[Bryne Yancey is a contributing editor for Punknews.org.]
If you'll pardon the brief bout of navel gazing: Being a "rock critic" has never been weirder. Many in this "profession" in this day and age use their stature and access to elevate their own personal brand and little else – I've certainly been guilty of that "essentiality" or "elitism" from time to time – and as a result, it can make the consumption of the music itself something of an afterthought. Not only that, but rock critics love to talk about themselves and their peers ad nauseum. It can be more than a little exhausting, and it's something I've actively tried to do less of this year, especially in the past six months or so. Snark and smarm have their place, but so much of the Internet is caked in it now that it's become difficult to rise above the noise.
I didn't get into this to write thinkpieces on topics that don't actually warrant any deep thought, or to win any popularity contests on Twitter; I was just one of those kids who had their life saved by punk rock and wanted to give back in some small way. Hopefully it's cyclical, and the movement becomes more about the music again soon and less about What It All Means.
With that, this will be my final best-of list as an active staffer of Punknews.org. It's been mostly fun, but my interests have shifted and it's time for me to do something else. Nothing personal, no bad blood, nothing but good vibes. If you care (it's totally OK if you don't), I'll be blogging somewhat regularly here and tweeting about stuff here. I also have plans in the works for an entirely new site which should launch in the late spring or early summer. Thanks to Aubin and Adam W. for allowing me the platform, and for letting me come back in the first place. Thanks to the Johns, the Britts, Adam E., Amelia, Kira, Andrew and Armando for their insight, collaboration and jokes. Huge thanks to Joe Pelone and Brian Shultz for showing me the reviews editor ropes. Thanks to all the staff reviewers and users for volunteering their time to tell you and me about bands they like or dislike. Most of all, thanks to you for reading. Punknews has been the most fulfilling part of my creative existence thus far, and you, the readers, are the ones who keep it going. As annoyed as I get with the commenters sometimes, I try to never lose sight of that. So, thanks!
THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2013
Republic / Universal
ATO / White Drugs
Speedy Ortiz: Major Arcana
Sometimes, "hype bands" deserve the hype. Major Arcana feels like a relic from the indie rock halcyon days of the early to mid 1990s, with feedback-laden hooks, crunchy guitars and Sadie Dupuis' subtly confident vocals and uncompromising, ripped-from-the-diary lyrics. If you've been ignoring this band because of what mags have been covering them, fix that right now.
RCA / Dine Alone
Enabler: Shift of Redemption
Though a full-length is past due by now, Enabler continue to impress whenever they piece out new material. Shift of Redemption is four more songs of extra fiery, mosh-ready hardcore from Milwaukee's best (but not Milwaukee's Best).
The Bouncing Souls / The Menzingers: split [7-inch]
Very fun. Both originals (Bouncing Souls' "Blackout" and the Menzingers' "The Shakes") are worthy additions to each band's already-impressive arsenal, and the covers are mostly delightful. The Souls' take on "Burn After Writing" is particularly inspired.
Their / They're / There: Their / They're / There
Evan Weiss goes full-on, fretboard-tapping '90s Midwestern emo with the help of Mike Kinsella and Matthew Frank. This is good enough on its own, but if it helps younger Into It. Over It. fans delve into '90s emo, all the better.
Diamond Youth: Orange
Some hardcore kids formed a '90s alt-rock influenced group and did it right with tight melodies and plenty of personality.
Kind of Like Records
Torche: Keep Up / Leather Feather [7-inch]
Torche's new full-length in 2014 will, in all likelihood, be excellent. Their lone recorded output in 2013, this two-song 7-inch, goes heavy on the riffage and heavy on the catchiness. You know, like Torche have more or less always done. Completely innovative, infectious and fun. TOOOOORRRRRRRCHHHHHHE!!!!!!!
Royal Headache: Stand and Stare / Give It All To Me [7-inch]
All hail Shogun, the undisputed most soulful frontman in punk. These two songs, which have sharper production than the band's equally awesome 2012 LP, serve as a nice holdover until they inevitably take over the world in 2014.
2014 is going to be bananasThe first two months of next year are packed with awesome releases, including:
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
The Lawrence Arms - Metropole
You Blew It! - Keep Doing What You're Doing
Direct Effect - Sunburn
Bayside - Cult
In addition to those, I'm also very much looking forward to new albums from Joyce Manor, Banner Pilot, Torche, the Menzingers, White Lung, Cayetana, OFF!, Dikembe, Masked Intruder, Hotelier, Modern Baseball, the Gaslight Anthem, Braid, Trap Them, the Copyrights and (hopefully) Descendents, Rancid, Western Addiction, Royal Headache, Teenage Bottlerocket, Burning Love and Misfits with Glenn Danzig on vocals (a guy can dream).
Be excellent to each other.