Death, taxes and fest cancellations: The only constants in life
Scott Heisel is an alumni news editor, reviews editor and reviewer here at Punknews.org -ed
So, 2005's just about over. I'm listening to some mediocre Death From Above 1979 remixes (seriously, that remix record they just put out? Pass on it, kids). It's about 3am on New Year's Eve, and I have to write an intro to my whole year-end list thing.
I got nothin', really. Did anything good happen this year? I mean, shit: Eddie fuckin' Guerrero died. That constitutes a pretty awful year, if you ask me. But there were some good records that came out. We'll get to those shortly.
While I'm sure good things did happen this year, 2005 also was home to terrible losses, in both musical and physical realms. The old guard (Snapcase
, the Get Up Kids
, Engine Down
, Rocket From The Crypt
) suffered just as much as the up-and-comers (Beloved
, Hey Mercedes
, the Frenetics
, Bear Vs Shark
, Tsunami Bomb
) in terms of diminishing ranks. Of course, the band break-ups were nothing compared to the true tragedy that befell this scene over the year. From the suicides of former Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde
and former All-American Rejects touring keyboardist Tim Jordan
, to the tragic vehicular deaths of Bayside drummer John "Beatz" Holohan
and Silkworm drummer Michael Dahlquist
, to Bleed The Dream drummer Scott Gottlieb
and electronic-instrument pioneer Bob Moog
succumbing to cancer, to music legends such as R.L. Burnside
and Laurel Aitken
passing after long and prosperous lives, it was impossible not to be touched by the death of someone in music this year.
On the upside, the biggest trend in music (aside from the ever-growing legion of MySpacecore bands epitomizing fashion over function) seemed to be reunions, as odds are, one of your favorite bands from yesteryear saw how much bank the Pixies made and got back together, some permanently. Bands coming out of retirement included Slint
, Gang Of Four
, Dead Boys
, Dinosaur Jr
, the Promise Ring
, Gorilla Biscuits
, Kid Dynamite
, Smoking Popes
, and dozens of first-generation hardcore bands better left six feet under.
Of course, the other trend of 2005 -- or curse, as it may be -- was the cancellation of virtually every major fest on North American soil. Hellfest
, Wasted USA
, Unite The United
, and even last-minute Hellfest replacement WhatTheHellFest
had the plug yanked out of the wall before the first band on any of the bills could even soundcheck. The only major North American fests to actually deliver in 2005 seemed to be the Bamboozle
and Riot Fest
, both of which found themselves plagued by myriad problems, including capacity issues, lineup shuffling and general disorganization. Oh, and of course, the Fest 4
went off without a hitch -- but that's just because Punknews.org sponsored it, duh.
Personally, 2005 was a big year for me -- my first full year spent at my job
; my first real, honest-to-god beard
; but most importantly, it was my first full year away from all duties here at the 'Org. It's hard, having to rejoin the peanut gallery (no offence to you readers; you're the best group of people any website could ask for), and it's taken me pretty much all year to get used to the fact that my opinion doesn't matter that much around here. To all those -- editors and users alike -- who humored me at some point this year, I thank you. It's a pleasure to be invited back to do a year-end list for the website I owe the majority of my well-being to; with that being said, let's get into it:
The Top 20 Albums Of 2005
#20. The Suicide Machines - War Profiteering Is Killing Us All
This politically charged ska-punk combo return with another blistering set of, well, politically charged ska-punk. And the result is yet another awesome album in this band's catalogue (4-for-6 ain't bad at all, guys!).
#19. Decibully - Sing Out, America!
I'm not sure how to describe this album. Alt-country, sorta? Mellow indie rock, I guess? Really, really creative and inspiring music? Definitely.
#18. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday
I shamefully missed the boat on Lifter Puller, but after this disc, Craig Finn has become one of my new favorite vocalists. I've also found an appreciation for Thin Lizzy I never thought I had.
#17. Gatsbys American Dream - Volcano
One of the most innovative bands in the scene make good on their third full-length. Where's the fucking chorus? Who cares?
#16. Spitalfield - Stop Doing Bad Things
Far more mature than their 2003 effort Remember Right Now, Spitalfield's new album should have put them onto the radars of anyone who champions mid-'90s post-hardcore (Braid, Texas Is The Reason, et al). Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of people glossed over the record due to the bulldog on the back of it. I urge you to reconsider, as this is one of the most solid rock records I heard all year.
#15. Settlefish - The Plural Of The Choir
Something's in the water in Italy. And apparently, it's the collected back catalogs of American Football, Sunny Day Real Estate and At The Drive-In. Drink up, boys!
#14. The Bled - Found In The Flood
A complete dark horse for this list -- I didn't realize how much I was really into this album until just a few days ago, as it's been a staple in my car stereo for four months. Progressive post-metalcore that utilizes no cliches to get its message across and makes no excuses for its ambitiousness.
#13. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Sometimes, it's nice to have an album that both you and your mom can listen to at the same time without either of you wanting to turn the stereo off. My only complaint? My mom got a copy of this with Superman on the cover; I didn't.
#12. Vendetta Red - Sisters Of The Red Death
Lots and lots of guitars + lots and lots of hooks = lots and lots of catchy, crunchy, built-for-singalong songs. I can't believe how badly Epic botched this album; this disc should be selling like gangbusters to anyone who even remotely enjoys any part of the "rock" genre.
#11. Boys Night Out - Trainwreck
A band who refuse to be stuck in the pop-screamo scene create a massively ambitious, intruiging and grotesque concept album, and it actually works on all levels. Why isn't this band bigger?
#10. Queens Of The Stone Age - Lullabies To Paralyze
It's like, the blues, man.
#9. The City On Film - In Formal Introduction
Bob Nanna's "solo" debut, seven or so years in the making, is the perfect thing in this post-Elliott Smith singer-songwriter world.
#8. Circa Survive - Juturna
I guess this is what prog-emo sounds like. I just figured it was what good music sounds like. With his explosive vocals, penetrating lyricism and cathartic stage movements, Anthony Green is one of the best all-around frontmen of indie rock currently.
#7. Bear Vs Shark - Terrorhawk
Only the good die young. Bear Vs Shark will probably never truly be understood like their forebearers in At The Drive-In. But that's okay; Marc Paffi couldn't grow an Afro if his life depended on it.
#6. The Mars Volta - Frances The Mute
And speaking of afros...
#5. Mando Diao - Hurricane Bar
More restrained and polished than 2003's brash Bring 'Em In, Mando Diao may have cut back on the attitude a bit, but more than make up for it by being the best mod band, songwriting-wise, in years. Take that, Pete Doherty.
#4. Death Cab For Cutie - Plans
Death Cab's major-label debut didn't rock any sort of musical boat, but it didn't have to: All Ben Gibbard has to do is keep writing love songs, and we'll keep listening.
#3. A Wilhelm Scream - Ruiner
One of the hardest-touring bands in punk rock (I've seen them six times this year, and actually missed them a seventh time in order to go to the Fest 4), A Wilhelm Scream are refreshing, exciting, dangerous and catchy as all fuck. And something tells me they're just getting started.
#2. Minus The Bear - Menos El Oso
The thing about Minus The Bear is this: There isn't a single band in the world they sound like. And I commend them for both being unapologetically original and absurdly catchy. You don't just listen to Menos El Oso; you feel it.
#1. Against Me! - Searching For A Former Clarity
Every album Against Me! released has been better than the one prior, and this is no exception. Tom Gabel's lyrics continually cut to the core of whatever issue he feels like addressing, whether it be personal or social-political. It excites me to know I'll be able to witness every single step of Gabel's maturation as a musician, and to know that every single one of those steps is in the right direction. Gentlemen, take a bow: You are the most important band in punk rock.
Apollo Sunshine - Apollo Sunshine (spinART); Armor For Sleep - What To Do When You Are Dead (Equal Vision); The Blackout Pact - Hello Sailor (Astro Magnetics); Coldplay - X & Y (Capitol); The Decemberists - Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars); The Life And Times - Suburban Hymns (DeSoto); Matt Pond PA - Several Arrows Later (Altitude); Modern Life Is War - Witness (Deathwish Inc); OK Go - Oh No (Capitol); Over It - Silverstrand (Lobster); Sigur Ros - Takk... (Geffen); The White Stripes - Get Behind Me, Satan (V2)
The Top 5 EPs Of 2005
#5. The City On Film - American Diary
This shit is B. Nanna's.
#4. This Is Hell - This Is Hell
Finally, hardcore produces something worth listening to!
#3. The Loved Ones - The Loved Ones
Finally, dudes from old hardcore bands form a new band and it doesn't suck!
#2. The Felix Culpa - Thought Control
Every song the Felix Culpa writes peels off another layer of their incredibly complex post-math rock atmospherics. Who needs verse-chorus-verse-chorus when you have songs as interesting as this?
The Top 5 Disappointments Of 2005
#1. The Cardinal Sin - Oil And Water
This is why the Midwest is great: Devoid of the musical trends which ravage both the East and West Coast scenes, the Midwest punk scene is content to just crank out really, really good, melodic punk. The Cardinal Sin's debut EP is exactly that, and with a full-length on the way in 2006, expect to see this name again -- a lot.
#5. Franz Ferdinand - You could Have It So Much Better
The single is great; I couldn't hum a single other song on this album. A complete letdown from their self-titled effort, where every single song was memorable, catchy and fun.
#4. Finch - Say Hello To Sunshine
I appreciate the band's attempt to grow musically (and it's obvious they're paying for it, as any of the half-empty venues they've headlined recently will attest to), but for all the talk of maturation and musical exploration, it sounds an awful lot like nu-metal. Even one of the best drummers around (in Counterfit's Marc Allen) couldn't save this.
#3. Alkaline Trio - Crimson
Sure, it's good; but it could've been great. I'd like to see what would happen if you put the band in the studio for two weeks with Matt Allison and told them to make a new record, with no songs prepared beforehand. Enough of this super-slick production and boring songs, guys -- three albums of it is more than plenty.
#2. Every Time I Die - Gutter Phenomenon
Their attitude towards music is dead-on; unfortunately, the music they created with that attitude is far off the mark. Once one of the most charismatic vocalists in hardcore, Keith Buckley has resorted to the same growl found on every single album Trustkill puts out, and the band's Southern-rock influence, while clever on Hot Damn!, just gets boring and sloppy here. Points for trying, but there's nothing worth listening to again on this album.
The Most-Improved Band Of 2005
#1. The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Armed Love
Hands down, the most disappointing, and quite possibly worst overall, album of 2005. And had I downloaded it (like apparently everyone else did) in 2004, it would've won this same spot last year. How's smashing the state working out for you on that plush tour bus, Dennis?
The Best Compilation Of 2005
Armor For Sleep - What To Do When You Are Dead
This band went from making one of the most boring, by-the-books freshman efforts (2003's Dream To Make Believe) to creating a powerful concept album that rocked in all the right places. Kudos to the band for really getting their shit together.
The Best Record Of 2005 I Couldn't Place On My Top 20 List
Various Artists - Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
A bunch of classic punk songs covered remarkably faithfully by people who were as moved by them as you and I probably are. A great compilation with tons of replay value.
(A.K.A. The First-Annual Conflict Of Interest Award)
The Best Record Of 2004 That I Didn't Get Until 2005
Somerset - Pandora
I couldn't in good conscience place this on my proper Top 20 list since I had a hand in putting it out, but honestly, this record would've made my top 10 easily. I dare you to listen to this record and describe Somerset as anything but original. I can't think of a single band they sound like, and I can't get a single one of these songs out of my head, even having listened to them for almost the entire length of 2005.
The Best Record Of 2004 That I Didn't "Get" Until 2005
The Arcade Fire - Funeral
I managed to avoid the hype train behind this release in 2004 until shortly after Christmas last year, when a faithful 'Org reader bought me a copy as a belated Christmas present (Thanks, Marlon!). I quickly fell in love with it and found myself returning to it often over this year. A fantastic debut that sounds like the band's been making music together for 20 years.
The Best Record Of 2005 By Andrew WK
Head Automatica - Decadence
I remember the first time I heard this record -- it gave me a headache. However, after watching the Suicide Girls DVD earlier this year, and noticing how virtually every song off this record has prominent placement in the documentary, I found myself with a newfound appreciation for Daryl Palumbo's dance-pop side. It ain't no Glassjaw, but it's still quite enjoyable.
Here's to hoping for 2006...
The Punknews.Org Mixtape, 2005 Edition
Click on any song to download/stream it (where applicable).
The Most Anticipated Records Of 2006
Thw following bands are supposed to have records out in 2006; if they all do, we're in for an exciting year of music: Aloha, Andrew W.K., Angels & Airwaves, the Ataris, the Blood Brothers, Boy Sets Fire, Brand New, the Bronx, the Cardinal Sin, Cursive, Death From Above 1979, Deftones, Dillinger Four, the Draft, the Felix Culpa, the Flaming Lips, Gatsbys American Dream, H20, Head Automatica, the Lawrence Arms, Lifetime, the Loved Ones, the Mars Volta, Mates Of State, Mogwai, Moneen, Mono, Murder By Death, Muse, NOFX, None More Black, the Offspring, the Plastic Constellations, Plus 44, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Radiohead, Rise Against, Rx Bandits, Ryan's Hope, Saosin, Saves The Day, Smoking Popes, the Sound Of Animals Fighting, Strike Anywhere, Ted Leo/Pharmacists, This Is Hell, Thursday, the Weakerthans and Wilco.
In all seriousness, the last few months of this year were rather hard for me, as my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer in late September, and due to its advanced stage, was unable to fight it whatsoever, passing two months after the initial diagnosis. If any of you might have some leftover cash from the holidays and are looking to be a bit philanthropic this season, I would greatly appreciate it if you considered donating to the American Cancer Society
or Syrentha Savio Endowment
, or treat yourself to some new threads courtesy of Shirts For A Cure
. As cliche as it sounds, every little bit does help.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy 2006.