Best of 2006 - Brian's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2006

Best of 2006: Brian's picks

Brian's picks (2006)

staff picks

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Brian Shultz is a news editor, review editor and reviewer here at -ed

2006 found me in more consistent living conditions, but with lots of ups and downs along the way regardless. I ended a 19-month hiatus from school and experienced a couple unwelcome breakups [insert way overdone emo kid joke], only to find myself ending the year just the same as the last two ones -- with a beautiful, loving girlfriend and a birthday celebration (21 this time, for those counting at home).

More bands with huge promise decided to end things. Despite their fantastic EP, Jenoah just couldn't get their shit together for a full-length. The Letters Organize, the Blackout Pact, Scatter the Ashes, Respira, the Cardinal Sin, Betrayed, Yuppie Pricks, and Champion could last only a single full-length each (well, two for the Pricks anyway but hardly much notoriety).

In the veterans home, it obviously hurt quite a bit to see Hot Water Music make it official, especially as my three favorite releases of theirs derive from the Epitaph era. Like most people, the Suicide Machines were one of my first introductions into punk rock, and that's probably why it was shitty to see them go too -- although there's also their loving discography which is likely to get plenty of work in my car stereo for the next lifetime. I only got into Boy Sets Fire and JR Ewing this year, but at least they made their respective back catalogs shorter for me to look into. And finally, the fun of local Kill Your Idols shows will finally come to a close next year -- goodbye excellent "Do You Still Hate Me?" cover.

There were also a number of deaths this year that I'm sure will be more intelligently eulogized by my fellow editors/reviewers, so go onward for those.

Yet again, I spent a period of 12 months listening to way too much fucking music, but here's some of the stuff that hit me a little harder than the rest.

Honorable Mentions

Rx Bandits - ...And the Battle Begun (Mashdown Babylon Recordings); Capital - Signal Corps (Iron Pier); Ceremony - Violence Violence [counting new tracks only] (Malfunction Records); New Mexican Disaster Squad - Don't Believe (Jade Tree Records); Underoath - Define the Great Line (Solid State Records / Tooth & Nail Records); The Falcon - Unicornography (Red Scare Industries); Head Automatica - Popaganda (Warner Bros. Records); Dead Hearts - Bitter Verses (Ferret Music); The Hope Conspiracy - Death Knows Your Name (Deathwish Inc.); Trophy Scars - Alphabet. Alphabets. (The Death Scene Recording Company)

Top 20 Albums
20. Cursive - Happy Hollow
August 22 on Saddle Creek Records
The loss of Gretta and meta (cellist Cohn and Tim Kasher's lyrical fiction, respectively) made way for Cursive's frontman to turn his disgust on our beloved Christian nation. In Happy Hollow Kasher spreads his cheeks wide atop the Bible belt's buckle and lays a fat one. Then, just for good measure, he wipes his ass with Old Testament scraps. While triumphant horns blare along the way.
19. Strike Anywhere - Dead FM
September 5 on Fat Wreck Chords
I definitely agree with the general consensus here: Dead FM is disappointing, but a "bad" Strike Anywhere release still means well above par, fiery and articulately political-minded melodic hardcore.
18. Shook Ones - Facetious Folly Feat
October 31 on Revelation Records
Despite continually obvious comparisons to Kid Dynamite, Shook Ones show a ton of growth from 2005's Sixteen. A greater number of mid-tempo numbers are thrown in, with more hooks than a Peter Pan sequel and an emotional resonance peaking in youthful, damaged, and woefully endearing songs like "The Drop" and "Penn Cove Muscles."
17. November Coming Fire - Dungeness
November 4 on Reflections Records
When November Coming Fire aren't busy constructing five-minute clips of the apocalypse in their dreadfully dark, doomy hardcore, they come at you with frothing, brief old-school jawns just to make sure you're still with them. Where's the press on these underrated Englishmen? Read more...
16. The Coma Recovery - Drown That Holy End in Wine
July 18 on Failed Experiment Records
Eight songs of absolutely epic post-hardcore, Drown That Holy End in Wine waxes philosophical and taxes listeners for all they're worth. A unique mix of craggy vocal deliveries and breathtaking, guitar-heavy atmospheres hide inside a DVD-sized case that will make it stand out in your CD collection for more than one reason.
15. This Is Hell - Sundowning
May 16 on Trustkill Records
This Is Hell are slowly becoming the masters of both more accessible, sing-along worthy hardcore anthems that retain a firm nod to the genre's roots and songs that just plain fucking rip. Trustkill's career "hardcore potluck" has produced a rare, delicious dish. Read more...
14. mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister
September 26 on Tooth & Nail Records
Brother, Sister is another big step towards mewithoutYou's transition from angry, soul-searching post-hardcore to accepting, dreamy indie rock, and while personal tastes would usually lead me to prefer the former, the album is more than accomplished to overcome it. The only question left remaining is whether the band will sound this good once the other end of the spectrum is actually reached. Read more...
13. Murder by Death - In Bocca al Lupo
May 23 on Tent Show Records (East West Rock)
Murder by Death weave compelling narratives through a foggy, alt-folk/country hue unlike anything they've written in the past. Although the band conceives the songs as a group unit (ideally), In Bocca al Lupo is an album inspired by the likes of legendary singer/songwriters like Johnny Cash and Tom Waits, and that's perhaps why its stories are as well-written as its music. Read more...
12. The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!
March 7 on Fat Wreck Chords
Oh! Calcutta! might be a little stylistically/lyrically regressive in the band's (previously) logical path, but goddamn if these aren't some of the most well-written songs punk rock has heard in years. Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan has learned the fine art of vocal interplay, while more than enough is done to three chords to keep attention spans and fist pumps high. Read more...
11. Thursday - A City by the Light Divided
May 2 on Island Records
Sure, the songwriting on A City by the Light Divided is rather weak compared to Thursday's preceding release, 2003's War All the Time. However, it shines mighty on some of the band's most ambitious (and best) tracks to date, including the likes of "Sugar in the Sacrament," "At This Velocity," "Running from the Rain" and "Autumn Leaves Revisited," along with Dave Friddman's unique production that gives the band a whole new sound and consequential reinvention.
10. Saves the Day - Sound the Alarm
April 11 on Vagrant Records
Talk about a comeback. Another of my favorites from a neighboring state, Sound the Alarm is 13 fractured pop(-/)punk gems and Saves the Day's finest effort in seven years. Chris Conley's bare bones honesty has rarely ceased to startle and connect with a lost, confused generation, and I'm proud to say I'm still part of it.
9. Set Your Goals - Mutiny!
July 11 on Eulogy Recordings
Mutiny! could be the only Eulogy release I've liked since...well, whatever A New Found Glory put out through them, funny enough. But tell me: How many fast, unabashedly poppy melodic hardcore songs did ANFG actually write? Few and far between. How many provoked intelligent discussion, like the questioning of one's own religious upbringing? Zip. How many fucking awesome post-Gorilla Biscuits projects did they get me into because of their existence? Fuhgettaboutit.
8. Crime in Stereo - The Troubled Stateside
April 18 on Nitro Records
I've never seen someone say "as ambitious as modern hardcore is likely to get" as casually as did in their review of The Troubled Stateside. While anyone blessed with that sort of praise deserves it lavishly, Stateside also contains lyrics stunningly poignant with its addressing of world affairs, cultural discrepancies and personal confessions. This is melodic, well-written punk rock at some of its finest. Read more...
7. Moneen - The Red Tree
April 11 on Vagrant Records
Hearing a band hit their stride is an incredible feeling, but it's not the only one you'll experience listening to The Red Tree. Moneen takes mid-`90s emo into the 21st century with exploding dynamics and guitar rock goodness, a wholly fresh update 99.9% of their peers have absolutely bombed on attempting. Lyrically? Somewhere Merriam-Webster is rewriting their entry for "endearing."
6. Gatsbys American Dream - Gatsbys American Dream
August 8 on Fearless Records
If you find a band that sounds like Gatsbys American Dream, in all likelihood it's only because GAD influenced them. Every year since 2002 the band has tinkered with their style ever so slightly and produced something fresh and original every time. Like 2004's In the Land of Lost Monsters EP, the band is again pissed at the business dealings of music, yet expresses it no holds barred this time around. The math pop formula attempts only one solution here: to divide and conquer the industry. Let's just hope their mission isn't finished. Read more...
5. Sinking Ships - Disconnecting
July 18 on Revelation Records
Sinking Ships channel aspects from a number of points on hardcore's lineage: Turning Point's emotion, Stay Gold's melody and Champion's aggression all turn up on Disconnecting, and the result is a fierce bite of introspection acutely expressed. There's a certain appeal about Disconnecting that I've only found parallel in a release like Modern Life Is War's Witness, but that special something has resonated with me just the same. Read more...
4. The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
October 10 on V2 Music
Just like the Blood Brothers polarize audiences, they've divided the critics: some call Young Machetes the band's most accessible effort yet, while others praise the songs as some of the band's most complex to date. But those critics all agree on one thing: Young Machetes is fantastic. Anchored by stronger Fugazi-inspired guitar work (likely thanks to the efforts by producer Guy Picciotto) and more wild vocal theatrics, the Blood Brothers apply their vicious, colorful strokes to government policies and pride-fueled bravado. Read more...
3. No Trigger - Canyoneer
March 21 on Nitro Records
One of the newest faces of melodic punk/hardcore happens to have keen eyes, a canine-like sense of smell, a sharp tongue and chiseled jawline. Weird metaphors aside, Canyoneer could be the genre's most consistent and assertive debut since Kid Dynamite...seriously. Read more...
2. Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
November 21 on Universal Records / Tiny Evil
Few albums can flash momentary but heavy influences by Nirvana and Modest Mouse and remain one fresh, unique length of beauty. But in The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, Brand New accomplish it through the fine art of dynamics, unsettling thoughts and haunting, arresting experimental rock monsters. By the time this decade's over Brand New might be regarded as the Smiths of the 2000s, and I doubt many of the band's fans would refute that; I bet only half of their critics would, anyway.
1. Pyramids - Following the Tracks, Forcing Motion Through Phases
April 4 on Slave Union
Stunning. Maybe it's the frequency with which I ride the Long Island Rail Road alone, but Pyramids have captured that feeling as a metaphor for emotional introspection. Loss, desperation, confusion, and hopelessness are on display at its most devastating on Following the Tracks. With former screamo veterans Envy riding the waves almost fully into post-rock territory, someone needed to bring them back together in holy matrimony; by the power vested in them and handed down from the state of Pennsylvania, Pyramids are doing just that. Read more...
Best Album Not Released in North America
The Steal - The Steal
January on Gravity DIP Records (UK)
Any record label who enjoys releasing a good melodic hardcore album from time to time should be foaming at the mouth for the chance to license The Steal in the U.S. The Steal do channel Kid Dynamite quite a bit heavily, but adding in lots of sing-along nods to acts like 7 Seconds and Good Clean Fun makes for one of the most fun albums in a while, along with an incredibly well-read look at 'scene' politics.
Top 5 EPs/Demos/Singles
5. Life Long Tragedy / Final Fight - Split
November 14 on Deathwish Inc.
On one side we get intense, dark, and emotional hardcore that isn't too dissonant to get lost in. On the other, passionate, melodic youth crew done refreshingly well. At the last minute of 2006 Deathwish adds two releases to my ??most anticipated' list for 2007. Read more...
4. Weatherbox - The Clearing
November 7 on Doghouse Records
Weatherbox takes a style as simple as "Criteria meets Say Anything" and does a whole lot with it. Continuing with my previous nautical metaphors for the band, I feel like the most gullible fish in the ocean listening to this -- every one of their gigantic, bait-laden hooks reels me in immediately. Read more...
2. Polar Bear Club - The Redder, The Better
June 13 on Triple Attack Records / Luchador Records
Jesus fucking Christ. It's amazing enough Polar Bear Club sound like nothing else blowing up out of upstate New York's punk/hardcore scene, but it's even more special that they write some of the most tensely emotional, masterfully dynamic, enthralling tunes around. Webzine editors/reviewers everywhere are currently frothing for LP no. 1, and I'm no exception.
1 / 3. Agent - Demo / I Wouldn't Trade That for Anything
June 30 self-released / November 28 on Iron Pier
Name me a band who has sounded this good so early in their career. It's hard, I know. A heavy mid-`90s emo influence, splashes of Braid, and lots of early Saves the Day is a formula Agent deserves a PhD for cooking up. Long Island produces a lot of really solid melodic hardcore, but Agent seriously takes the cake -- and these are the first 9 songs the band has ever laid to tape. Nothing less than huge, huge things could be on the way.
Top 5 Disappointments
5. The Distance - The Rise, The Fall, And Everything in Between
June 27 on Abacus Recordings
The Distance threw their fans one of the most mind-boggling curveballs in a long time. The songs on here that border on melodic hardcore aren't bad, but most of this disc is downright embarrassing nü-emo. Is this really the same band people thought were going to take Carry On's place?
4. Less Than Jake - In with the Out Crowd
May 23 on Sire Records
Less Than Jake redeemed themselves in my book a bit with their awesome live show I witnessed earlier this year, but it still doesn't excuse this awful, overproduced, hitwriter-assisted bullcrap.
3. The Living End - State of Emergency
July 11 on Adeline Records (East West Rock)
Like with Modern ARTillery, I waited quite a bit for the Living End's newest album to get a U.S. release, but I'm not sure how much all that waiting was worth it. There are a couple good songs here, but the rest are clunkers, with only mildly entertaining guitar work and little to no dynamic.
2. New Found Glory - Coming Home
September 19 on Universal Records
13 boring, overproduced pop radio ballads? Awesome! This album makes the Fray sound like the Bronx. If this is coming home, deport this fucking band back to where they came from so we can hear some semblance of passion from them again.
1. The Sound of Animals Fighting - Lover, The Lord Has Left Us...
May 30 on Equal Vision Records
A collection of irritating attempts at world music that failed to be bolstered by the presence of Emo Frontmen, Class of `06. This band was so much better when they sounded like the Fall of Troy. Sure, I'm a big fan of originality...but I'm also a big fan of listenability.
Best Album That Wasn't an Album
Brand New - Fight Off Your Demons [demos]
9 songs I like to call on my iPod Fight Off Your Demos...which is sort of ironic, because they've been in heavy rotation since they leaked in January of this year. These are some of the best songs Morrissey (Track 2) and Bright Eyes (Track 1 and Track 3, which would later be re-recorded as the B-side "Coca Cola") didn't write, along with one of the most complex, mind-shattering songs the band themselves have written (Track 5); Lacey's lyrics have rarely crafted as heavy a metaphor as in this one. Rumor has it there's many, many more where these came from; hopefully divine intervention helps them see a release of some sort someday.
Top 3 Compilations
3. Various - Hair: Chicago Punk Cuts
September 12 on Thick Records
Whoo, a compilation with unreleased material! Now that's a novelty in 2006 -- plus, so is a new Killing Tree song.
2. Various - The State of the Scene - Worldwide Hardcore Compilation
June 1 on Get Outta Town Records
Pretty self-explanatory. 36 bands make noise on here, many I heard for the first time and liked. Great job by Get Outta Town on this one. Read More...
1. La Quiete - Tenpeun ??01-'05
April 11 on The Perpetual Motion Machine
The Perpetual Motion Machine once again swoops up a great emotional hardcore act and puts it front of my face for my enjoyment. Intense, sometimes jangly, always to-the-point, La Quiete is, alongside Settlefish, my new favorite non-food-related Italian export. Now to seek out the full-lengths... Read more...
Most Improved Band
March 21 on Epitaph Records
Yeah, I hate the eyeliner thing too. And Sonny Moore's voice is pretty annoying. And the band's dealings on tour with Atreyu? Pretty shady it seems. But the actual music on Heroine is worlds ahead of the horrid mess on their previous offering. Instead of a 2nd-rate Used with metalcore leanings, we're haunted with dark and ambitious, industrial-tinged post-hardcore under the direction of Ross Robinson, who injects lots of the elements he learned producing Glassjaw. Epitaph released a few turds this year, but I'm shocked to admit that Heroine wasn't necessarily one of them. Read more...
Best Reissue
A 3-way ties goes to Set Your Goals' Reset EP (Eulogy Recordings) for the new artwork and sick Jawbreaker cover, Modern Life Is War's My Love, My Way (Deathwish Inc.) for the bonus songs growing on me after originally hearing the 7" in 2005 and the remastering job making the whole thing way more powerful, and Say Anything's ...Is a Real Boy (J Records / Doghouse Records) for the nice bonus disc, ...Was a Real Boy, and its infectious tunes.
Best Band DVD
Kid Dynamite - Four Years in One Gulp
February 21 on Jade Tree Records
Sure, there's a little bias at hand for this pick, but this is one of the most complete, introspective and detailed band documentaries put to disc I've seen -- maybe the most, in fact. You're blessed with in-depth interviews of the band and people close to the band, live videos from every segment of their short-lived history, and plenty of bonus footage from the reunions. It was obvious why it took so long, as great care was put into it over a timespan about as long as the band's own existence. Read more...
Biggest Band DVD Disappointment
Refused - Refused Are Fucking Dead
April 25 on Burning Heart Records
Just about everything on Refused Are Fucking Dead is beautiful -- except the actual content. A stunning classical soundtrack and crisp cinematography, a meager 45-minute film with some inconsistent live videos and both of the band's music videos is all we get. You get a little bit of the sense of the tension that was at play here, but for all the time we waited, I'd say this one was simply overcooked. Read more...
Top 3 Record Labels
3. Revelation Records
Talk about a resurgence. The label locked up less acts than in 2005, but one of their 2006 grabs was Capital, who's already released the pretty great Signal Corps. They also put out two of my favorite albums of the year in Sinking Ships' Disconnecting and Shook Ones' Facetious Folly Feat, and counteracted it with two solid versions of emo: way old-school (End of a Year's Sincerely), and dreamy `90s style (Gracer's Voices).
2. Fat Wreck Chords
While failing to lock up anyone of note (to myself, anyway), Fat did put out -- like a filthy whore, in fact. The Lawrence Arms, Strike Anywhere, NOFX (EP; the full-length was disappointing IMO), St. Catherines, None More Black, and Dead to Me all dropped swell pieces of punk rock plastic (that's a good thing).
1. Equal Vision Records
Despite a few stomach-churning reissues, Equal Vision signed and released more than enough to make up for it. A solid trio involving the Sound of Animals Fighting (whose release I thought would be good at least), Hot Cross, and Betrayed were all locked up. But their diverse 2006 catalog was even better: Boy Sets Fire's strong comeback, 108's discography, Fear Before the March of Flames' reinvention, Versus the Mirror's creative debut, Betrayed's first and final LP, Good Clean Fun's post-reunion debut, and Goodbye Tomorrow's beautiful sneak peek were the label's surefire highlights, all of which I enjoyed. Their duds were few and far between, and that type of consistency is why they were my favorite label of ??06.
Top 10 Shows Attended
  1. Gorilla Biscuits / Murphys Law / Leeway / Comeback Kid / Sick of Talk - live in New York @ BB Kings, September 2
  2. Lifetime (video shoot) - live in New York @ Cake Shop, December 17
  3. Lifetime / the Bronx / the Loved Ones / the Fire Still Burns - live in New York @ Bowery Ballroom, July 9
  4. Strike Anywhere / the Lawrence Arms / Smoke or Fire / None More Black / Dead to Me - live in New York @ The Hook, November 1
  5. Crime in Stereo / Kill Your Idols / Paint It Black / Thieves and Assassins / Agent - live in Farmingville @ TGIF Sights and Sounds, May 14
  6. Gatsbys American Dream / Portugal. The Man / Forgive Durden / Sunday Night Scene / Envy Arcadia - live in Levittown @ Club Ritual, June 6
  7. Texas Is the Reason / Ian Love - live in New York @ Irving Plaza, November 25
  8. Strike Anywhere / Ignite / A Global Threat / Modern Life Is War - live in New York @ CBGB, September 4
  9. Say Anything / mewithoutYou / Piebald / Days Away - live in New York @ Irving Plaza, October 11
  10. Saves the Day / Envy on the Coast - live in Farmingdale @ Crazy Donkey, September 21
    SIDE A
  1. Crime in Stereo - Everything Changes / Nothing Is Ever Truly Lost
  2. Shook Ones - So Grown Up [7" version]
  3. The Bronx - Small Stone
  4. Polar Bear Club - Resent and Resistance
  5. Bigwig - Owned and Operated
  6. None More Black - We Dance on the Ruins of the Stupid Stage
  7. Lion of Judah - Licking Evil
  8. Ceremony - Clouds of Fire
  9. Have Heart - The Machinist
  10. Verse - Stolen
  11. Agent - Clown College?! You Can't Eat That
  12. Sinking Ships - Wait
    SIDE B
  1. Cursive - Opening the Hymnal / Babies
  2. Murder by Death - Brother
  3. Sparta - Crawl
  4. Moneen - Don't Ever Tell Locke What He Can't Do
  5. Weatherbox - The Thinnest of Maps
  6. Brand New - Jesus Christ
  7. Rx Bandits - Only for the Night
  8. Gracer - Emily Taylor
  9. The Lemonheads - Pittsburgh
  10. Forgive Durden - Beware the Jubjub Bird and Shun the Frumious Bandersnatch
  11. The Elected - Sun, Sun, Sun
  12. Thursday - Sugar in the Sacrament
  13. mewithoutYou - In a Sweater Poorly Knit
25 Releases I'm Absolutely Stoked for in 2007
  • Agent - TBA (TBA)
  • Paint It Black - TBA (Jade Tree)
  • Glassjaw - TBA (Warner Bros.)
  • Polar Bear Club - TBA (Red Leader / Luchador)
  • Circle Takes the Square - TBA (Robotic Empire)
  • Modern Life Is War - TBA (TBA)
  • Lifetime - Lifetime (Decaydence / Fueled by Ramen)
  • A Wilhelm Scream - TBA (Nitro)
  • Audio Karate - TBA (Kung Fu)
  • Crime in Stereo - TBA (Nitro)
  • Say Anything - TBA (J)
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan - TBA (Relapse)
  • Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic)
  • Boys Night Out - TBA (Ferret)
  • Life Long Tragedy - TBA (Deathwish)
  • The Fall of Troy - Manipulator (Equal Vision)
  • Settlefish - The Quiet Choir EP (Deep Elm)
  • Bullet Train to Vegas - TBA (TBA)
  • Nightmare of You - TBA (Sire)
  • Weatherbox - TBA (Doghouse)
  • Final Fight - TBA (Deathwish)
  • Hot Cross - Risk Revival (Hope Division / Equal Vision) [heard already, and is good]
  • Comeback Kid - Broadcasting... (Victory)
  • Since by Man - TBA (Revelation) [?]
  • Ruiner - No Apologies (1917)