Justin August is a news editor and reviewer here at Punknews.org -ed
It's my inaugural "best of" list. Wow. Having been a member of the site for a while now, and having been harassing Adam for most of that time, it's great to be on the other side. The jet, the vacations at the villa, it's all really a dream. Seriously though, being tapped by Adam, Aubin and Brian as an editor is an honor, to the say the least, and a high point of my year. It also was accompanied with the sinking knowledge that I'd have to do one of these lists.
I know there's a reluctance on the internet to interject personality and personal experience in writing about music, but without the personal connection to it, music would be meaningless to me. With this in mind, music held a far back seat in my life this year. While it was ever-present, it was more of a backdrop to some very intense events. It was a year full of ups and downs for me, following a sine wave of emotions and events. I lost two very important people in my life eliminating that group of people in your life called grandparents, but was able to give homes to seven families as an Americorps member with Habitat for Humanity. I'm working with friends starting a community farm in an impoverished area of San Francisco, but couldn't buy food at some points because I was broke.
My musical tastes, expectations, needs and frequency in experiencing new music followed this pattern. In fact, looking back to what was released in January, I couldn't believe the release schedule was correct. 12 months seems ages ago right now. It's been a long year folks. That's the bottom line.
With that in mind, this is my list of what I liked in 2005. Don't expect brutal breakdowns and faux-emotional lyrics. Don't expect your favorite indie band who broke out. Don't expect...you get it. In fact, expect the expected. I like punk music. Last time I checked, this was PUNKnews.org, amirite? 12 Albums, 12 Months or I Had Two Extra Albums So Bite Me
12. Tim Barry - Solo CDR
Tim needs no steenkin' label
Tim's voice is better than your favorite singer/songwriter's. Nothing groundbreaking, just music that sounds like it could come from a dude, on his porch with a couple beers and his dog. Being from West Virginia, I can appreciate. Bottom line, Tim always writes good music. This is no exception.
11. Teenage Bottlerocket - Total
Before this year, the only band that could be referred to as "Ramones-core" that I enjoyed was the Groovie Ghoulies. TB gets the award for the band that pushed me over the edge. This album is full of catchy songs that aren't challenging in any way besides keeping up with them tapping your toe. And I like it that way.
10. Satori - Savor Ever Moment
With members of Link 80, RX Bandits and The Exit, most people expected something a bit more...punk. Many were confused by this, because a lot of people don't know dub or reggae. I thrive on the stuff. Steve Borth crafted an album full of references and respect to the Jamaican tradition, while keeping it firmly rooted in modern music.
9. Mike Park - North Hangook Falling
I love Colossal. I love Mike Park. Together they put out the adult contemporary punk rock album that I wanted to hear. Yes, it's not "punk" in the musically aesthetic way that people expect, but the honesty in songs like "Blue Marble" and "Is It Safe For Me To Go Outside?" speak volumes more than any other punk songs put out this year.
8. Ghost Mice / Pretty Hot Split
While Hannah and Chris's side of this was better, Pretty Hot seem to be progressing from "just a pop punk bad" to something a little more interesting and mature. "The Good Life" is probably the Ghost Mice anthem at this point, at least in my mind. Hannah and Chris developed their voices a bit more and sing in key more often now. Their Fifteen cover is honest and welcomed.
7. The Evens - S/T (12 Songs)
An album like this is often referred to as "suffering" from the associations created by the bandmembers former acts. Regardless of this being Mr. McKaye, it's just awesome. The melodies are subtle, and the music is relaxed, yet still intense at nearly all times. It's great work music, for me at least.
6. Lucero - Nobody's Darlings
It wasn't as good as This Much Further West. But it expanded their sound in a very natural way, without sounding too forced. I liked the fact that while it wasn't nearly as melancholy as their past albums, they weren't overrun with pop on this album either. "The War" is probably the best song released all year.
5. Rumbleseat - Is Dead
In a coup, this album was allowed onto the year end lists this year, regardless of it being a compilation of previously available material. I'm seriously stoked because I, like most, may have heard of Rumbleseat before, but never ever had a chance to actually hear them, because of the extremely low print runs. This album is fantastic. It's everything that I could have ever wanted. It's a great mix of folk/country stylings with post-hardcore influences creating a memorable document of a band that obviously passed too quickly.
4. The Loved Ones - EP
Pop punk? Yes. Good, old fashioned melodies mixed with some aggressive guitars and memorable lyrics. This EP provided more enjoyment than most full lengths this year. Sometimes a pedigree really means something. Their full length on Fat is destined to be in this list next year.
3. Against Me - Searching for a Former Clarity
Fat Wreck Chords
This album wasn't what I wanted at all. There, I said it. But I love it. It's not as compelling as Cowboy, or as raucous as Axl Rose, but it's a complete record in ways that those albums weren't. Searching provided a backdrop and some closure to one of the most intense and sad periods of my life.
2. Latterman - No Matter Where We Go...!
Where the hell did they come from? It simultaneously makes me want to ride my bike, sing along, and move back to the east coast. It makes me feel good inside, which is a hard task. I think that we only have good bands like this once in a very long while. Feel-good album of the year is the wrong term, but fits nonetheless.
1. Smoke or Fire - Above the City
Fat Wreck Chords
Smoke or Fire put out an album that appealed to the 14 year old in me who discovered this music, as well as the 24 year old who often gets disillusioned with it. It's an album full of earnest, critical, well thought out songs that aren't repetitive, but not so varied that it loses your interest. On a more real, guttural level, Fire Escapes caused me to learn how to weave in and out of Market Street traffic on my bike. The album "gives me faith" in the progression of punk rock, without ever losing sight of it's roots. Maybe I'm wrong, but come fall of next year, these guys are going to be on the tips of everyone's tongues.
Top 20 lists bore me. Top 10's are where it's at, unless you're clever like me, and do an album per month. However, I really enjoyed quite a few other albums this year. Here they are, in no particular order whatsoever.
Bane - The Note
Iron and Wine - Woman King
Bruce Lee Band - Beautiful World
New Amsterdams - Killed or Cured
Slackers - Afternoon in Dub
None More Black - Loud About Loathing
Chris Murray and the Slackers - Slackness
Big D & the Kids Table - Salem Girls
Dropkick Murphys - the Warrior's Code
Nightmare of You - S/T
Paint It Black - Paradise
Street Dogs - Back to the World
Sean P Rogan - This Time
The Tossers - The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death Best Live Performances or How I Learned to Love Earplugs, vol. 8
Punk music wouldn't be anything without live performances. I would be nothing without seeing artists live. I went to a lot of shows this year. I had a lot of great experiences, met some artists, met some people, and ended up drinking a bit too much towards the end. 5. Mike Park / Kevin Seconds - Epic Arts
Two amazing performers, one small, cramped room. Seeing two legends of independent music perform honest, stripped down music was great.
4. The Aggrolites, Soul Captives, Impalers - DNA Lounge
SKA AND REGGAE ARE KING. Or at least, they are for me. This show was a welcome respite from the normal shows in SF. Good times, good people, good dancing. 3. The Lawrence Arms, Smoke or Fire, A Wilhelm Scream, Enemy You - Bottom of the Hill
Smoke or Fire released an amazing album this year, interviewing Joe and seeing them live cemented their place at the top of the list. Brendan, Chris and Neil are 3 of the hardest working musicians in punk, at least when they're on stage. Hardest drinking while off, I'm sure. 2. Mike Park, Colossal, Dan Potthast, Short Round - 924 Gilman St
Maybe it was the allure of seeing Mr. Park for the first time and it being my first Gilman show, but I will always remember this night. Colossal performed with two drummers and I even got to interview Mike afterwards. 1. Defiance Ohio, This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, Onion Flavored Rings, The Bananas - Potrero del Sol Park
This was #1 best show, maybe ever. Round robin playing means that each band does three songs, and they rotate, and they keep doing it until they get tired. It's events like this that do give me faith that the DIY spirit, while not for everyone, has a very important place not just in punk music, but in the community that I want to be associated with. Listen To This or HYPE, HYPE, HYPE
Ginger and company released a 7" like, two weeks ago. Needless to say I don't have it yet. But it's awesome. It's called Mountains and it's available from Salinas Records. Do it. 4 bucks, and I give a real moneyback guarantee of awesomeness. If you buy it and don't like it, send me the 7" and I'll send you 4 bucks back. Seriously. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you buy it and don't like it. Mixtape or I'm out of clever alternate titles
The mixtape is a great idea. Glad SayRAH! thought of it. Some of these songs were on albums that weren't "eligible" due to their inclusion on compilations of 7"'s or lack of a true release. But all these songs saw the light of day in , and had never seen light in this form before. This is a pretty good sampling of what my listening habits are. I divided it up into "hard" and "soft". It makes sense to me, as that's how my year, and how most of my listening periods are divided up. If you come to San Francisco and knock on my door, I'll burn you a copy. Mix Tape
|*I feel the same exact way.|
**This song exemplifies my year. High energy, with a melancholic subject matter, but a positive ending.
***So the rest of the album was lackluster, this song still "rips my face off" or whatever it is that the kids say.
****Ginger says it all in the best song they've ever written. There's no greater meaning than calling you friend.
*****I drove down Route 1 looking at the Pacific Ocean listening to this song. I recommend everyone do the same.
******While this song is amazing, I have a lot of trouble dealing with it. I heard it two weeks after my grandmother died of cancer. I can relate in ways that you've never dreamed of. But I'd rather pretend it wasn't there at the same time.
Honestly this year was slow for music. While some amazing things came out, I look forward to next year with releases from The Lawrence Arms, Smoke or Fire, Good Clean Fun, The Loved Ones, Ghost Mice, The Toasters, Dillinger 4, Defiance, Ohio and more. Maybe that's how everyone always feels at the end of the year. I mean, we've already got things to look forward to in 2007 at this point, like Against Me!'s Sire debut. Next year should be interesting.