines debut, Welcome Home, is more effective at channeling the band's live energy into a recording, and the band has expanded their punk-influenced Rock 'n Roll Band sound to make a more cohesive album


The Capitalist Kids: Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene [12-inch]

Toxic Pop Records

The Capitalist Kids are one of the best new pop-punk bands out there right now. Hands down. And while the album has the requisite songs about girls and heartbreak, they sit alongside more socially thoughtful pieces: see the one-two of the cutest pop-punk song in recent history, "That's When I Knew," and the sneering attack on Ayn Rand, "Ayn."


Hostage Calm: Please Remain Calm

Run For Cover

Hostage Calm's move away from the hardcore of Lens has been anything but gradual, and I for one welcome it; as great as Lens is, the band seems more at home with their poppier direction. And above all, though the styles are shifting, the band's ability to write a great song is very much intact.


The New and Very Welcome: House Fires of the Modern Age


The New and Very Welcome (a.k.a. Jess McDermott) is calling it a day with this record, and what a way to go. Musically similar to last year's excellent What Will You Do When It Happens to You? spare arrangements, mostly a an acoustic guitar and a bit of flair in places the lyrics are still emotionally gripping and the singing is beautiful.


Hop Along: Get Disowned

Hot Green Records

The record people are constantly talking about, and with good reason; the band crafts catchy, emotionally-devastating songs, centered around singer/guitarist Frances Quinlan's distinct vocals.


Classics of Love: Classics of Love

Asian Man

Can Jesse Michaels do any wrong? It would appear not, if this is any indication. Michaels hasn't lost his fire or vocal fury in the many years since Operation Ivy debuted, and with the members of Hard Girls backing him, the result is a furious, unforgettable album.


Sonic Avenues: Television Youth

Don Giovanni Records

Canada's Sonic Avenues are one of the snowy north's best young bands. Television Youth improves on their self-titled debut by upping the bouncy, poppy hooks and vocal harmonies. Lo-fi and garage-y, and all but impossible not to move along to.


Rockets on Wire: I Am Not Your Home


Beautiful, wrenching indie-punk from Long Island. This album came out of nowhere, for me anyway, and the shimmering guitars and the vocals from singer Marie Mayes alternating between haunting and hoarse shouts have lodged themselves firmly in my brain.


The Jealous Sound: A Gentle Reminder

Music is Subjective/Fontana Di

The long, long nearly 10 years! wait following Kill Them With Kindness was rewarded in spades with this record. Mellower (somewhat) than the previous full-length, the songs remain as emotionally resonant as ever.


Waxahatchee: American Weekend

Don Giovanni Records

Her first solo outing after the breakup of P.S. Eliot, Katie Crutchfield has composed a hauntingly beautiful, harrowingly spare album that is utterly devastating in all the best ways possible.


Propagandhi: Failed States

Epitaph Records

I was never super into Propagandhi's first two records; John K. Samson is great, but the addition of bassist Todd Kowalski and the move toward a more thrash-oriented sound suits the band better. Here the band turns in a great collection of memorable ragers.


Mixtapes: Even on the Worst Nights

No Sleep Records

Mixtapes have been kicking out extremely strong releases since they dropped Maps on us way back in 2010. And their debut full-length shows how much they've grown as musicians and songwriters since then. The record this year I keep coming back to time and time again.

Honorable Mention

  • Hot Water Music - Exister
  • 2:54 - 2:54
  • Code Orange Kids - Love is Love // Return to Dust
  • The Saddest Landscape - After the Lights
  • Screaming Females - Ugly
  • Hold Tight! - Blizzard of ‘96
  • Mind Spiders - Meltdown
  • Toys That Kill - Fambly 42
  • Sick Fix - Vexed
  • Old Flings - Spite
  • The Sidekicks - Awkward Breeds
  • Old Man Gloom - NO

By next year, I'm sure some of these will have moved up. My list is nothing if not fluid.


Best EPs/Demos/Etc. of 2012


Shambles: Shambles EP


More pop-punk from Shambles. This band is clearly firmly indebted to pop-punk of the late '90s, but they do it with such passion that it doesn't sound like aping the past or a tribute act.


Parasol: Scoot Over

Nervous Nelly Records

Boston's Parasol follow up the pop-punk of their debut EP, Crush Season, with Scoot Over, a set of songs that finds them sounding more confident as musicians; most notably, singer/guitarist Lily's vocals sound stronger this time around.


Code Orange Kids: Cycles

Deathwish Inc.

The debut assault from Code Orange Kids lays out their basic formula: various people screaming, heavy basslines leading into sudden tempo shifts and riffing. Maybe not the most original thing in modern hardcore, but they do it with such exuberance, it's infectious.


Masked Intruder: First Offense

Hand Up Records / Red Scare

Gimmicky pop-punk is super hit or miss. Thankfully, Masked Intruder hit more often than miss, with cartoonish tales that could be seen as subversive, taking the pop-punk love song to it's logical, creepy stalker end. And how about the sweet cover art by Liz Prince?


Restorations: A/B

Tiny Engines

Restorations just keep getting better and better. Their self-titled album for Tiny Engines was utterly captivating, and this new EP shows the band continuing to grow and engage. If this doesn't get you stoked for their new full-length, your ears may be broken.


The Stereo State: Crossing Canyons


This record recalls the melodic skatepunk of the '90s in the best possible ways, without sounding like some dorky nostalgia trip. Super catchy, and makes me wanna do severe damage to myself on a board.


Speedy Ortiz: Sports EP

Exploding in Sound Records

Northampton's Speedy Ortiz have a great post-punk/indie rock thing going on, and the sports metaphors make for a lyrically fun listen.


Candy Hearts: The Best Ways to Disappear

Bridge Nine Records / Violently Happy Records

Candy Hearts becomes the first act on Violently Happy Records, and knocks it out of the park with their debut EP for the label. Everything sounds great, especially the layered vocals from Mariel, and the songwriting is top-notch. If you're gonna be heartbroken, you've got one hell of a soundtrack here.


Save Ends: Strength vs. Will


Indie-pop-punks from Boston follow up 2010's Ten or Better with an EP that shows a big leap in lyrical and musical prowess. The hooks dig in deep, and you can enjoy it even if you can't pick up on every D&D reference in the lyrics. (SPOILER: there are a lot)


Curmudgeon: Curmudgeon

To Live a Lie Records / Bullshit Propaganda Records

Improving on their already great debut, Boston's Curmudgeon combine apocalyptic riffs and furious lyrics dripping with rage over injustice in the world, from global to punk basements. Damn fine powerviolence.