Best of 2014 - Ricky Frankel's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2014

Ricky Frankel's picks (2014)

staff picks

[Ricky Frankel is a staff reviewer at]

Hey Punknews! It’s Staff Reviewer “Tricky” Ricky! 2014 was a huge year of change for me. I was brought onto the staff in late January as a staff reviewer and a podcast panelist, which has been insanely fun and rewarding. I graduated college in May, which meant that I had to move from the Bay Area back to Los Angeles to launch my own online business leaving behind awesome friends and a great punk scene. How big of a change between school and getting into the “real world” is a completely understated.

This summer I made it my mission to get back into the LA scene now that I’m back for good. Before I started writing this I counted that I have been to 26 punk shows so far this year. I’m pretty sure that the LA shows have out numbered the amount of Northern California shows I have been to by now. I will never forget the shows I saw at 924 Gilman in Berkeley and The Phoenix Theatre in Petaluma. I will always love NorCal punk!

However, one of the best weekends of my life happened this year from Friday, May 23 to Sunday, May 25. For a graduation gift (from me to myself), on Friday I saw Night Birds and Leftover Crack open for The Adicts at The Observatory in Santa Ana and on Saturday and Sunday I went to both Against Me! shows at The Roxy in Hollywood. I even managed to go to the signing the band had in Echo Park on Sunday before the show. It was exhausting, but totally worth it.

2014 was also a really great year for new releases; some of which I had been looking forward to for at least a year and some caught me completely by surprise. I’m pretty sure my vinyl collection has doubled in size because this.

Here’s to another great year of releases in 2015! Albums:


Body Count: Man Slaughter

Sumerian Records

For the first Body Count in eight years this was exactly what I was expecting; over the top lyrics with crunchy guitar chords, fast drums, and wailing guitar solos. What I wasn't expecting was that their cover of Suicidal Tendencies song "Institutionalized" was going to be SO GOOD. They updated the lyrics to be more relevant and I found them to be pretty funny. "OPRAH AIN'T GOT NO MAN!"


Stiff Little Fingers: No Going Back

Rigid Digits

It's amazing that SLF are still going strong after being a band for more than 35 years. They have kept their unique sound even with this latest album. I always felt that the scene had a habit of overlooking them. Big mistake if you have!


Masked Intruder: M.I.

Fat Wreck Chords

I didn't get the appeal of this band when they first came onto the scene until I saw them live. It totally changed my mind and hearing M.I. for the first time sealed the deal for me. The band upped their vocal complexity, while keeping their Ramones- esque musicianship top notch.


Antarctigo Vespucci: Soulmate Stuff

Really Records

Two awesome frontmen that have brought together their musical talents to create a really fun and lighthearted first album. It was the perfect summertime release for 2014.


Shitty Weekend: Shit Week

Secret Pennies Records

Here's another band that totally took me by surprise. As soon as I heard the phrase "Eat rocks Mom and Dad!" in "Don't Tell Me Don't!" I knew this was going to be great. Shit Week is angst-y, in-your-face and the band has no problem taking on any kind of punk subgenre on this album from folk punk to hardcore.


The Holy Mess: Comfort in the Discord


Since I heard "Cigarette Reflections" on the Punknews Podcast a few years back I've always been a fan of this band. This album in particular though is a milestone for them because you can hear just how much they have matured as musicians in this one.


Swingin' Utters: Fistful of Hollow

Fat Wreck Chords

I really like how diverse the band got on this album from the awesome melodic street punk material like "We Are Your Garbage" to the folky stuff like "Spanish." They took a bit of a risk on this album and it definitely paid off.


The Menzingers: Rented World

Epitaph Records

The Menzingers are four for four in my book. I love all of their releases. Their sound has evolved really nicely and they have grown so much as a band. Yes, I do really like the song "I Don't Want To Be An Asshole Anymore," but I have to admit that the "The Talk" is my favorite track off this one.


Various Artists: Red Scare Industries: 10 Years Of Your Dumb Bullshit

Red Scare Industries

A comp with all new material?! Hell yeah! I was really happy to hear the new songs from Direct Hit! and The Falcon, but this comp introduced to me to a few other bands I really need to check out.


Rats in the Wall: Dead End


Anything Brad Logan is involved with there's a more than likely chance I'll be on board. Dead End is no exception. I remember seeing Rats In the Wall open for Leftover Crack in April 2013 (before they had released anything) and after seeing them play I couldn't wait for them to release something. This album has an incredibly dark sound and it is extremely lyrically provocative -- ¦exactly what I was hoping for.


Me First and the Gimme Gimmes: Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!

Fat Wreck Chords

This is hands down my favorite Gimmes release to date. They have always been able to make (what I think are) horrible original songs into kick-ass punk rock jams. I never thought I'd ever find myself listening to "I Will Survive" or "I Will Always Love You" without being forced.


Andrew Jackson Jihad: Christmas Island

Side One Dummy

Andrew Jackson Jihad is another band that had a very big year: a new label, a new sprinter van, a new record, a Fest edition EP and three new permanent band members. It looks like the duo era is over, but they just keep chooglin' along and putting out some great folk-punk. They still have their dark sense of humor and really great imagery in their lyrics, i.e. my favorite song off this record, "Children of God."


The Lawrence Arms: Metropole


Eight years since their last full-length and The Lawrence Arms easily picked up where they left off. "Seventeener" especially is such a great song, but the music video they made for it made it even better.


The Dwarves: The Dwarves Invented Rock 'n' Roll

Recess Records/Greedy Records

I've always been a bigger fan of The Dwarves' aggressive melodic songs more than their hardcore stuff. That's probably why I was so into this album when it came out. I'm really looking forward to the Gentleman Blag EP that is coming out on Fat Wreck Chords next year.


OFF!: Wasted Years

Vice Records

I'm going to just come out and say it -- I like OFF! more than The Circle Jerks. I think they are a better band in general. Wasted Years is the best material they have put out yet.


The World/Inferno Friendship Society: This Packed Funeral

Alternative Tentacles

Admittedly, I'm a bit late with World/Inferno, I have had to do some catch- up listening to their earlier material, but I've always liked Addicted to Bad Ideas and Red-Eyed Soul. But seeing them live this year for the first time and constantly listening to this album has sealed the deal for me. I have become a devoted Infernite. Alternative Tentacles is clearly a great home for this band. They have that sort of weird edge/attitude that Alternative Tentacles embraces. To those who think concept albums don't work, here is one that is executed masterfully. I absolute love the tracks "Dolce Far Niente," "American Mercurial" and "Taken Down a Peg I Help Out the Squatters in the Subway," but the whole album is fantastic. Who knew the universe spoke Spanish? I'll tell you who -- only Jack Terricloth could have known that!



Side One Dummy

I don't care what Adam White says! Pup's debut album was released in America in 2014 so it definitely makes my list! Here is another album and band that caught me by surprise. Admittedly, I didn't know of them when they were called Topanga, but once I heard the song "Reservoir" later on when they were PUP I was hooked. This album is so musically dynamic and that's what I love about it. There's "Guilt Trip," "Reservoir" and "Back Against the Wall" that just rip, there's "Yukon" which is sort of bluesy, and then there is "Mabu" which has that indie sound, awesome guitar work, and suddenly goes into these incredible vocal harmonies towards the end. I saw them play live twice this year and let me tell you, Pup puts on one hell of show.


PEARS: Go To Prison


I couldn't sleep one night, so I decided to listen to Ryan Young's Anxious and Angry podcast and it as the episode where he introduced PEARS to the world by playing "You're Boring." I was in utter disbelief of what I had heard. So I rewound it and listened to the song three more times. I couldn't believe how the band was able to combine hardcore and melody into one song. I bought the digital version immediately and then pre-ordered the white vinyl copy. Obviously, this was a record that was a complete surprise to me. It literally never gets old. I find something new that I like about it almost every time I listen to it. The song "Terrible" and their cover of "Judy is a Punk" are so great. There's a ton of replay value here. Not to mention the fact that it's self-released which gives me hope that DIY punk is not dead. I saw them live and had the pleasure of meeting them at the show. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen. Zach Quinn was born to be a frontman and the rest of band was born to shred.


Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Total Treble

Against Me! is a minor obsession of mine. I saw them four times this year and I own at least one copy of everything the have put out on vinyl. It's been a big year for them. They had a major line up change, they released this record (along with two other EPs), Laura filmed True Trans and they have been touring non- stop. This was one of those albums I knew that was going to be awesome. When I saw them in 2012, only a few weeks after Laura came out, they played early versions of the new songs and it was spectacular. After over a year of waiting and searching through the Internet for news on Transgender Dysphoria Blues, it turns out was totally worth the wait. This album rocks from the title track to "Black Me Out," the best way to end such a heavy record. And it has great message of self-acceptance without being preachy. I can't wait to see what they release next.


Morning Glory: War Psalms

Fat Wreck Chords

I have always been a huge fan of Morning Glory's earlier material and I really liked Poets Were My Heroes, but I wasn't prepared for this even after listening to "Pet Monster," the Always Alone EP and the Born to December EP (over and over again) in 2013. If there were a category for "Best Album Cover of the Year," this would be my pick. When I listened to War Psalms all the way through for the first time I was speechless. I couldn't believe how musically complex the instrumentation was. All of the songs transition seamlessly. They seemed to have transitioned from ska-punk to this juggernaut-of-a-band with incredible anthemic melodies. In this album they have brought back the horns and violins and cranked up the distorted guitars, while mellowing it all out with just the right amount of piano. Ezra Kire and the band are some of the most creative and talented musicians in punk right now. Regardless of whether this is M-Glory's new sound or it keeps evolving, I think we can expect great things from them in the future. I have always wanted to see them live, but now I am dying to.



OFF!: Learn to Obey [7- inch]

Vice Records

This was a perfect follow up to Wasted Years and my favorite (April) Record Store Day release. It's loud, mean, and rowdy and it's OFF! at their finest. The fact that Shepard Fairey did the album art for this EP is just the cherry on top.


Bad Cop/Bad Cop : Boss Lady EP [7-inch]

Fat Wreck Chords

Usually opening bands don't get my full attention unless I know who they are beforehand. But when I saw Bad Cop/Bad Cop open for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes in March they completely blew me away especially with the song "Rodeo." I bought this 7-inch immediately after the show ended. It's melodic punk done right. Great riffs and extremely great vocals. Their upcoming full length is one of my top most anticipated albums of 2015. Can't wait!


Against Me!: Laura Jane Grace & Atom Willard: The Daytrotter Sessions

Total Treble

This was the only (Black Friday) Record Store Day release I really wanted. Only Daytrotter members can listen to the full EP so I was dying to hear what this sounded like. I liked the electric version of "500 Years" on this EP more than the original. There's also a slower, solo rendition of "Pretty Girls" that I found extremely cool.


PUP: Reservoir/My Shadow EP [7-inch]

Side One Dummy

To be completely blunt, I think "Reservoir" is one of the greatest songs of the year. If it's not perfect, then it's pretty damn near perfect. It's that excellent main guitar riff that I think can get any punk rock fan totally hooked. I also hope they do more covers like "My Shadow." They put a cool spin on the song on this EP. Check out their live cover over of the Beastie Boys' song "Sabotage" on YouTube if you can. It rocks!


Direct Hit!/The Priceduifkes: Split [7-inch]

Red Scare Industries

I've been a fan of Direct Hit! since #4 and #5 were released. I became an even bigger fan of the band when they did the split with the Mixtapes. "Werewolf Shame" is still my favorite song of theirs. But after Domesplitter came out they released a bunch of split EPs like the ones with the Tit Patrol, The Jetty Boys, etc. and all of them were really good. This split they did with The Priceduifkes though, is great. Not only did Direct Hit! write another awesome aggressive pop-punk song, but at the same The Priceduifkes wrote a great song and did a great cover of Direct Hit!'s song "Boredom Addict."

Special Mentions:


Fugazi: First Demo

Dischord Records

This was definitely an unexpected gem for me for 2014. I say "unexpected" not because I didn't think it wasn't going to be any good or I had no idea what it was, but because I wondered what made Dischord decide to release this demo now? That being said, for a demo this sounds amazing in terms of its sound quality. The alternative version of "Merchandise" especially just blew me away. Who would have thought that it originally had a piano part in it?


Direct Hit!: Brainless God Box Set

Red Scare Industries

I'm really glad that this box set came out this year because I wasn't on the staff when Brainless God was released. This was my number one album of 2013. It's got that perfect mixture of pop-punk sound, anger, humor, and aggression that Direct Hit! does so well. I never buy box sets, but this one I had to have. I'm totally a vinyl nerd (usually my reviews include "Note to my fellow vinyl nerds" at the end of them) so the fact that the album came in translucent red is awesome, not to mention the very cool lyrics/comic book and the DVD of all the music videos they made for all of the songs.