2019 was an uplifting year for me in a lot of ways, and as I grew another year older, and am witnessing my (now) two point five year old daughter finally able to complete songs all by herself, (she already has more creative ideas than the Cokie full length,) I have been plunged into retrospect and an appreciation for the music that made me who I am today. Enter an opportunity to write reviews for PN earlier this Spring, a site I have been glued to since I was a high school dork hoping to survive Y2K. I, like many aging punkers, have been in and out of musical ruts throughout my older years, whether it is refusing to branch out from the same Devo or Millencolin albums I have been spinning for decades, or obsessing over my own projects, the Punknews community welcomed my sometimes laughable musical preferences with open arms, and seasoned my year with a newly found, patient love for the many layers of punk rock.
Remember I said patient, while the genre ebbs and expands, I'm trying to give budding artists and long-time legends a chance to speak for themselves in their own way, I have no idea what the future of punk music holds, but watching the artists I grew up with finding ways to continue to put out music and tour in a world where no one wants to spend a dime, is as grounding for me as the newer independent artists that are riding the grind and taking house show after house show just to do what they love.
My Top 11 Albums Of 2019
Sure, as Toto's "Africa" continued to develop a strange frat-boy following in recent years, it was only a matter of time before someone cashed in on it, but leave it to Weezer to do so with respect and approval from the original writers. This is a thesis of the entire Teal Album
of cover songs, as Rivers' and company thoughtfully dragged through guitar tones, moog sounds, and tempos, allowing the band to cover classics such as Aha's "Take On Me" or MJ's "Billie Jean" without dramatically changing much of anything, with exception to Cuomo's squeaky clean vocals. The completely unannounced overnight release of the album came complete with Weezer traveling the talk-show circuit with Tears For Fears themselves, allowing the long forgotten new wave masterminds to join the four piece's rendition of "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" live, and goosebumps were all over the stage and the audience.
Favorite Track: "Take On Me"
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, but Mark, Matt, and Travis are keeping the bus in drive, despite constant critique from those of us that have been following the pop punk band through all of their drama, artistic variation, MTV coverage, and the rest. Nine
is riddled with catchy singles, iconic bridges, and enough angst from Hoppus and Skiba to reel in a whole new generation of Blink 182 fans. I said it in my review and I'll say it again. Good for them!
Favorite Track: "Darkside"
Ontario's Sum 41 dropped three heavy hitting punk/metal singles this Spring, followed by the release of Order In Decline
to follow suit. The genre-crossing five piece honed in specifically on their heavy metal roots, and minus a few rock ballad stinkers from front man Deryck Whibley, the politically driven themes and ridiculously pitted bridges from guitarists Tom Thacker and Dave Baksh rock the album to completion. Drummer Frank Zummo hammers throughout the LP, offering pristine double kick, fast double time, and interesting drum fills that provide every bar of song with some fresh nuance to appreciate after each play.
Favorite Track: "The People Vs..."
Northern Ireland's No Matter blew me away with Excess Baggage
, tying together a methodical track listing that only gets better as the album continues on. The band's three vocalists dodge quickly between sizzling high hats and distorted guitar reminiscent of what made pre-Dookie Green Day timeless and exciting to show your friends. The variation of song-writers and vocalists only give more for the listener to look forward to, listen after listen.
Favorite Track: "Typical"
Iowa City's Rational Anthem cracked the code of 90's pop punk with the November release of It's Only Permanent.
The eleven song rager is filled with all of the early-Blink-era guitar twangs, double time drums, and vocal harmonies that a bitter pop punk purist has been begging for since the endangered genre was overtaken by auto-tuned Myspace bands with ridiculous haircuts in the mid '00's and never returned. True to who they are, Chris Hembrough, Noelle Stolp, and Pete Stolp dished out a half hour of expert pop punk that sounds like it has been locked safely in a time capsule since 1998.
Favorite Track: "Welcome to Paradise City"
As a long term Bad Religion fan, I grew very nervous after the departure of long term drummer Brooks Wackerman and the (possibly worst BR song of all time) release of "The Kids Are Alt-Right." Fortunately, the punk rock legends scrapped the single and released the business-as-usual Age Of Unreason.
The fourteen tracks, each with an average length of about 2:30, traded big production with Bad Religion standards, Wackerman death metal kicks with new drummer Jamie Miller's tight, fast, simplistic approach. The result is not only a full length of Bad Religion you can rock in your car, but a great new flavor of the band that fits perfectly on a set list with songs from Suffer
, The Process of Belief
, and even 2013's True North
Favorite Track: "Faces of Grief"
Love them or hate them, but Weezer will continue to let down fans of 1996's Pinkerton
as long as they continue to pump out albums. If you can get over that truth and accept the four piece's now decades old agenda of mixing nerdy rock and roll with radio friendly submissions, you will find all of the tiny gems that Rivers Cuomo buries in their albums for the older fans. The elementary Espanol hook in "Can't Knock the Hustle" would fit perfectly on Maladroit
, just as "Zombie Bastards" carries the same quirks as the rest of the band's Red Album.
"I'm Just Being Honest" floats sonic-wise to the deep cuts of Make Believe.
Weezer packed the Black Album
with many moods, from the dreamy shoe-gazing to "High As A Kite" to the Prince ode in "The Prince Who Wanted Everything." They will never, ever, please everyone, but regardless, Weezer is here to stay.
Favorite Track: "High As A Kite"
New Jersey's School Drugs release of Modern Medicine kicked my ass when it came out this fall, and it was virtually all I listened to for weeks. It is so rare that a newer band can release punk music so authentic and obedient to the genre. A perfectly blended mix of natural guitar reverb, intentional thin bass buzzes, and careful production techniques team with tight knit instrumentals that would rip just as hard in 1989 as it does in 2019. Don't skip out on this record.
Favorite Track: "Nothing Grows"
Wyoming's Teenage Bottlerocket graced fans with yet another infectious full length of classic pop punk with this year's Stay Rad!
The guitar tones and instrumentation are as solid as ever, and singers Ray Carlisle and Kody Templeman effortlessly guide a variety of subject matters throughout lock and key tempos, from life as a dog, to the embodying of punk-rock-fatherhood, and a beautifully crafted ode to former drummer Brandon Carlisle, who passed away in 2015. With 14 bangers totaling just 30 minutes, I am curious if this band will ever release anything less than perfectly charming and refreshing.
Favorite Track: "Everything to Me"
New York's Bayside has always delivered their unique take of aggressive pop punk without any questions asked, but 2019's Interrobang
is absolutely no nonsense. Nine top quality tracks of heavy hitting metal riffs (and one brilliant pop punk tune in the middle to take a short breath) are crammed in the 36 minute banger. It has been known for some time that the musicianship among the talented four-piece is incredibly interlocked, leaving Bayside one of the few bands of the main(er) stream side of the genre that record their instrumentals completely live in the studio, with minimal punches or editing. Interrobang
takes the tightness to new challenges, introducing faster tempos, more guitar intricacies, and an A performance by vocalist/guitarist Anthony Raneri.
Favorite Track: "Tall"
After the release of singles for "Bubble" and "Surviving California" earlier this fall, it was in the hopes of all Lagwagon fans that they were going to be able to follow-up the excellent album in 2014's Hang,
and the thirty year old punk rock outfit came correct. Written and recorded very quickly at Maple Studios with producer Cameron Webb, the resulting product is an energetic, cohesive, and invigorating party. The technical work between drummer Dave Raun and bassist Joe Raposo are just the start, as unique riffs and gnarly solos will remind a listener of early 90's releases from the band, such as "Duh" or "Trashed." The ups and downs of the moods and tempos are directed by the brilliant writing and incredibly candid delivery of front-man Joey Cape, who sounds better than ever. Railer
fucking rips, and is quite easily the best punk release of 2019.
Favorite Track: "Jini"
Bring it on 2020! Elfers out!