[Rich Cocksedge is a staff reviewer for Punknews.org.]
2013 has proved to be one of the best in recent years because of the number of quality releases from a wide range of bands and labels. As always, there are some labels which are fairly consistent in finding great bands to work with and without the likes of Dirt Cult, Dirtnap, Dead Broke, Drunken Sailor, Grave Mistake and Sorry State I wonder if some of the music I love would ever see the light of day â?? thanks to all those involved with those labels and I hope you keep up the hard work that you undoubtedly put in.
Whilst 2013 has been a particularly strong year musically, on a personal front it's provided me with some of the most extreme events/feelings I have encountered in my 48 years on this planet. Nothing in my life has been more devastating than the death of my mum in July; something that as I write this brings tears to my eyes as I remember her unwavering support and love throughout my life â?? it's fucking hard to live without her to be honest. I must add that I'm fortunate in having a fantastic wife, two lovely daughters, and my dad and brother (plus a load of very good friends) and in the past few months there has never been a moment when I've not felt their support and love even when at my lowest ebb.
On the positive side, my football team Newport County, managed to win the Conference Play Off Final at Wembley with the reward being a return to the Football League after twenty five years in the doldrums of non-league football. To many of you this means nothing but I know those who have an affiliation with football in the UK will get how big an achievement this was and it's good to see the team doing well at the higher level. Finally, I was taken on as a reviewer for Razorcake, a magazine I've enjoyed and whose writers I've admired for a decade or so now, and I'm actually quite proud of that achievement, still pinching myself every time I think about it! I have to add that Punknews also has its share of writers I respect, admire and try to learn from so thanks to those guys and gals for their work and inspiration also.
I've also seen some great live shows this year including Timeshares for the first time (great guys and great show), Stiff Little Fingers twice (their best shows in many a year), Lemuria twice (another awesome band), Fucked Up and also Antillectual a couple of times too. It was just a shame that both Samiam and 7 Seconds had to cancel tours to the UK/Europe as I was looking forward to seeing them again and that life got in the way of me seeing Nomeansno. It was great to see that Crazy Arm's new lineup could also rock out as well as the previous incarnation as recently evidenced, in addition to having given the best acoustic performance that I've ever seen them give as well.
Due to time restrictions, I'm only doing a top ten album list this year so this means there are some notable bands missing out and this is either because I've yet to hear a new album (Crusades being one example) or a release caused me much thought and consideration before excluding it i.e. excellent releases from Caves, Criaturas, Polvo and Wringer to name a handful. In terms of singles, nothing can touch the Red Dons Notes On The Underground for me, which is a true classic and would have topped my singles list by a long stretch.
So, after all that guff, here they are, my favourite ten albums of the year.
Grave Mistake Records
Last Words: Last Words
To Live A Lie Records
Last Words are fronted by a slight, almost waif-like female whose voice has more than a little of the demonic about it. I discovered this by accident but was sold on it within the first track, as the punchy hardcore (of the more D-beat/crust variety) added a strong backdrop for Marina's voice, which really conveys emotion in a way that seems impossible for someone of her stature. This just rages from start to finish and it's really made an impact on me.
Dirt Cult Records
Bad Sam: Working Class Holocaust
I have been fortunate to know Dean Beddis, the vocalist for Bad Sam (and previously the Cowboy Killers) for about 25 years and to me, this is the best music he has been involved in and that's no mean feat given how good the Cowboy Killers were. He still has hints of Jello Biafra within his voice, but there is just something more rounded about his vocals these days and the songs seem to punch and kick, much more than those of the Cowboy Killers. This is a thunderous punk rock record built around some really big riffs and Beddis' take on the world and really deserves widespread recognition. Also, I love the track "I Love The Port," an ode to the city of my birth, Newport, Wales â?? it creates so many pictures in my head that take me back to a place that might be bloodied but which is still remaining unbowed.
Xtra Mile Recordings
Grave Mistake Records
Season's greetings and a Happy New Year to you all.