[Renaldo Matadeen is a staff reviewer for Punknews.org. Classic.]
Hope 2013 treated y'all right.
Loved this year in terms of music – one of my favorite years. It was also one of the toughest for me in between a ton of job changes, the hustle of freelancing and of course, keeping up my classic standards for eazyD (I love ya to death, ya buzzy bastard)! Battled a fit of depression and struggled for a long time but the Punknews community was something that was always awesome therapy, no matter what. So thank you to everyone affiliated with this. Keep making it happen and keep making the movement grow.
This here's another classic list and as the âmost emo' year I ever had, I can safely say if you know anyone who tells you 'punk is dead or there seems to be a revival'...sock 'em. Music never dies.
Wishing everyone the best 2014! And as Ron Burgundy says – "Stay Classic with Renaldo!"
They make brash punk sound so good. It's daring and bold yet a snowball of fun. They outstripped any layers of intricacy that could paint them as a band that tries too hard and they grab the listener by the nads and swing for the fences. With heavy doses of pop-punk riling you from all directions, Direct Hit really show that they didn't need any intimate canvas or political prose to wow you with. What the band does is throw caution to the wind with mad-ripping hooks, sing-along choruses and enough levity to last ages.
They've been consistently impressive in whatever endeavors they take part in. The sense of panicked urgency and somber turbulence in Francesco Montesanto's voice make this dystopic and dark piece of storytelling that much more noteworthy. He brings the a solid post-rock and post-grunge rock sound to the fore which allow the band enough room to stretch their arms and cut loose. This album exceeded the expectations if you were a fan of the past records. Montesanto's team isn't breaking any new ground but they're sculpting pretty well in that '90s emo/grungy arena.
The riveting stance of this record can be chalked down to a gritty musical posture, flashy riffs and a boss take on the hardcore-punk genre. Laced with beastly metal riffs and an infectious flow, this album in just under twenty minutes touches on various influences and is riddled with enough pent-up angst to break boards to. It's one of the most jacked and emphatic records this year with a finesse that still stands out amid the punk carnage. There's something so alluring when you crank a resilient and fist-pounding album like this in your car, yet you're careful because you know you run the risk of flooring it and getting carried away. That's how awesome this album is.
The most gut-wrenching, distorted, dissonant and loud music Caravels have ever made exist on this album. They've comprehensively blown away any of their older material. The musical transitions and guttural screamo knives hurtled at you are more than satisfying as they continue to distinguish themselves as guys that want to be mainstays in the genre. Are they getting the recognition they deserve? Well, if not, this will change that. The crunching and jugular-piercing tunes established here will no doubt appeal to major-screamo fans. Caravels do their best to ensure little snippets of innovation in their music that will cause their rivals to step their games up. Testing the genre and its bands is something I approve of and endorse heartily. This album rips from all angles.
Yeah, so about them guitars. I really don't need to tell you how their music sounds or what they've done differently or the same. Just listen to "Born A Wise Man" and the deluge of feelings will come rushing in. They'll exponentially have you bursting at the seams with each hook, each solo and each fucking riff that makes you wonder, how do they pack all these guitar-intricacies into one record. AWS mean business and there's so much action and spunk in here, it'll have your head spinning and your replay button exhausted.
Jason Clackley reminds me of Andy Hull before Manchester Orchestra found their âtrue' sound. They way he and his crew refine indie-punk and soothing alternative in a similar vein that Dikembe or Prawn wowed me with last year, stands out as yet another gem that 2013 unearthed. The wavelengths of tension and raw passion are overflowing in the most non-complex format of rock music that I heard in 2013, apart from Restorations. So profound yet the simplicity stands out. This is one band I expect very big things from over the course of the next year.
Shifting punk flows from alternative to melodic to hardcore may be a bit too much to stuff into one record but Ivy League really have the game plan down to a tee. Even shots of grunge and emo-rock come flying off the handle and with such an eclectic mix, to make a record that isn't convoluted, disjointed or incoherent, is something that earns my respect. They're badass, vociferous and strike with a lot of venom. Dig in and feel that burn. The rapid, and at times experimental, musicianship, stoke the flames in the best manner possible.
This Chicago stable can be chalked up as melodic and hardcore punk. Plain as that. They have an honest, inventive and shredding flair constituted by slick guitars that make up the core of their pounding sound. They shine most of all on the heavier aspects of their music but how they change things up, is a spectacle to behold. They definitely display how and why they're one of the most all-round acts you probably didn't hear of in 2013. Take a jump into something new and go headfirst into these guys. You won't regret it, especially if you're looking for a band that took what Funeral For A Friend was doing, and subverted it brilliantly.
If you wrote them off as a flash in the pan, I have news for you - you were dead wrong! They've realized their full potential in a buzzsaw, harmonious fashion. If you're looking for a pulsating punk record to headbang, mosh or thrash to, here you go. I can't wait to see them push on from here because they're leaps and bounds ahead of many in the game. Ben Murray and Lauren Nichol have a stylistic interplay and collaborative dynamic that's exceptional to say the least and they cut so, so sweet, with their voices. The measures of genius on this record will no doubt be illuminating 2014 further for them and opening punk-rock doors in ways their fans would balk at. Classy record, indeed!
This is one of the classiest rock and roll albums of the past five years. It's a bold statement but Joe Loudon's work as a frontman, his storytelling narratives and raspy delivery, all accentuate how efficient and radio-friendly music can spread to different fans of varying genres, yet still hit the most poignant of touchpoints for lovers of the art. There's something for everyone here with a musical range that swells and bursts with heavy, expansive guitars...right down to the swooning, twinkly tunes that Restorations built their arsenal on. It's a steady rush of mid-tempo rock whose ambient sound is nothing sort of dramatic and endearing.
As bleak and gloomy an atmosphere as Mat Kereke paints with his vocals, there's more than a desolate feel come the emo/grungy repertoire that these tracks stick into your spine. They offer tremendous tones of hope and a lunge into your very fabric that no matter what, you WILL overcome. Something that deep, relatable and vulnerable is why music's made and Citizen has only one way to look from this - that's up. They saved their best for 2013 and it's a grandiose collective of stories that draw so much sympathy from the listener, you'll feel the tugs at your heartstrings.
This is screamo to blow your socks off. When it's not abrasive, it's fierce and grating. When it's not that, it's punishing and poetic. Experimental, swift black-metal guitars and jarring drums push this sound to you as nothing short of a mash-up of Deafheaven and Pianos Become The Teeth. The album's beautifully violent in its aggressive nature but still tapered with layers of melodic lulls that show not only can State Faults be unrestrained, but they can be introspective also. One of the most underrated records this year.
This band's a mouthful to say and they don't embellish on the issues that wreak havoc with one's inner-self. They reach in and twist your insides with a charm and poppy grip. If indie-rock needs a flagship, look no further because the swaying sounds on tap here, make for nights staring at the skies, for shoegaze dances and as "Getting Sodas" depicts, for spitting off bridges with bonds you hope to never lose. It shows how music's cadence, its beauty and its heart are all synonymous. This is a record to hold hands to and analyze the depths of catharsis that we go through. It stuns how this is done in a lullaby manner and mainstream fashion here.
Who doesn't love a ska record that's not only a brilliant concept album - but one that's rife with punk and Caribbean steelpan influence? Certainly not me! Simple, fun sing-alongs that are stapled with Caribbean calypso add so heavily to the great dynamic on offer that you'll be quickly throwing this in right up there with heavyweights like Bedouin Soundclash, Sublime or Streetlight Manifesto. Yeah, it's THAT good. Caribbean-ska-punk has taken a fresh turn and it's best defined right here!
â90s emo mixed with grunge, alternative and layers of post-hardcore? Look no further. This stands out as their best work to date and if you're looking for a band to usurp Title Fight, here's a contender. Broody, contemplative and explosive stories? Daylight's got you covered as they continue to traverse the visceral plateaus of the human soul. The intensity and anguish, as depressive as they seem sometimes, make for immensely good music...and that's Daylight in a nutshell. It's made for you to sit in your dark corners and contemplate how to conquer the world.
Loud, harsh and gruff pop-punk done right. That's what this is. The charisma, aggression and versatility no doubt play to the band's tout that they are fucking juggernauts. This album cannot emphasize that any more. Punk connoisseurs would have no problem absorbing Paul Pendley's commanding vocals and the band's take on politics, life and the overall disposition on why punk is something that'll never die or fade away. This is one of the year's most cutthroat records, in the best way possible.
One of the warmest and most calming records this year. It takes pop-punk, catchy anthems and even cheesy little acoustics and crams them into all the hate in your soul to purify it. This is so much fun and the rhythms all crash sweetly with a garage-punk sound that came off as unpolished yet a complete production. This acted as a suitable replacement for a year without a Joyce Manor record. You'll be rolling from the brooding immaturity, romantic despair and tales of friendship on offer. If ever a band wanted to put a smile on your face with their spin on pop-punk bravado, this is it.
Flushed with skate-punk influences and gripping riffs, this greases the wheels for fans of Propagandhi and A Wilhelm Scream with its blistering musical pace and vibrance. Loud? Yes. Gets you amped and ready to kick ass? Yes. In a nutshell, it makes you feel on top of the world and prepared for anything. Can't ask for more there. There's so much in-your-face americana punk attitude here, it's pleasantly cantankerous and distilled perfectly for you to vent to.
With a non-traditional sound that splices screamo, skramz and so many other sounds in, they've managed to keep things packed with fervor, energy and melody. It's rare to find a band that's this non-linear, diverse and experimental yet one which makes magic happen with almost every touch. With the usual relentless place, Comadre once more let themselves come undone which makes this swansong even that much boisterous and that much sweeter. Reunite soon, please? This was THE Comadre record to blow all pretenders out the water!
Personal. Powerful. Moving. That's the best way to sum up Jeremy Bolm's words that come off more like angry poetry than anything else. The melodic direction that the band took in the post-hardcore realm this year is a remarkable shift and one worth the listen. The emotional resonance makes for beautiful noise and is sure to leave its mark for years to come. Touche's never sounded better. My admiration for them increased tenfold with their depiction of life and Bolm's resounding messages of legacy, love and ambition. Also, Ellliot Babin was in god-mode on the drums - a class apart.
This is why we don't want them to break up. This is why we want, and need, them to keep making music. "Hum" is that indie-warmth that Tigers Jaw bring out like no one else. By the time you get through this, the other track on offer, "Cool" is an afterthought. But it's another catchy, flavorful one in its own right. These two tracks extract the essence of Tigers Jaw as best as they could hope for and it's a stark reminder that the world wouldn't be a better place if this ensemble stopped making music. Here's to more of them. And SOON!
Once more, these guys have proven they're a frontrunner in the post-hardcore screamo sandbox. It feels like raw therapy for Andy Maddox as his wailing, near-tears vocals bring out a tormented psyche to the listener. You're not sure if to feel scared or sad. It's a more rough, gravely effort that comes off to grand effect, even if it doesn't have that studio furnishing that made their past records so good. They trimmed the minor flaws from their last couple outings and one word that best sums up what you can expect from them in the near-future, it's 'promising'.
This EP's one audition that guarantees Reservoir's next output will kick ass. It's a pretty bold statement but they have the tools they need. I can see them going bonkers on a full-length because this emo-melodic quartet craft such meaningful music, that it's going to be hard to ignore and even more difficult to see them depreciate. There's an x-factor that makes you root for them. They gloss over your inner-chaos in a much more soft and crooning manner than most, and they do fall into the scope of a lot of bands putting out this same kind of music, but Reservoir brings out a vulnerability that no one else captures
Dad Punchers / The Exquisites: Split [7-inch]
In just under 12 minutes, Elliot Babin takes time off from Touche Amore to help illuminate a neat little post-punk, shoegaze-pop side-project that's no secret by now. What's even more obvious, is this project has a lot of wheels to it because Dad Punchers shines with so much spunk. It's fast, charming and indie so it goes down pretty easy. The Exquisites match with two tracks that add a new Britpop and distorted-guitar flavor to their arsenal that fans wouldn't be familiar with. What makes this split so endearing is that both bands offer treats and a slight shift in their musical poise which add so much more value to what's on tap.
As the name implies, this record doesn't give a fuck. It's thrashing and full of gigantic blitzes of screamo that pack so much punch. Leer never hold back anything and it's amazing how they expanded into the realms of math-rock and screamo over the past couple years to really bolster just why they can box with the best of the skramz generation. As captivating as this was, to see where they go from here and how they grow is gonna be one enjoyable ride because their fearless middle-fingers and willingness to show reckless abandon is exactly what they pride themselves on. So far, it's been the ideal recipe for them to cook from.
Blending spots of post-hardcore with harrowing, haunting instrumentals will give you that atmosphere you need to play tricks on the listener's mind. Cloakroom expose this and well, they exploit it in a great way. This record strikes at your most private thoughts and leaves threads dangling inside when it's finished. Shards of ambient, broody '90s emo unfold to great effect that manage to unwind like a darker Pedro The Lion. The themes of fragility and loss play out most of all and when Cloakroom uncorks, pensive is the last thing you'll be. They dig at the darker nostalgia in your life.
Boxer / Eyes Wide: Split [EP]
Boxer's three tracks are all crisp, evocative iterations of what you get when you infuse punk and post-hardcore as they should be. They strike a thunderous balance when it comes to musical structure, arrangement and stylistic delivery. Whatever they compose, it seems to be tender and as delicate as it is, it always seems encased with the right brand of frenzy they need to push their message through. Riding the wave of Kid Brother Collective is what Eyes Wide do and this momentum is carried over like a flood to follow the emotional turmoil that Boxer lays down. These bands complement each other so well yet with a varying ebb and flow. One of the smoothest to digest this year!
Jeremiah Pauly's grown and grown as a vocalist and his clean-cut disposition is backed brilliantly here by a grittier and edgier Pentimento. This album proves to be the step they needed to take and they're clearly taking risks and going balls to the wall. Multi-vocals on "Just Friends" and a faster, stronger more-punkish-than-poppish flip of the coin on "Any Minute Now" show that you need to redefine the way you look at the pop-punk equation of Pentimento. They're much more hard-hitting than before and in just four tracks, they topped their self-titled last year. That's how much steam they carry into this.
Pianos Become The Teeth set the standard for screamo these days and "Hiding" is a wicked tease for what's to come in 2014. Kyle Durfey remains one of the most emotionally honest and powerful lyrical savants around. It demonstrated once more just how much weight PBTT holds in just one vulnerable, moving effort. It's a perfect precursor to Jeremy Bolm's anxious take on defeats, failures and just what we should have expected come their 2013 full-length. "Gravity Metaphorically" proved not only one of their longest tracks, but one of their most thought-provoking, ever. This split dropped in January and set the stage for one hell of a year and raising the curtain in such fine form, definitely deserves a big shout.
These guys are one of the sickest, most driven duos in the business today. They toggle with so much from pop-punk to post-rock and it's apparent when you weigh the dark, mystic and raging "My Crass Patch" to the lighthearted ballad-esque "No We're Not Actually". This four-tracker brings out the best in the duo and the diversity entwined is so rich. John Bradley's vocals and drums, coupled with Scott Scharinger's guitars provide ample music-space for you to drift into. Become a fan and take in one of the best kept secrets today. How two men manage to bring such a blistering and vast array of musical styles into one environment beats me but this was untouchable an EP.