[Adam Eisenberg is a copy editor at Punknews.org.]
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll let you all know up front that I don't like year-end lists at all. Musical taste is, after all, a highly subjective thing. That said, there's value in knowing what others enjoy, even if only to discover something great that you might have missed. With that in mind, here are my favorite records from 2013.
The Songs of Tony Sly is a fitting tribute to one of the songwriters who pioneered the sound that would become synonymous with west coast punk in the â90s. We already know the songs are good, and the interpretations do them justice, with some bands taking a faithful approach and others adding a unique twist of their own.
While The Constant One doesn't rise to the heights of Iron Chic's first record, Not Like This, it still does enough to merit inclusion on any list of top records of 2013. It's a testament to the quality of this band that even when they disappoint, they still manage to produce one of the better albums of the year.
Youth Avoiders combine jangly, post-punk guitars with a bit of late '90s/early 2000s hardcore, and the result is one of the most interesting records I've heard this year. It's not only intense, but complex without ever being pretentious. Bonus points for the being the best band from France, like, ever.
Swearin': Surfing Strange
Even the most hardened punk needs a little pop in his or her life, and what better place to find it than on the second full-length from Swearin'. It's not exactly P.S. Eliot, but if you were a fan of that dearly missed band, you know what to expect, and honestly, you're probably already enjoying this record.
I don't throw parties, but if I did, this would be the soundtrack to those parties. Wringer play energetic, catchy pop-punk with more grit than gloss. Sure, a lot of bands do that, but there aren't too many that do it as well as this band.
Lead singer Nick Tape told me earlier this year that there's no filler on this record, and at a running time of only nine minutes, there's barely even room to breathe. Luckily, Coke Bust use every second to launch a vicious attack on your ears with a series of rippers that definitely classify as all killer/no filler.
This record is proof that you don't necessarily have to break the mold to produce something great. Steve Adamyk Band stick to a pretty traditional pop-punk formula, spiked with a pinch of garage rock â it's a sound that's been done, but the hooks are great and there's a real energy that comes through which sets this album apart from others of the same ilk.
Ruleta Rusa: Aqui No Es
Sorry State Records
I don't use the term "face-melting" lightly, but Ruleta Rusa's Aqui No Es is face-melting. Think careening riffs right out of the '80s SoCal hardcore scene, with a vocal delivery that comes from a similar time and place, only entirely in Spanish. It's pissed off, it's in your face, and it's totally awesome.
Some of these tracks are on 7-inches and comps I own, and some are not, but either way, it's great to have them all in one place, and they're all up to the high standard the Copyrights have established for themselves over the years.
Has Dan Vapid ever written a song that isn't incredibly catchy? If he has, I haven't heard it. The streak continues on the second record from Dan Vapid and the Cheats, which features 12 more tracks that are a little bit Methadones, a little bit Mopes and a little bit every other project Vapid's ever been involved in.
Loud, aggressive and sometimes unhinged, White Glove Test takes a vicious swing at America's failed health care system, and rocks hard while doing it. If you're looking to wake someone out of a coma, I might suggest you try this record before moving on to more invasive methods.
Generacion Suicida: Con La Muerte a Tu Lado
Going Underground Records
One of two bands on this year's list who sing entirely in Spanish, Generacion Suicida eschew complexity for a slowed-down, no-frills approach that allows their passion to come to the forefront. I can understand that the language barrier is a problem for some, but coming from a place where being bilingual is nearly as common as being bipedal, it only adds to the charm for me.
When The Measure [SA] broke up, I was sad. Thankfully, Lauren Measure has put together a new band worthy of carrying the moody pop-punk mantle. I hate the term "supergroup," but when your lineup includes Rachel Rubino (Bridge and Tunnel) and Mikey Erg (every band ever), that's pretty super in my book.
Also a winner for best (or worst) album title of the year, NOFX ...and out come the wolves dookie captures all the best things about '90s punk rock and filters them through a totally warped lens. The outcome might hit a little close to home for those who take themselves a little too seriously, but it seems to me that's entirely the point.
The companion record to On the Balls takes everything that's great about that album and adds vocals from a variety of talented women from the punk rock universe and beyond. Every one of the guest appearances works, and that takes what might otherwise be a novelty and turns into a fine piece of work in its own right.
Hard Skin take the piss out of just about every oi band ever and they make better music while doing it. That trend continues with On the Balls, as Hard Skin return to put the boots to the all-too-serious attitude that infects too much of what this subgenre tends to produce.
There aren't too many bands that sound like Rough Kids these days, and that's just too bad, as the boys from Los Angeles add a modern edge to the kind of hooky, arty punk that's generally associated with a previous era. To me, The State I'm In is the kind of record that should spawn radio hits, if the radio weren't so terrible.
Swingin' Utters are one of my all-time favorite bands, so it's hard for me to admit that I was a bit disappointed with 2011's Here, Under Protest. Thankfully, Poorly Formed more than makes up for it with everything one would come to expect from the veteran rockers, including zippy punk rock ditties, folk-tinged ballads and that little touch of class that the Utters have always brought to the table.
Is there a band out there right now that channels their energy into melody better than RVIVR? If so, please share. On their second full-length, RVIVR continue to make urgent, soul-baring punk rock that's both gut-wrenching and inspiring. Matt Canino and Erica Freas have fantastic musical chemistry, and it remains just as evident as ever on this record.
Night Birds' second full-length is everything a punk rock record should be. It's menacing, snotty and just a little bit disturbing. Just as with their previous releases, I feel like the DeLorean has dropped me off in a time when punk rock was vital and dangerous, and I don't want to leave. Extra points for chronicling the life of hardcore wrestling legend (and my personal hero) Mick Foley on "Maimed For the Masses."
TOP 10 7-inches of 2013
Why should full-lengths have all the fun? Some of the best things I listened to this year were 7-inches. Here are my favorites.
An all-star lineup featuring Mike Park and Paddy Costello convenes for a hastily conceived 7-inch that pays tribute to lo-fi Japanese hardcore and the results are better than many bands who put significantly more time and effort into their music.
The Brokedowns/The Slow Death: Split
A second, well-deserved appearance for the Brokedowns on this list. This time they're paired with the Slow Death, who bring it just as hard. This one has been spinning on my record player for a while now and I don't see it stopping anytime soon.
Talk about a teaserâ¦ If this is a taste of things to come from Transgender Dysphoria Blues, then color me excited. Two tracks that are soulful and deeply personal. Both definitely benefit from the stripped down, acoustic approach that this EP offers.
Full disclosure: The Brokedowns are absolutely one of my favorite bands. Pairing them up with Vacation Bible School is great for me, since I love them too. The results are, unsurprisingly, excellent, with three rockin' tracks from each band. Sweet.
Creative Adult pump out a strange brew of post-punk and hardcore that I find irresistible. The band will be releasing their first full-length soon, but thankfully I have Bulls in the Yard to keep me occupied until then.
Before Born to Die in Suburbia hit the streets, Night Birds teased us with one of the best tracks on the album, along with three others that didn't make the final cut. Clearly, the bar is high, as those three stand up to anything that ended up on this summer's full-length.
Mean Jeans/Underground Railroad to Candyland: Split
There's a constant tug-of-war on Notes on the Underground as the dark moodiness of the three tracks is in constant competition with the brighter, melodic side of things. The resulting tension is precisely what makes this 7-inch so damn enjoyable.
Martin: The Worst Part
Square of Opposition Records/De Nada Records
Martin play catchy, angsty pop-punk that even your mother could love. There's a thread of melancholy that runs through each of the four tracks, and yet that never detracts from sense of fun that carries through the entire 7-inch. Definitely a band on the rise.
Invisible is thoughtful, intense and leaves you thirsty for more; in other words, it's everything we've come to expect from Paint It Black over the years. I recently heard someone describe this band as "preachy," and if that's the case, consider me a most loyal disciple.