[Britt Reiser is a contributing editor at Punknews.org]
Despite the fact that I started prepping for this list in January (talk shit on Spotify all you want, but what a handy place to store a â€œ2014 New Releasesâ€ playlist), it was still incredibly difficult to put together. Especially the top three, Iâ€™ve rearranged the top three twice since completing this task.
Overall, 2014 was good to me. Despite some job shake ups, Iâ€™m coming out of it with great experiences, tales of new beginnings, stories of questionable choices, a plethora of new friends, stronger ties with my old friends, a person who helps me be my best and just overall good vibes. My life now, as opposed to when I wrote this list this time last year, is in a better place by 180 degrees. If this werenâ€™t the case, maybe this list would look different. Itâ€™s cool how music can be an emotional benchmark for where you are at any point in time by what album is on repeat.
This is my list, I hope you find some new gems on this. Oh! And Iâ€™m also excited to say Iâ€™ll be taking over the forever-incredible Kira Wisniewskiâ€™s role managing interviews here at Punknews. Her contribution to this site will be greatly missed, but I know sheâ€™s going on to do even more badass things.
Iâ€™ll see you turkeys in 2015. If you want to follow me along the way, you can check out my thoughts in 140 characters or so on Twitter, or see really dumb, usually selfie-related, images on the 'Gram.
I blindly checked these guys out at Riot Fest Denver this year, the group of us were stunned. The music was encompassing, the vocals cut through your soul and the performance was breathtaking. Then I heard Iâ€™ll Be The Tornado and was absolutely sold.
Leagues Apart is fast, soulful, good olâ€™ punk rock tunes to sing along to. The album has some great riffs, gruff vocals and the appeal of that midwestern punk rock I love so much. Only, theyâ€™re from Manchester and better at it than most bands. The album starts off so strong, and the opening track â€œKat Dennings, You are My Everestâ€ is enough to give you high hopes, but unfortunately it doesnâ€™t maintain throughout the whole album. While itâ€™s still good, thereâ€™s a reason itâ€™s low on the list.
This album is fast, gritty, and, well, full of negative qualities. The lyrics are soaked in plain language around misery and contempt for everything around frontman Drew Thompson. But it rips, this man knows how to take his distaste for todayâ€™s current state of mundane affairs and turn it into something rich with aggression.
I am the biggest sucker for Sports so I was anxious for the release of Youâ€™re Gonna Miss it All.While it didnâ€™t capture my attention the way the predecessor did, vocalist Brendan Lukens captures the youthful, post-high school, college-is-exhausting angst that only the early 20s could provide in a mix of catchy choruses and retrospective solos. This album is more mature, the vocal qualities are better, the recording is light years ahead of their debut and the dudes have plainly become better musicians.
One of the Punknewsâ€™ editors put the new Lawrence Arms record on their list? No way, didnâ€™t see that coming. As excited I was to hear these tried-and-true Chicagoans were going into the studio to do another album, I had pretty low expectations. While the album isnâ€™t the best of all time (obvi since Iâ€™m only slotting it at 15), itâ€™s still a substantial effort highlighting the experiences these dudes are living every day in a post-Lawrence Arms life, while wondering if making a return to the Lawrence Arms life was worth it, or even possible.
The intensity and energy of this album are what won me over within the first 30 seconds. Iâ€™m not typically one to care much about supergroups, but hereâ€™s a collection of dudes with successful backgrounds that came together to absolutely slay. The record has moments that take you back to the glory days of the '90s while moving flawlessly from track-to-track, keeping you focused and wanting more.
This is a band from Chicago that should be making their way into your collection any moment now. Think about everything you love of punk rock, add that uncategorizable sound of Restorations, and boom, youâ€™re at Typesetter. This is their debut full length and itâ€™s strong, itâ€™ll be awesome to see where these dudes take this potential next.
Grieves: Winter & the Wolves
Two hip hop artists, whoops. Seattle-based Grievesâ€™ fourth album, Winter and the Wolves is an emotive, soulful and catchy record that cements the rapperâ€™s position in the pop-rap world. At times, heâ€™s almost melodic, his choruses are rich, the music is cohesive and in tune with his raps and his writing is relatable and tangible. Thereâ€™s room for improvement in the content of his songs, but overall itâ€™s a great record full of beats that make you move and experiences we can all recall.
I hate that this band calls another continent their home, I also sometimes really despise the fact that I live dead-center in mine, so while I saw them once at Fest (12), it definitely wonâ€™t ever be enough. This album speaks to you from the first moment Wil Wagnerâ€™s vocals open â€œSomething I Can Hold in my Handsâ€ to the final chorus weâ€™ve all wondered, â€œAm I enough / Am I trying too much?â€ This band is making waves and you and I both know it. Letâ€™s not pretend weâ€™re riding every one of them with incredible enthusiasm to see whatâ€™s next.
Giant Orange was my, and many others, introduction to this Lansing, MI-based band. This being so, I love Famous Graves. If youâ€™ve made up your mind and youâ€™re not into Cheap Girls, then Iâ€™m not going to pretend this album is going to bring you to the light. However, this album has a larger focus on lyrics, has some of the catchiest songs to date and is, overall, a very solid, well-rounded album.
I know itâ€™s only been two years since these dudes released Of All Things I Will Grow Tired but hot damn, I feel like Iâ€™ve been waiting for a follow up forever. Never Hung Over Again dominates. Itâ€™s everything I wanted it to be, and more. The band keeps their 90-second songs, to-the-point titles, and added some keyboards, better recording quality and vocalist Barry Johnson really starts to perfect his subtle insight into the suburban sphere the dudes grew up in through his frank lyrics. Plus, I just want to dance to this album. All day, erâ€™ry day.
Thereâ€™s no way youâ€™ve missed this Brooklyn-based band being labeled such things as, â€œThe band to watch!â€ or â€œpop-punk prodigies!â€ So, it canâ€™t be surprising their debut full-length, Teenage Retirement, is making AOTY lists all over the Internet. Vocalist Anika Pyle captures the uncertainty of leaving home for a new city, relationship monotony, the struggles of the space between friendships and the general lack of confidence in whatâ€™s ahead. This is a band that took their punk rock roots, their expansive influences, and created a sound thatâ€™s authentic, to the point, and so very relevant for the time and place of so many of us as we decide if weâ€™re growing out of the scene, if weâ€™re not, or whatever the fuck it is weâ€™re supposed to do next.. Responsibilities? What are those? Fuck. Wait, what? Listen to this album, start there.
LP2 took everyone by surprise last year. That was an album no one saw coming, no one could put into words, but also one that just couldnâ€™t leave your speakers. Itâ€™s tough to follow up a genius album, especially with only a few months in between, but these Philly dudes did it. LP3 maintains their iconic sound but explores a more contemplative side of their sound and itâ€™s good. Itâ€™s not quite LP2 good, but that might be because I havenâ€™t had enough time to listen to it continuously.
I have two hip hop artists on my list this year, which Iâ€™m not even positive is totally ok, but theyâ€™re both too good to leave off. This is the breakthrough album for Sims. Field Notes is full of bangers, dripping with authenticity and emotion, and present. Sims has honed into current events, feelings, positions in life and laid them out in one incredible album. Maybe you love hip hop, maybe you think Iâ€™m violating the purpose of a Punknewsâ€™ AOTY list, but put those thoughts on hold and listen to â€œThey Donâ€™t Work for Usâ€ and tell me that isnâ€™t the basis of punk rock. Or to his heart-wrenching track â€œThe Whaleâ€ which is memorializing the late Eyedea. This album hit me hard and to the core. I canâ€™t wait to see what Sims does next.
Every year you look forward to your favorite artistâ€™s new albums, then there are the albums the world is talking about so you get into those, and then an unknown-to-you band slips into a playlist somewhere, somehow, and it changes everything. I didnâ€™t see Flies in All Directions coming, I have no idea where I got it or how but holy smokes do I love it. â€œThe Devil and Whom?â€ is possibly my favorite song of 2014. This album is powerful, Brian Warren wrestles with his mental health, drug usage and the issues that so many of us face daily, but he makes them sound beautiful, relatable, understandable. Thatâ€™s genius.
I had given this record a listen or two before seeing these dudes live in our local DIY space. Christian Holden opened the set with his mournful, emotion-driven opening track â€œAn Introduction to the Albumâ€ and the audience was stunned. The dude gets on stage and sings to you the nightmares of the past few years and you canâ€™t help but listen. And then the band sets in and youâ€™re sold. The live performance cemented the genius of this album, but the album deserves its place in my top five albums. This is an important record, this record deserves to make waves.
2014 was good to me, and so while I love this record and can sing you every beautiful lyric, I donâ€™t think it resonated as deeply with me as previous albums have. But, for a band that put out On the Impossible Past it must have been daunting to follow up. This record isnâ€™t quite the banger of their past, but itâ€™s mature, clean, experienced. Theyâ€™ve established their credibility and this was a great success at experimenting with something more intentional and lyric-driven. These guys can't let me down.
Adam White, our managing editor, is Canadian (and you probably knew that, heâ€™s very vocal about it), so heâ€™s already used much of his air space to remind the world that this album came out in 2013. However, Iâ€™m â€˜Merican and I didnâ€™t hear it last year so that just canâ€™t be the case, so as a country, weâ€™re demanding it didnâ€™t happen. Regardless, this record dominated my playlists. Itâ€™s everything you wanted it to be and more.
This yearâ€™s top album of the year wasnâ€™t as easy as it has been in the past. I really struggled ordering my top three, so realistically, tomorrow I could regret not moving one of the other two up [Editorâ€™s Note: at the time of publication, I panicked and moved PUP to second place and Menzingers to third -- told you). For the sake of Punknewsâ€™ math, this will be my number one. Against Me! gets the top spot because of the courage and honesty it took to make this record. The lyrics are raw, the music is catchy and uplifting, and it shows how far Against Me! has come in their career. Despite the band changes, and one might argue that this isnâ€™t Against Me! anymore, the band has stayed true to their ethos. So while the sound has changed over the years, this is still pure emotions set to quick strokes and choruses designed to alight a fire in your chest.