[Xan Mandell is a contributing editor at Punknews.org]
As with every ending year, "WOAH HOW DID THAT GO BY SO FAST" is repeating in my head. But, you know, looking back, 2014 was super long. Lots of crazy things happened to me, personally, professionally and Punknews-y.
Favorite music related experiences:
1. Becoming a contributing editor here on Punknews.
2. Seeing NOFX play Punk in Drublic and The Decline live.
3. Going to Buffalo to hang with one of my favorite bands for a weekend.
4. Getting the drunkest of 2014 with Have Mercy (x2).
1. Breaking up with my girlfriend of two years (it counts, because it made music mean a little bit more).
2. Riot Fest's muddy, disorganized disaster
3. Having this one band sleep over at my house (The Big Awesome dudes were great though).
4. Being forced to have U2 on my computer.
I became a contributing editor for this site this year as well. When I first started writing for websites six years ago, Punknews was always the coveted site for me to write for. Last October when I was accepted as a writer, I was really excited (I called my parents), but being given the role of contributing editor was actually a little emotionally overwhelming. While I only get paid only in concert tickets and getting albums long before their release date, there is something meaningful in knowing that somehow years of work paid off. I don't see this as some sort of "mightier than thou" position, but it allows me to feel like I'm making some sort of difference for a scene I love dearly and am able to help bands I appreciate. Also, now I get to see all of John G's Cro-mags references on Facebook.
Cory Branan: No Hit Wonder
Cory Branan is such a solid songwriter, and even if this isn't a punk album, it's rock solid throughout and does it's job well.
Weird Al Yankovic: Mandatory Fun
"Dude, what?" Let's get real with each other... You listened to Weird Al growing up, I listened to Weird Al growing up, as
did the entire world. I'll always have a soft spot for him. I didn't actually laugh out loud at any of the songs, but I was truly impressed
with the way that Weird Al was able to figure a way to be relevant, rather than sound like some washed up old dude who was trying
too hard to be famous again. Also, his expert use of viral videos should be in its own category of awesome.
NOFX: Backstage Passport Soundtrack
NOFX is easily my favorite band, and has been since I was 11, so whatever they release will most likely be a favorite
(though there are exceptions...). Backstage Passport has a bunch of older stuff on it that is quintessential, glory days NOFX. I recently
received the promo for this and haven't stopped listening to it. (Fun fact: The principal of my school taught my Junior English class in
high school, and one of the assignments was bring in a "propaganda/activist" song, which the class would listen to and the analyze the
lyrics of. I chose "The Idiots Are Taking Over." It went over... just ok.)
Rx Bandits: Gemini, Her Majesty
Mash Babylon Records
RX Bandits is one of those bands who can do no wrong. They've always morphed their sound from release to release, but every time
they've perfected the new sound they chased. This is true of Gemini, Her Majesty, and they've chalked it full of hooks. This
record absolutely rips and proves that RX Bandits is a band comprised of truly talented musicians, rather than trendsetters.
Sorority Noise: Forgettable
Broken World Media
There is something so awesome when a songwriter is so real with his lyrics that you think, "Damn dude, I'm no psychiatrist,
but I'm pretty sure this kid needs a serious dose of Prozac." On a serious note, this album is so raw, stripped down and brash that it's
impossible not to love.
Henrietta: The Trick Is Not Minding
Hey, Henrietta, I still want to interview you guys. I mean come on! Look where you fall on this list.
It is a
massive shame that this album didn't cause the ground swell it should've. While maybe not groundbreaking, this album is
rock solid, and there isn't a moment where you aren't completely enthralled by whats going on. The Trick is Not Minding has
everything an album needs to be impactful. On a personal level, I received this when I was going through a massive breakup, and it
became the record that got me through it. I listened to it every day for almost three months, and still listen to it frequently almost eight months
after the fact. But, that isn't why it is such a good record. It is just phenomenal on every level.
It is a massive shame that this album didn't cause the ground swell it should've. While maybe not groundbreaking, this album is rock solid, and there isn't a moment where you aren't completely enthralled by whats going on. The Trick is Not Minding has everything an album needs to be impactful. On a personal level, I received this when I was going through a massive breakup, and it became the record that got me through it. I listened to it every day for almost three months, and still listen to it frequently almost eight months after the fact. But, that isn't why it is such a good record. It is just phenomenal on every level.