Best of 2013 - Rich Cocksedge's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2013

Rich Cocksedge's picks (2013)

staff picks

[Rich Cocksedge is a staff reviewer for]

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 – 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 – 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.


Big Eyes: Almost Famous

Grave Mistake Records

Big Eyes' follow up to Hard Life has a much thicker and crunchy sound than its predecessor and this really added a bit more punch to the band which was evident from the off. However, just as with the debut album it's impossible not to find Kate Eldridge's voice another element that makes Big Eyes so appealing. This record just sounds so delicious and if it were a food, it would be a large lasagne, dripping with melted cheese, with some thick, crusty bread on the side all just waiting to be eaten.


Bad Religion: True North


Like putting on a thirty-year old jumper with holes in the arms, yet which provides an instantly recognisable sense of warmth and comfort, Bad Religion's True North doesn't surprise but it sure does give all the elements that make Bad Religion such a consistent band: great guitar work, with leads running through songs that instantly stick in your head, Brooks Wackerman on drums (that boy knows his way around the kit) and finally, Greg Graffin's voice offering up lyrics that still have me reaching for a dictionary or heading to Google (I clearly identify with the word ‘precariat'). It was never to going to match the likes of Suffer, No Control, Stranger Than Fiction etc. but generally I like to take each BR record on its own merits and this one has enough of them to make my top ten.


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.


Radioactivity: Radioactivity


So, a couple of dudes from the Marked Men make an album that sounds not overly dissimilar to the Marked Men – I'm in! This record is so simple, it should be used to music students to demonstrate how music doesn't need to be overcomplicated to be effective. It's a great sound and there are some songs on here that I know will be jumping around my head for a long time to come.


Canadian Rifle: Deep Ends

Dirt Cult Records

I hadn't expected to like this record as much as I do, but it's brings together all the things I like: a great guitar sound, well-structured songs, good lyrics and a powerful performance. Although there is something dark about the songs and the content, the dichotomy is that I find it to be a highly uplifting and rewarding piece of work. Let's be fair, it's on Dirt Cult Records and there's rarely a dud coming out from that label these days.


Bad Sam: Working Class Holocaust

Kriminal Records

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 – 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.


Crazy Arm: The Southern Wild

Xtra Mile Recordings

I make no secret of my love for this band. Both the previous and the new lineups have provided me with some of the most enjoyable live music experiences I've had in the past five years. The Southern Wild shows a band who can rock out with the best of them, deliver an acoustic long player influenced by a plethora of roots, country and folk artists yet one which still has Crazy Arm written all through it like a piece of rock. The messages are slightly more personal this time around, and Darren Johns' lyrics open a door into another part of his head/heart which adds to the depth that this record contains.


Night Birds: Born To Die In Suburbia

Grave Mistake Records

An album that confirms that Night Birds are one of the best punk bands around at the moment. Combining punk and surf rock with lyrics that have themes ranging from the obscure to the more obscure, Night Birds kick ass from the first chord of opener "Escape From New York" all the way through to the closing notes of "Golden Opportunity." This is as exhilarating as riding a roller coaster, or I guess it is as those things scare me senseless so I avoid them but Night Birds are a band I cannot stay away from.


Lemuria: The Distance is so Big

Bridge Nine Records

If you're not entranced by Sheena Ozzella's paper thin vocals then you're a stone-hearted fool. This album tugs at heart strings, puts smiles on faces and is guaranteed to elevate one's mood. I managed to see Lemuria twice this year and both times they were excellent, with songs being even better live than on record. Ozzella and her co-conspirators Alex Kerns and Max Gregor have released a true gem, full of popped-out indie rock.


Low Culture: Screens

Dirtnap Records

This album came out in the second week of 2013 and since then it has been my favourite release of the year without exception. From the first listen I found Screens to be refreshing and chocked full of rollicking punk/garage tunes that beg to played ad infinitum. I love this record and will continue to do so for many years to come. I really could keep going on and on about this record but it speaks for itself – if you haven't heard it, seek it out. An album for life.

So, with 2014 almost upon us, I can only hope for another year of musical goodness. With a new Stiff Little Fingers album coming out in the spring it's already looking promising! I also hope that Terminal Crisis get a record out too – their recently released Winter Demos 2013 cassette is excellent.

Season's greetings and a Happy New Year to you all.