Jordan "Anchors" Rogowski is a staff reviewer here at Punknews.org -ed
As luck (or I guess lack thereof ) would have it, I find 2006 ending the same way it began -- me hoping and praying for the Buffalo Sabres to win the Stanley Cup. Derailed last year in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals by five-sixths of their defensemen being injured, they're at the moment healthy and in charge of the Eastern Conference. God speed Buffalo, God speed.
Hockey isn't the only thing that ruled my life in 2006, though. Gin & Tonics made my nights interesting, while my days were dominated by music, classes, music, being awesome in whatever sport I happened to be playing at the time, music, and the Maury show. Paternity tests and baby daddies aside, this list is about music, and this calendar year gave me plenty to celebrate.
A banner year for hardcore, Rivalry Records put out some incredible material, while the always dependable 1917, Think Fast!, and Bridge 9 had their fair share of contributions. And on that hardcore tangent, 2006 was the year of the reunion wasn't it? Gorilla Biscuits, Bad Brains, Chain of Strength, the Funeral, and many others all either toured or played some sort of reunion show, and be it for a cash-in or love of the game, these bands and subsequent shows reminded many why they fell in love with hardcore in the first place. I was fortunate enough to see an absolutely absurd amount of shows this year, and sets from Marathon, Another Breath, Comadre, the Minor Times, Charge, and Converge highlighted a year that I won't soon forget. I'm also very fortunate to be apart of the bustling hardcore scene here in Syracuse, and though I talk to no end about how good things are here, there's certainly plenty of talented acts to back that up.
What else? It's so hard to encapsulate everything that happened in one year with just a few paragraphs. It was quite a year of change. Democrats own congress, Mel Gibson is a racist, Chris Berman is no longer on NFL Primetime, and perhaps, most shockingly of all -- K-Fed's fallen from the top? Who saw that coming? So much talent and charm, it's a damn shame to see how underappreciated his virtuosic record was, and a damn shame that Britney just threw him to the curb, like he's some sort of talent-less hack riding the coattails of a fading pop star. Oh, waitâ¦ But I digress, if only to say that I appreciate the ability to write for Punknews once again this year, and look forward to doing so for many to come. Now, on with the Showâ¦
20. Helios - Eingya
If youâve never been introduced to this band, now's a good time to start. Lush, gorgeous soundscapes mixed with a lot of mellow computer created beats makes for the perfect album to lay back and relax to.
19. Jim Jones - Hustler's P.O.M.E.
While Iâm not the biggest fan of most Dipset projects, I canât deny that this one hits the mark. "We Fly High'' is the best rap single since "Juicy,'' and the big beats work perfectly with Jones' mid-tempo flow.
18. Sparrows, Swarm and Sing - O'Shenandoah, Mighty Death Will Find Me
Magic Bullet continues to quietly put out stellar releases, and this is the best of the bunch. Evoking more Godspeed comparisons than I have time to mention, this album proves just why the band deserves them. Sprawling and gorgeous throughout, not a minute goes by that's less than enthralling.
17. Rise Against - The Sufferer and the Witness
For all the flack this band catches, you'd at least think there's reason for it. Not the case. Rise Against are as angry now as ever before, and their songwriting ability has only improved.
16. Engineer - Reproach
Converge may have put out the most chaotic heavy record of the year, but if you're looking for some real raw power, Engineer has it in spades. Brutal and perfectly paced, you'll feel every rise and fall.
15. Ultra Dolphins - Mar
Driving and frenetic, this latest release from Robotic Empire came out of absolutely nowhere to be one of the year's best debuts. All the energy and dissonance that could possibly be crammed into this side of a Drive Like Jehu record.
14. Nas - Hip Hop Is Dead
Esco's triumphant return to the top. Unlike his last few efforts, this one is free of filler and full of hunger. The track with the Game is one of the best of the year, and there's some genuine bite to Nas' always smooth delivery.
13. The Black Heart Procession - The Spell
Touch & Go
Not since the Cure has a band done melancholy so well. Incredibly depressing without being overdramatic, the Black Heart Procession yet again reach to the very depths of emotion, laying everything they have on the bare, empty table.
12. Aloha - Some Echoes
Aloha's best effort to date, this incredibly dynamic record takes the very best of their cool, mellow stylings and throws in some new elements to enrich the experience. I could listen to the gorgeous combination of vocals and marimba on "Brace Your Face'' every day for the rest of my life.
11. The Draft - In a Million Pieces
Being a huge Hot Water Music fan, I was really weary about how the Draft's record would turn out. HWM sans Chuck Regan, how can that be allowed? Well, when they make a record as good as this one, some exceptions can be made. It's passionate, anthemic, and has just the right amount of kick to make things work.
10. Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
Thereâs just something about the voice of singer Ben Bridwell. His unique baritone gives a real haunting gravity to songs like "The Funeral," and an overall warmth that will make each song on the record charm its way right into your subconscious.
9. Alexisonfire - Crisis
Taking huge strides forward with each full length, Alexisonfire have crafted an album far beyond anything I thought they were capable of. They might not get the credit they deserve, but this band has turned themselves into some incredible songwriters who have the dynamics of sung and screamed vocals down to a science. Terrific from start to finish.
8. Converge - No Heroes
Converge are back, and they are back with a great vengeance and furious anger. Anyone put off by 2004's You Fail Me has reason again to celebrate, because the kings have returned to the metalcore throne that not a single other band has so much as ludicrous claim to. An absolutely unrelenting album to add to an already stellar catalog.
7. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
Regardless of the flack I know I'll catch for this one, it's a terrific album where I wasn't really expecting one. I wasn't so much a fan of the last record, but the combination of Timbaland's beats and Timberlake's smooth style is a formidable one. He's really matured into a talented solo artist, and this record solidifies that fact.
6. End of a Year - Sincerely
Simply put -- fuck yes! Last year's Sinoloa record brought out of a hint of DC's past, but this album is DC's past. Rites of Spring, Embrace, and so many other Dischord bands are heard through the discordant Albany standouts. There's never a dull moment, just the way it should be.
5. Ignite - Our Darkest Days
Speaking of triumphant returns -- welcome back Ignite. Vocalist Zoli Telgas is undoubtedly the most talented frontman in hardcore, and from the U2 cover to the blistering speed of "Know Your History," he does nothing but prove it time and time again. His incredible range and the skill of the men behind him make this an absolute must have for anyone remotely interested in hardcore.
4. How We Are - To Teach a Hundred
Plain and simple, bands like this make me happy to be apart of hardcore. Manic frontman Rory VanGrol anchors this five-piece of extremely talented musicians and offers up 12 tracks of unrelenting aggression and intelligence. Hot Cross-esque guitar parts, thunderous drumming, infectious gang vocals -- itâs all here. Just don't take your attention away for a second, because the band will be going an entire different direction before you even realized what happened.
3. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
Rap was full of surprises this year, but Fishscale certainly wasn't one of them. Anyone familiar with the Wu-Tang Clan already knew how raw and talented Tony Starks is, and this is his best work to date. With his gritty style of storytelling and top notch production, this album turns out great track after great track. A true ambassador of the streets, Ghostface gives a window to that world for anyone not able to brave it in person.
2. Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
It just keeps getting better and better. Like Alexisonfire, Brand New have improved and evolved with every record, but I for one didnât think the latter would achieve something so impressive this early in their career. Jesse Lacey is an incredible songwriter, and the variety on this album is a testament to just how far the band has come. From the absolutely chilling "You Won't Know" to the unbridled aggression of "Degausser," this is a band at the very top of their game.
1. Another Breath - Mill City
Itâs the surreal level of passion on this album that really pulled me in. In all the hardcore albums Iâve ever listened to, thereâs been nothing like it. The words on this album cut right to the core of who I am, and when Ted AB leans back and screams "have you ever been so afraid, that you might not have the strength?" I cannot deny the chills that run through me. Itâs such a visceral experience, every single lyric has an impact on me, and the sincerity in those screams is absolutely jaw-dropping. The guitars roar, and change direction on a moments notice, the drums pound, every song has a unique and equally riveting identity. But itâs the passion that always pulls me in, itâs the conviction in the words that keeps me coming back time and time again.
Sinking Ships - Disconnecting, Dead Hearts - Bitter Verses, Lucero - Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers, the Mountain Goats - Get Lonely, Maritime - We, The Vehicles, Black SS - Foreign Object, Comets on Fire - Avatar, Bob Dylan - Modern Times, Burial Year - Pestilence, Harlots - This Is the Second Death, Rocky Votolato - Makers, the Game - Doctor's Advocate, Have Heart - The Things We Carry, Gregor Samsa - 55:12, Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury, Calexico - Garden Ruin, the Album Leaf - Into the Blue Again, Tristeza - En Nuestro Desafio, Cale Parks - Illuminated Manuscript, Verse - From Anger and Rage, The Decemberists - The Crane Wife, the Blood Brothers - Young Machetes, Kover - Assembly, Comadre - Burn Your Bones, the Hope Conspiracy - Death Knows Our Name, Danielson - Ships, the Wayward - The Wayward, Iron Age - Constant Struggle, Maps and Atlases - Tree, Swallows, Houses, No Trigger - Canyoneer, Saves the Day - Sound the Alarm, Shook Ones - Facetious Folly Feat, No Idols - Low, Taking Back Sunday - Louder Now, Thursday - A City by the Light Divided
Top EPs of 2006
3. That Was Then - Troublemakers
Armada In Flames
Quick but effective blast of sing-along hardcore. Great vocals working with some great rhythms, I expect big things from these guys in the future.
2. Ambitions - Question
A promising EP from a hardcore band that can actually fuse a bit of singing with the old-school shouts and have it come out sounding great.
1. Polar Bear Club - The Redder, The Better
Rochester strikes again! This debut (unless you count the demo) from Polar Bear Club is unquestionably the best EP I've heard in years. Singer Jimmy Stadt is a strong captain at the helm of the ship, and every song he and his crew have made is an instant classic. Driving and anthemic, there's just so much to love here. From the power of "Election Day" to the incredible dynamics of "Parkedâ¦," this EP is perfect.Biggest Disappointments
5. Jay-Z - Kingdom Come
Hova should have just stayed retired. This bland, unimpressive return from retirement could very well tarnish the legacy established with records like Reasonable Doubt. Pitiful.
4. Cursive - Happy Hollow
This was one of my most anticipated albums of the year, and what a let-down, there's not an interesting song on here. Even the controversial lyrics on religion couldn't save this one. Complete snoozefest.
2. The Appleseed Cast - Peregrine
The Militia Group
Like the Atarisâ forthcoming, the Appleseed Cast's newest effort is definitely not bad, just lacking. They've done away with a lot of the instrumental and atmospheric elements of the last few albums, and it hurt.
1. The Mars Volta - Amputechture
The Mars Volta took everything that I absolutely loved about their previous album, and threw it out the window. The heavy Latin influence and Cedric's incredibly powerful and haunting voice are severely downplayed here in favor of complicating structures. There's no real flow or direction.Albums That If I Ever Have to Listen to Again, I Will Throw Myself into a Pit Full of Black Mambas
2. A Change of Pace - Prepare the Masses
Why is this band still making music? Anyone?
2. Set Your Goals - Mutiny!
Do not waste your breath trying to convince me this album has any sort of merit. I love pop-punk. I love hardcore. I think this is absolute crap. I don't know if its their perpetual state of identity crisis or the awful vocals, but this just isn't good.
1 Cute Is What We Aim For - The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch
Fueled by Ramen
I swear on all that is good and holy that this is the single worst album I have ever heard in my entire fucking life. No joke, no exaggerations, this is more abysmal than I can even describe to you. Everything about this band, from their pre-disposed haircuts to the vapid bullshit they somehow attempt to classify as music, is so fabricated that it's disgusting. This makes every album Trustkill and Eulogy have released in the last five years look like Rubber Soul.Pleasant Surprises
3. Norma Jean - Redeemer
Iâll never be as into Norma Jean as I was when I was 16 again, but this newest effort is a decidedly solid one. Theyâve dropped much of the Botch worship and go with what works -- heavy and dynamic metalcore.
2. Sugarcult - Lights Out
Hereâs a band thatâs certainly improved. Going from laugh-worthy pop-punk to a mature and refined pop-rock sound, these guys are doing Jimmy Eat World proud.
1. +44 - When Your Heart Stops Beating
After the abysmal failure that was the Angels & Airwaves album, I was expecting a similar fate for Mark and Travis' project. Not the case -- some great pop-punk tunes showcased here. "Lycanthrope" is one of the best songs of the year.Album I Still Haven't Listened to Because of All Its Hype
The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
Feel free to tell me if I'm in the wrong here, but also note, I still have not listened to that Arcade Fire album.Best Album to Listen to While Smoking a Cigar and Drinking a Gin & Tonic
Red Sparowes - Every Heart Shines Towards the Red Sun
Just as the title suggests. Not quite as epic and grandiose as its predecessor, but just as relaxing.Album That Makes Me Want to Go to the Mall and Destroy the Idiots at Best Buy
Palehorse - Amongst the Flock
The one band doing this style of hardcore I absolutely love. It's relentlessly pummeling, but it also showcases how talented the members of the band are with some great guitar work and heavy drumming.Most Listened to of â06 That Didn't Come Out in â06
3. The Mercury Program - All the Suits Began to Fall Off
One of the rare bands I can listen to no matter the mood. This album is positively entrancing, and I love every gorgeous minute of it.
2. The Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death
Read To Die
Still the best MC of all time, the one they call Big Poppa's flows are as smooth as silk and haven't aged a bit. This record pumps out classic after classic with everything from the beats to the rhymes dripping with perfection. Ten years later, still hip-hopâs gold standard, and for damn fine reason.
1. Knapsack. - This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now
From start to finish, absolutely flawless. My favorite record of all time, thanks in large part to Blair Sehanâs incredible vocals and the rest of the bands perfect execution. Indie rock at its absolute finest.
Another year at Punknews has come to a close. As I mentioned before, I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity not only to work with Brian, Adam, Justin, Aubin and the rest of the staff, but to write for all of you guys. I consider myself a lucky individual to be able to hear the amount of music I do, and even if it's in a small way, to influence some of you to check out a band that deserves it, or stay away from those that don't.
I don't know what 2007 will bring me, but I do know that it will involve releases from the following bands:
Explosions in the Sky, Hot Cross, Do Make Say Think, Polar Bear Club (hopefully), Pelican, Modern Life Is War, Ruiner, the Mercury Program (hopefully,) Thrice, the Jealous Sound, Ted Leo, Dillinger Escape Plan, Bad Religion, Jimmy Eat World, Dr. Dre, (wishful thinking), Raekwon, JR Writer, Neurosis, Radiohead, Lifetime, Immortal Technique, and the Good Life (who knows).
And I also know that it will involve many nights full of poker, hockey games, Xbox 360, drinking way too much, romancin' the ladies, tomfoolery, pizza, and everything else that makes my time in college such that I'll never forget it. And hopefully by the time I do this next year, the 2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres will have their names engraved on Lord Stanley's most holy of cups. So from me to you, best wishes in the new year. It should be one for the ages.