Justin August is a news editor and reviewer here at Punknews.org -ed
At the end of each year, all the good music nerds gather 'round and start gabbing about their favorite albums. Invariably no one quite agrees and everyone walks away feeling far more intelligent than each other and quite smug. Oh the joys of music internerdery.
2006 was another year for me; I thought it was pretty uneventful until I really took pause and thought about it. Another long one folks. But overall, nothing really changed. Still in San Francisco, still beardy, still biking -- even though I got hit by a car earlier this year, still the same. I started building houses with Habitat for Humanity again and it's just as amazing as it was before. I've shed a few tears helping families move in and there's nothing that feels better than saying "No, I can't fix it now, it's your house!" I get verklempt thinking about it.
Was this year a good year for music? The cynic in me always proclaims "NO!" before really thinking about it. I had a great time listening to music and going to (too many) shows this year however, and there's still (as of writing this) a few days left. Gilman's 20th Anniversary is this weekend and that alone should top off the year quite nicely.
We lost quite a few people, and I posted a big list of all the names and links to articles that we ran earlier this week. All I can really say is that I hope next year that number goes down, even though I know it won't or can't. We can always hope though.
I am pretty stoked that I made a full 20 spot list this year. Assisting me was my good buddy Alex H. from Pastepunk; we did a word association game to write up blurbs for each release. Bad Reviews Don't Affect Record Sales
20. Toys That Kill - Shanked!
"Sh-sh-shake it" -- Dance music for punk rockers. Screw all this "post-punk" with "dance beats" stuff. Shake like the Ramones wanted you to.
19. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
"Gorgeous" -- Matched only by her physical appearance and perhaps songwriting prowess, Case's voice soars with the grace of a falcon, offering up tales of woe and hardship backed by a band that is truly one of a kind.
18. This Is My Fist! - A History of Rats
"East Bay" -- Displaced 10 (or 15) years into the future by a timewarp caused by the hyper-intelligent scabies on Gilman's couches, TIMF! traveled forth to our time to deliver the sound of the East Bay punk explosion to a new generation. Thank God.
17. Two Gallants - What the Toll Tells
"Andy" -- During the World Cup, several good friends of mine wandered about through the Mission searching for two things: burritos and the Two Gallants. "Steady Rollin'" was for sure one of "thee" songs of this summer for me. Stumbling around the Mission in search of rolled delight and house shows will stick in my mind forever.
16. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Session
"Grade School" -- Whoever thought they'd hear "Ole Dan Tucker" played by The Boss? How many times can I say "The Boss" here before people shoot me? Let's try and find out.
15. RX Bandits - ...And the Battle Begun
Mash Down Babylon
"Stationary" -- While this album saw little in the way of progression for the band, they still turned in a solid release. Like quite a few other groups, they decided to fire on all cylinders the whole way through, turning in possibly the loudest album of their career yet.
14. Bookends - A Hook for Every Fish in the Sea
Fall of the West
"Early" -- I've literally had this album for over a year now and I'll tell you all when it stops being awesome. I don't even know if they're still playing together but this album really hits the nail on the head for what they were going for. Airy folk songs about the Bay Area that beg to be played on a drive down Route One.
13. Lucero - Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers
Liberty and Lament (EastWest)
"Whiskey" -- Let's ignore this one. Lucero stole some B-sides from The Boss's early albums and unlike a lot of bands that people say "sound like Springsteen" lately, actually...sound like early Springsteen. Add in the fact that it's a far more solid release than Nobody's Darlings and in general you're left with a winner.
12. Bad Astronaut - Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment
"Depressing" -- Speaks for itself really. I avoided BA because of the Lagwagon connection for so long, but the sheer heartbreaking emotion in songs like "Break" and "Stillwater, California" are too much to ignore. The mix of truly eclectic influences on this album really come together to hit you like a truck with its honesty.
11. The Evens - Get Evens
"Fugazi" -- Sue me. I love the Evens and while it's totally different than either Ian or Amy's previous efforts, Get Evens reminds me much more of Mr. McKaye's previous musical project. However, the album also saw the band really carving their own niche and getting a bit more upbeat. Post-hardcore for the aging crowd. I love it.
10. Street Dogs - Fading American Dream
"Travis" -- While my younger brother and I rarely get to see each other, my older brother and I spend entirely too much time together. The Street Dogs' new album speaks to me on a gut level not unlike the way family often does: from the heart, to the point, with time for both humor and gravity in the same breath.
9. The Loved Ones - Keep Your Heart
"Catchy" -- Hause and Company crafted thee pop-punk album of 2006. Thank God it doesn't sound like the pop-punk you hear everywhere else. I think if they increase the "piss and vinegar" quotient just slightly on next year's release we'll have the making of a dynasty on our hands.
8. Paul Baribeau and Ginger Alford - Darkness on the Edge of Town
"Dad" -- While Brian probably would disqualify this album due to some inane criteria, the very reason why it has stuck with me so long is a testament not only to The Boss's songwriting ability but also the performer's ability inject themselves into the song. Hearing the songs I hummed along with at age 10 reinterpreted by folks with the same experience some 15 years later makes for a great time.
7. Latterman - ...We Are Still Alive
"Almost" -- After bursting into the national consciousness last year, ...We Are Still Alive shows Latterman brimming with even more potential, some realized and some not. Taking on a much more somber, less "super posi" tone than previous efforts, the band sounds far more sure of itself and is writing from a more realistic and heartfelt point of view.
6. Strike Anywhere - Dead FM
"Polished" -- With their jump to Fat's roster, this politically charged band took the chance to spit-shine not only their production values but their lyrical content. While the production left a bit to be desired at some points the shift in lyrics from raging against the machine to the more personal politics gave Thomas the chance to shine.
5. The Lawrence Arms - Oh Calcutta
"Drunk" -- Aside from the obvious relationship to the Arms' music in general, this album reeked of "party" moreso than any of their others. While it's definitely not my favorite Arms album it's the first to take all the energy from their live show and put it on plastic.
4. The Falcon - Unicornography
"Brendan" -- While this was obviously a group effort, the Falcon seems to be as much a product of Brendan Kelly's raging persona as much as it was of his work with Neil and Danny. This can't be seen as a negative however, as the guitar leads blended with his throaty vocals better than they have in years.
3. Defiance, Ohio - The Great Depression
"Old friends" -- While I know no one in the band personally, D,OH's songs always seem to be able to capture the feelings of the moments when you and your friends come together in celebration or in mourning. The Great Depression hits every point possible from the successes, challenges, victories and heartbreaks in life.
2. The Menzingers - A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology
"Better than everyone else" -- Pretty much says it all. This album is phenomenal regardless of age and recording budget but when adding that to the calculation, it's no surprise that this band got snatched up without extensive touring or album distribution.
1. Dead to Me - Cuban Ballerina
"Recovery" -- Not just the stories on the album, but I feel like in general this album is a sign of punk rock recovering from the depths of style over substance. As a huge fan of One Man Army, I'm glad to see Jack's harmonic warble tempered with Chicken's gruffer snort and darker lyrical subject matter. The duality on this album makes it work, combining the personal with the political all while framing it in a classic punk sound.
I liked these releases a lot. They just didn't make the cut. Yes it's sad, but I also have a hard time remembering the albums that don't make it into the top 10. I'm getting old.
The Copyrights - Mutiny Pop, Foot Foot - Snaggle and Buck, Humidifier vs Dehumidifier - The Michael Bart LP, T. Duggins - Undone, Westbound Train - Transitions, Jolie Holland - Springtime Can Kill You, Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure - Pillow Talk at Mattress World, Ignite - Darkest Days, Birdmonster - No Midnight, O Pioneers!!! - Black Mambas, The Cassettes - 'Neath the Pale Moon, Dirty Pretty Things - Waterloo to Anywhere, Drunken Boat - Drunken Boat, Fucked Up - Hidden World, Greg Graffin - Cold as the Clay, Michael Franti and Spearhead - Yell Fire!, The New Amsterdams - Story Like a Scar, Armalite - Armalite, Russ Substance - The Safest Place to Hide a Book, the Bouncing Souls - The Gold Record, the Slackers - Peculiar. This Is All You Got? (Top 5 EPs)
5. Communique - Walk into the Light
4. Off with Their Heads - Hospitals
2. Fake Problems - Spurs & Spokes / Bull > Matador
1. Moneybrother - They're Building Walls Around Us
Indestructible - Cristy Road
"Insight" -- I kind of "skipped" the whole zine thing as a teenager. I was never a Cometbus or Burn Collector fan until recently, and while Aaron and Al have much to say that I connect with, Cristy Road's burgeoning multi-media empire really speaks to me. I mean, why wouldn't a white, "straight" kid from WV not relate to a queer Latina's experience in Miami? I think the universality of Road's stories is a testament to her writing ability and the proof that the more we think our situation is unique, the more we should realize we have a network of support available.
2006 is out. 2007 is in. Why give any of this another second of thought?
Next year we've got tons of new music. I'm sure some of it will be good. Personally I'm excited to see the houses I'm building at Habitat for Humanity San Francisco to be completed and for the families to move in. If you've never volunteered or anything, this is the year to do it. We should all band together and raise a couple thousand dollars to build a family a house. How about it?
Let's make what time Callum Robbins has comfortable, okay? No debates over it, just give what you can and if you're not into it...just be polite. That's all we ask.
That's it. Thanks for being you, internet punk community. Without the 1% of you commenting with racist, sexist, insulting, rude, crass, inappropriate, homophobic and generally unintelligible posts I don't know where I'd be.