Chris Moran is a news editor and reviewer here at Punknews.org -ed
If I had to sum up the world of punk/hardcore/etc in one word for 2006 it would be "melody." Maybe it's the wider circulation and exposure that bands, even on the smallest of labels, have access to. Everything from MySpace to on-demand cable television music videos are giving today's groups more chances to succeed without the constraints of some of the larger labels. Or, maybe it's just the overall evolution in music. Trends come and go, but good tunes are good tunes, and as much as I enjoy the abrasive nature associated with punk rock, the monotony of three chords and yelling can get a little stale. We saw this progression in hardcore acts like Strike Anywhere and Ignite, punk staples like Anti-Flag and Against All Authority, and of course the plethora of frontmen opting to go out on their own. Included were Boy Sets Fire's Nathan Gray, Ann Beretta / Foundation leader Rob Huddleston and even hardcore mainstay Avail's Tim Barry. Of course we can't forget the "solo man of the year," Chuck Ragan. Many of us shed a tear with the final demise of Hot Water Music, but from its ashes rose Chuck and his traveling one-man show, and of course the Draft, which consists of the other three members, carrying on in a similar musical style as their prior journey.
I could continue on, but the following list will pretty much sum up my feelings on the year. Working with the editors at Punknews.org has been a great experience, and I look forward to what we can do in the coming year. Thanks to everyone, staff and readers, for a fun 2006. Here's to an even better 2007. 20 Pieces of Plastic from 2006 Everyone Needs
20. This Is Hell - Sundowning
Building from a model perfected by bands like American Nightmare and Bane, This Is Hell carved their own place in hardcore with this edgy and aggressive debut full-length.
19. Against All Authority - The Restoration of Chaos and Order
After a lengthy hiatus of recording new material, AAA came back with an album rich in their patented street-punk/ska blend, but fused with harmony and a more mature sound while still maintaining their snide and sarcastic outlook on society .
18. Tim Barry - Rivanna Junction
In the most honest and humble release of the year, Avail's Tim Barry released this relaxed collection of songs influenced by his early musical experiences of bluegrass, country-western and folk combined with the spirit of his current laidback southern lifestyle.
17. Sick of It All - Death to Tyrants
What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of your band than to release of the best albums of a successful career? Anyone that feels a hardcore band can't make it more than a couple of years without some serious altering of their sound obviously is unfamiliar with these guys, the walking definition of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
16. World/Inferno Friendship Society - Red-Eyed Soul
Eclectic, spontaneous, and fun, the Inferno delivered their unique style of "caberet / circus punk" in one of the more original and stylish releases the punk community has seen in some time.
15. Rise Against - The Sufferer and the Witness
With their second major label release, Rise Against have only further proven why they are in the upper echelon of melodic hardcore. With an impressive mix of furious aggression, catchy hooks and dynamic arrangements, this album only further cements why they continue to get better with each album.
14. Anti-Flag - For Blood and Empire
Under some of the most intense criticism for opting to move to the RCA music label, Anti-Flag managed to put out the definitive album of their catalog. Sharp, clever and lacking the generic sloganeering of past releases, this record served notice to any finger-pointers that the term "sell-out" doesn't always equate to signing to a bigger label.
13. Shook Ones - Facetious Folly Feat
Being compared to a band like Kid Dynamite is a doubled-edged sword. Sure, it's a compliment at first, but to truly succeed and obtain your own identity, you have to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack. With their second full-length, Shook Ones still wear their influences proudly on their arms, but have finally made that very distinction influence, not interpretation.
12. Ignite - Our Darkest Days
With high expectations, Ignite didn't disappoint with one of the better hardcore albums of the year. Zoli's voice has always been one of the band's stronger suits, and they finally chose to lay it all out in a brilliant array of hard-hitting tracks touching on the problems of war, global issues, and personal reflection.
11. None More Black - This Is Satire
None More Black have always experienced the other side of the coin when it comes to notoriety. With such a recognizable and powerful voice as frontman Jason Shevchuk's, combined with his prior stint in "that other band," many would always be doubting anything living up to set expectations. In their sophomore full-length, what really shines in the songwriting and arrangements layered throughout the record. Rooted in rock but brimming with punk flavor, this album only gets better with each listen.
10. Strike Anywhere - Dead FM
Making the leap to one of the biggest independent labels in music is always a little easier when you're already considered one of the best new bands in punk. Instead of clinging to the exact same style that got them to the top, or worse, experimenting in some form not indicative of what they are about, Strike Anywhere chose to use their Fat Wreck Chords debut to return to their roots. Loaded with melody and gang-choruses, yet still keeping the intensity and thought-provoking lyrics,Dead FM is proof that stepping forward sometimes involve stepping back.
9. Street Dogs - Fading American Dream
I'll summarize this with a little of my review of the album: The best description of Fading American Dream is that it begins EXACTLY where Back to the World left off: pure punk-influenced rock music. No gimmicks, no pseudo-image, no bullshit. Anthem-laced tracks that provide that feel-good, fist-pumping spirit reminding us why we listen to punk music, and how it's one of the few music genres that transcend culture and trends.
8. The Draft - In a Million Pieces
Carrying on a legacy left by a band as influential and adored as Hot Water Music is quite the task, however, the Draft's debut follows the same line and progression. I think bassist Jason Black said it best in a recent interview, how it's similar to what HWM did but with "less flailing."
7. Dead to Me - Cuban Ballerina
No album grew on my over time more than this one. On my first few listens, I had pretty much written them off as another side project dud. Over time, the songs started to click. The distinction between Jack's smooth crooning and Chicken's abrasive vocal styling provide a completely new aspect to this street-punk-inspired band. It rocks, yet is heartfelt in a manner void of any whining.
6. The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!
Anyone familiar with our little website knows the love we and our readers have for Chicago's bastard sons. On their fourth full-length, the band finally managed to harness the abilities of having two distinct vocalists. Rather than switching off duties from track to track, the vocals often battle and blend in an array of aggressive yet cleverly crafted songs. Their best work to date? Maybe, but there's always that damn compilation to start an argument.
5. Bouncing Souls - The Gold Record
A new disc from those New Jersey mooches is always a treat. This year, we saw the Souls reach into their past with an album reflective of past influences, places and overall good times. Just another band showing that a time-tested tradition just shouldn't be fucked with.
4. No Trigger - Canyoneer
In a year filled with the biggest names in punk, these Mass-holes dropped the proverbial bomb on the hardcore scene and stole the show. With an album full of abrasively harmonious anthems and a non-stop touring schedule, 2006 proved to be the come out and conquer party for No Trigger.
3. Ryan's Hope - Apocalypse in Increments
This album proved to be the definition of overachievement. Concentrating on past influences of melodic punk from the `90s and thrashing metal riffs, the sound generated by Ryan's Hope would have flourished in the high-power roster of early Epitaph Records.
2. The Falcon - Unicornography
Providing the feel-good album of the year was merely a side-project for the Falcon. This punk rock supergroup carved this incredible collection of tunes in their spare time, and this laidback approach is what makes this record one of the year's must haves.
1. The Loved Ones - Keep Your Heart
Who would have thought that combining members of some of the best hardcore bands of the past 10 years would have created the best record of 2006, with absolutely no elements of hardcore? The Loved Ones built a load of hype with a stellar EP in 2005, and a schedule of non-stop touring in support of some of the best acts in punk today. But the final piece of the puzzle was fit into place with their debut full-length, with a stripped down style of early pop-punk, combined with the strong vocals of Dave Hause and song structures that build from obvious influences, rather than replicate. The Loved Ones are the type of band that you can imagine heading straight to the top. I can display my thoughts only in a way used to measure the greatness of any record: by playing it for that friend with the absolute worst taste in music and getting that head nod and smile from them, followed by the question "Hey, this is pretty good, who are these guys?"
Bad Astronaut - Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment, the Sainte Catherines - Dancing for Decadence, AFI - Decemberunderground, Riverboat Gamblers - To the Confusion of Our Enemies, Latterman - ‚?¶We Are Still Alive, Fifth Hour Hero - Not Revenge‚?¶Just a Vicious Crush, NOFX - Wolves in Wolves' Clothing, the Lillingtons - The Too Late Show Album Released in 2006 by a Band I Love and Have Heard Nothing But Great Things About Yet for Some Reason Haven't Listened To
The Hope Conspiracy - Death Knows Your Name
Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
Off with Their Heads - Hospitals
Whole Wheat Bread - Punk Life
Against Me! - Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!!
Kid Dynamite - Four Years in One Gulp
Bad Religion - Live at the Palladium
- Lagwagon / the Lawrence Arms / A Wilhelm Scream
- NOFX / the Lawrence Arms / the Loved Ones
- Bouncing Souls / Street Dogs / Whole Wheat Bread / World/Inferno Friendship Society
- The Fest V -- Gainesville, FL
- Guitarists doing "jumping spin-kicks"
- White belts
- Men wearing women's jeans
- Pointless reissues of albums not out-of-print / out-of-print for legitimate reasons / released less than three years ago
- Taking appropriate measures to ensure your band's equipment isn't stolen
- Accusing Green Day of plagiarism
- Mark Hoppus vs Tom Delonge
- Dillinger Escape Plan vs. Avenged Sevenfold
- Eagles of Death Metal vs. "Guns N' Roses"
- Dillinger Four
- Smoke or Fire