2015 was my first full year as Punknewsâ€™ resident grumpy old man. Itâ€™s a role Iâ€™ve grown comfortable with, and have even come to embrace. Some days I even relish it. I probably donâ€™t like your favorite bands, and you almost certainly donâ€™t like mine. Before I get into my favorite records of the year, Iâ€™d like to mention a couple of my favorite things that donâ€™t fit into the context of that list.
3. The thriving DIY scene in Grand Rapids.
The bands in my local scene really seem to like each other and work together for the greater good. Iâ€™m more of an observer than an active participant, but house shows are on the upswing. For bigger shows, I often look forward to the local openers as much as the headliners. It seems like itâ€™s only a matter of time before one of these bands starts to make ripples on a national level. Thereâ€™s been a few impressive local EPs, but whoâ€™s going to be the first to deliver a great LP? Bong Mountain? The Lippies? Murder Party!? Someone I havenâ€™t even heard yet?
Nothing warms my cold little heart more than classic records being introduced to the next generation.
My favorites this year were Faith No More - The Real Thing, Leatherface - Razor Blades and Aspirin, Really Red - Teaching You the Fear and Toxic Reasons - Independence.
1. Bad Religion live in Chicago.
More than 60 songs spread over the course of two nights at The Metro. It was the highlight of a relatively ho-hum year for shows. I saw a lot of good ones, but only a handful of great ones. This year I was able to write about quite a few of my old favorites. I was also able to cover a few of my new favorites. Most importantly, I was able to shine a light on some of the ugly but wonderful music coming out of Michigan, especially Detroit. Seven of my top 20 come from The Great Lakes State, five from The Motor City. Iâ€™m pleased with the musical variety here, representing the best of classic punk, pop-punk, celt-punk, hardcore, grindcore and thrash metal. Most of the new â€œpunkâ€ releases were just too wimpy for me, and I was drawn toward a lot of the heavier stuff. This list is highly unscientific and based solely on how much enjoyment I got from each record.
20. Slayer: Repentless
The new Slayer album taught us two things. One, the band is not as good without Jeff Hanneman (and to a lesser extent Dave Lombardo, but we already knew that). Two, half of Slayer trying to sound like Slayer is still better than most bands. Check out "Repentless."
Rock solid slab of hardcore from a band that helped define the genre. Heavy, passionate and as consistently good as anything Agnostic Front has done in quite a few years. Check out "Old New York."
Another inspired batch of tunes from Paul McKenzie and company. This record goes beyond drinking songs and gets political. It serves the long-running Canadian celt-punks well. Check out "Yes."
Brutally heavy, but also surprisingly musically diverse. Napalm Death continues to pummel our senses with good old fashioned grindcore. This is proof that not all things mellow with age. Check out "Smash a Single Digit."
16. Clutch: Psychic Warfare
More absurd but strangely poetic lyrics and slinky bass lines that would make Geezer Butler jealous. For more than 20 years Clutch has been making music that defies easy categorization, and this is no exception. Check out "Sucker for the Witch."
15. Gallows: Desolation Sounds
If Gallows continue down the path toward radio-friendly hard rock, this album will be considered the beginning of the end. If they return to their punk/hardcore roots, it will be viewed as an artistic diversion. Let's hope for the latter. Check out "Chains."
The Waxies are a self-described Gypsy Irish punk band from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their third album is their best so far (and the first two were both pretty good). They play earnest, sometimes upbeat, sometimes melancholy music that deserves a wider audience. Check out "For Those We Knew."
I really enjoyed Danzig's long-awaited covers album. It will be loved by fans and derided by haters, but it's a fascinating glimpse into the mind and influences of a young Glenn Danzig. Black Sabbath, Aerosmith and Elvis all make the cut. Call it a guilty pleasure. Check out "Crying in the Rain."
Teenage Bottlerocket have been so consistently good, for so long, it's easy to take them for granted. Seeing them live reminded me how much I like them. This is my favorite pop-punk album of 2015. Check out "They Call Me Steve."
11. Battlecross: Rise to Power
Battlecross is a heavy, five-piece band from the Detroit area, and this is their third full length. They play a brutal combination of thrash and classic metal. The demonic vocals might be too much for some people, but this is my favorite straight-up metal album of the year. Check out "Not Your Slave."
One of the best punk/metal/rock and roll albums of the year was masterminded by a senior citizen. Younger bands should hang their heads in shame. Lemmy's recent health problems have shown us that he's probably not going to actually live forever. Let's enjoy this musical treasure while we still can. If this is Motorhead's victory lap, they can go out with their heads held high. Check out "Sympathy for the Devil."
This is probably the ugliest record to come out of Detroit this year (which is no small feat). It's dark, noisy, apocalyptic, anarcho-thrash punk. The songs work together to form a single, humanity hating package. This is perfect music to put on while you sit back and watch the world burn. Check out "Eternal Nocturnal."
Self Destructo Records
Against The Grain continues to push themselves musically. On this record, the Detroit quartet takes their addictive mix of speed rock, punk and stoner metal to the next level. There's a strong '70s influence, but it still feels thoroughly modern. It's like Motorhead with a youthful enthusiasm. Check out "Sirens."
7. Bad Assets: On Trial
East Grand Record Co.
Bad Assets is a five piece street-punk/oi band from Detroit. This is their second full length, and they play catchy, traditional punk as well as anyone. This album really captures the gritty essence of living in the D. This type of music may only appeal to a niche audience, but I love it. Check out "Motor City Violence."
Sudden Death Records
Canada's greatest punk/hardcore band cranks out another bunch of classic punk protest songs. While most men his age are eyeing retirement, Joe Shithead is still going strong, and still fighting the power. This is as political and relevant as ever, and as good as anything D.O.A. has done in the 21st century. Check out "Punk Rock Hero."
East Grand Record Co.
The Tosspints are a celt-punk trio from the hardscrabble industrial town of Saginaw, MI. Their tales of drinking and the plight of the working man are as good as anything you're likely to hear. The songs are passionate and paint a powerful picture of the American experience. I can't encourage you enough to give this band a listen. Check out "We Are the Many."
Poison Idea has made the best classic punk album of 2015. It's dark and claustrophobic and even manages a healthy dose of nihilism. Some of us still remember when punk felt dangerous, and this is a throwback to that era. I hope Jerry A and the rest (RIP Pig Champion) keep self-destructing for another 20 years. Check out "The Rhythms of Insanity."
Finally, a comeback album that lives up to the hype. It manages to feel both comfortable and unpredictable, familiar and strange. I've always loved this band, and I'm happy to see them getting some well deserved recognition. Faith No More is still making music on their own terms. They truly are unconquered suns. Check out "Superhero."
This is the best of classic and modern punk rolled into a single snotty package. Adolescents plus T.S.O.L. plus Agent Orange plus Dead Kennedys equals Night Birds. I can't get enough of this stuff. Check out "Life is Not Amusement for Me."
It really came down to a two horse race between Break Anchor and Night Birds. Ultimately, this was the record that I connected with on a more personal level. This album is personal and political and angry and passionate (and once again from the fine city of Detroit). The songs will get stuck in your head for days. Scream along and feel your problems melt away. If you haven't listened to this yet, I can't imagine what you're waiting for. Check out "Black Hearts and Blackouts."