Brian Shultz is a news/reviews editor and reviewer here at Punknews.org -edIntro
If you know me, you're probably at least partially aware that 2007...er...had its rough patches. I was originally planning on including the agonizing details with this introductory paragraph, but I doubt many of you care to delve that far into my personal life. Plus I'd much rather deflect sympathy rather than beg for it.
Just know that for all the things I've lost, I'm hoping there's a certain perspective I've inevitably gained.
Through it all was music. Sometimes it fucked things up worse, but more often than not it gets one through everything. This year I discovered some new things and continued to feed an addiction I like to mostly regard as a positive one. Thanks to Punknews, I've once again been able to hear hundreds of bands I'd likely never otherwise come across. I've edited and written a lot of reviews over the past three years, but it's been worth it.
We all like to talk about breakups, but I'll keep my section brief. My 5 worst? Well, band-wise: the Blood Brothers, Hot Cross, None More Black, Kill Your Idols and Spitalfield. We'll throw in the ever-loving tandem of Hot Rod Circuit and Piebald as wild cards since (another pair of relative cohorts, at least when it comes to sharing a member or so) we basically knew of NMB and KYI's respective breakups in 2006.
As usual, this year produced a lot of worthwhile listening. These are my thoughts on the standout pieces.
[For some extra context, the bracketed numbers at the end of the album blurbs indicate two things: The first states which number full-length this is for the band; the second shows what number full-length this is for their record label. Example: The first 1 states that this is Look Mexico's first full-length, and the second 1 implies that this is also their first full-length for Lujo Records. Pretty easy.]
Hot Cross -- Risk Revival (Hope Division Records / Equal Vision Records); Minus the Bear -- Planet of Ice (Suicide Squeeze Records); Boys Night Out -- Boys Night Out (Ferret Music); Young Livers -- The New Drop Era (No Idea Records); Dillinger Escape Plan -- Ire Works (Relapse Records); Saves the Day -- Under the Boards (Vagrant Records); Incommunicado -- Losing Daylight (A-F Records); Disnihil -- Disnihil (Chainsaw Safety Records); Streetlight Manifesto -- Somewhere in the Between (Victory Records); Cloak/Dagger -- We Are (Jade Tree Records)
Top 20 Albums
#20. Big D and the Kids Table -- Strictly Rude
March 20 on Side One Dummy Records
Admittedly, Big D's heralded transition to traditional ska didn't have as much replay value as I'd predicted when I first received the promo about a year ago, but to deny how well-written and infectious some of these songs are ("Steady Riot," "Noise Complaint," "Strictly Rude") would be a checkered injustice. [3;1]
August 14 on Iron Pier
Another of Long Islandâs most promising punk/hardcore acts improve mightily with their first LP. Thieves and Assassins build heartily upon their past demos and 7" with plenty of cues to Dag Nasty and Bad Religion, but retain their own heartfelt and melodic edge through strong songwriting. [1;1]
#18. Look Mexico -- This Is Animal Music
July 10 on Lujo Records
Look Mexico sweeten their sound with more sugary vocals and stretch their musical muscle with more relaxed, light and mathy sessions in line with their oft-compared predecessors American Football. This Is Animal Music is a unique, totally enjoyable and, sometimes, downright addicting release. [1;1]
May 8 on Doghouse Records
A very strong debut came in the form of American Art, which slowly began to eschew the obvious Criteria and Say Anything comparisons of Weatherbox's short past. Frontman Brian Warren spins vivid, drug-induced tales track after track that entrance the listener with crooked riffs and bomb-rock textures. [1;1]
#16. The Steal -- The Steal
August 28 on Get Outta Town Records
The UKâs best Kid Dynamite impression finally had a release in the States this year. The Steal is full of poignant sing-alongs providing astute criticism of âscene' and societal ânorms.â [1;1]
October 30 on Revelation Records
Gruff and outspoken, Capital produce what could be their definitive statement with Homefront: melodic hardcore punk with a proud but humble hometown slant. It might be quite a stay-at-home defense, but in that case, Capital is the Bob Goldham of hardcore. [2;1]
May 8 on Hex Records
Towering, monstrous metalcore from upstate New York that embarrasses all its genre "ambassadors." Achilles lightly draw from acts as disperse as Breather Resist, Isis, Modern Life Is War and Botch for a sound thatâs ferocious and confrontational while maintaining an air of restraint and thoughtfulness. [2;2]
July 17 on Go-Kart Records
The Menzingers' confoundingly compelling, proper debut is one of the most passionate and earnest punk rock releases in years. Gravelly, Clash-inspired sing-alongs regarding political and social unrest come in spirited, rigorous form multiple moments. Now I have two things to love about Scranton, Pennsylvania. [2 (debatably 1);1]
#12. Attack in Black -- Marriage
July 31 on Dine Alone Records
A splendid, diverse array of songs that remind me of a hybrid among the Get Up Kids, the Weakerthans and Smoke or Fire. Marriage is a thematic, impressively cohesive record that perfectly encapsulates the beauty and frailty of what happens when we begin to take our relationships seriously -- a consequence of which personally hit all too hard for me early this year. [1;1]
#11. Tegan and Sara -- The Con
July 24 on Vapor Records / Sire Records
Sweet, honest indie pop from Canada's constant "it" twins, and possibly their best work yet. Flourished by the occasional spate of electronics, piano/keyboard and acoustics, The Con is a consistently engaging and often heartache-inducing listen that one finds themselves continuously coming back to. [4;4 (Vapor), 1 (Sire)]
June 26 on Deathwish Inc.
108 is one of a few reunited hardcore luminaries thatâs made this particular list, and itâs for an effort thatâs dark, menacing, full of outrage and yet in a somewhat different sonic context than the bandâs past work. However, grown-up 108 fans shouldnât be put off by a significantly heavier and more intense set of metallic hardcore bursts by a veteran act that are as articulate as ever -- and it should win over newcomers just as easily. [4;1]
#9. Lily Allen -- Alright, Still
January 30 on Capitol Records [U.S.]
Gorgeous -- Iâm talking about Lily Allenâs debut album, of course. The British Allen has quickly mastered peppy, sunny pop and laced it with an undercurrent of ska and hip-hop beats for a formidably glossy, addicting sound completed by her snarky, bitter take on societal institutions, social irritations and familial absurdities. [1;1]
April 3 on Ferret Music
Poison the Well toys significantly with the modern melodic metalcore formula they instituted years ago. Maybe the bandâs core fanbase was disappointed by the lack of breakdowns and "t0taL br00taLne55," but itâs a welcome, experimental departure for the band, with bizarre alt-country tinges, an incredible dynamic within every track and an overall versatile array of absolute ragers ("Letter Thing") and creepy tumblers ("Slow Good Morning"). [4;1]
May 29 on Equal Vision Records
While perceived by many to be rather sonically similar to 2005âs Juturna, On Letting Go actually finds the post-hardcore collective of Circa Survive gently messing with their sound for a more subtle and restrained technique. Sure, Anthony Greenâs beautifully androgynous voice and the slick melodic flair of the band have only attracted more high school underclassmen to their growing fanbase, but itâs also the spiraling, Cave In-esque guitars and aching atmospheres that really appeal to me as well. [2;2]
October 16 on Vagrant Records
Thriceâs fiery, ambitious nature has lead them into new waters -- puns fully intended. In the first release of dual EPs thematically revolving around nature's elements, Thrice have a diverse, dynamic offering in The Alchemy Index's first two parts. While many might write both off as boring Hydra Head Records and Radiohead worship, respectively, or failing to pick up on the brilliant adaptations altogether, this writer believes Thrice are writing mesmerizing, haunting and always melodic tributes towards such. [5;1]
#5. Lifetime -- Lifetime
February 6 on Fueled by Ramen / Decaydence Records
It strikes me as bizarre and perhaps a little embittering that anyone would be put off by reunions. In cases where the musical and ethical output is unquestionably terrible, fair enough. But Lifetime perfectly captures the highly influential actâs musical progression, picking up directly where 1997âs Jerseyâs Best Dancers left off; frankly, if Lifetime had actually been putting out records for the past decade, imagine just how poppy this particular one really could've been. [4;1]
August 21 on Equal Vision Records
2005's Witness was a hard record to top, and while Modern Life Is War may not have quite achieved that feat, theyâve still managed to produce another original modern hardcore work of art. The brooding, moody atmospheres are maintained while MLIW pound their way through both big, bold anthems and faster material. [3;1]
#3. A Wilhelm Scream -- Career Suicide
October 9 on Nitro Records
If unknowingly naming your albums after hardcore bands results in material this good, A Wilhelm Scream can name their next full-length Sick of It All for all I care. Career Suicide is more complex, urgent, aggressive and lyrically impressive than the bandâs past material, along with an interestingly melodic hardcore flair. This is A Wilhelm Scream in top tech-skatepunk form, and essentially puts their former stylistic leaders (Strung Out, Bigwig) to absolute shame. [5 (including the Smackinâ Isaiah moniker);3]
January 16 on Deranged Records
An absolute raging, angry album of purely `82 hardcore. There are admittedly a whole lot of bands doing this sound recently, and while itâs certainly a welcome departure from the ill-led ideas of more popular "hardcore" acts, no one is doing it better or with more pronounced songwriting than Career Suicide. [2;1]
#1. Crime in Stereo -- Is Dead
October 23 on Bridge Nine Records
Crime in Stereo took it so far past the next level on Is Dead that melodic hardcore is practically in the bonus round. The band takes their Gorilla Biscuits / Silent Majority base and morphs it into an entirely new beast; Kristian Hallbert's vocal lessons propel him to put forth a diverse, impressive performance full of gentle falsetto, below-ground murmuring and his signature straight-ahead rasp; main songwriter Alex Dunne's multiple twists and turns, delicate atmospheres and gut-wrenching one-liners do draw from Brand New heavily, but they also promise a sound that CIS will one day truly claim as their own -- and in the present, is incredibly accomplished regardless. [3;1]
|Lifetime - Airport Monday Morning||Circa Survive - The Difference Between Medicine and Poison Is in the Dose|
|Poison the Well - Letter Thing||Lily Allen - LDN|
Top 5 EPs*
* - ...that were released on compact disc OR compact disc and vinyl
#5. Hostage Calm -- Demo 2007
Hostage Calm play wonderful melodic hardcore that draws from `80s predecessors like Dag Nasty and Rain; itâs invigorating, catchy, driving and yet retains an intelligent outlook on modern injustices and the helpless feeling our apathy is a key participant.
#4. Cease Upon the Capitol -- [untitled]
June 4 on I've Come for Your Children / Forever Escaping Boredom / Impure Muzik
Cease Upon the Capitol snuck into this at nearly the last minute, quite literally, as their raw yet powerful screamo sound is improved from last year's untitled full-length. While there's little space the band provides on this 10-song EP, it's a maddening and menacing windowless room I'm happy to be confined to.
#3. The Humanoids -- Are Born
Incredibly well-performed pop-punk, the Humanoids draw from a bevy of upbeat hardcore (7 Seconds, Dag Nasty) and punk (Descendents, Screeching Weasel) acts for a sound that's energetic, punchy and aggressive. A young but ridiculously unique and developed band.
#2. Seasick -- Awakenings
June 26 on BrainDrain Records
Thrashy yet temperamental, Seasick cleanly integrate their influences into a mean, pissed off yet proficiently played hardcore sound that sounds like its classic predecessors (Negative Approach, Infest) while retaining a thoroughly modern edge.
April 24 on Alliance Trax
Shook Ones deliver the best material of their career on a split with their Japanese counterparts, Easel. The best, opener "Order Form" is a devastatingly emotional and fierce condemnation of the lack of gay marriage rights via a musically Jawbreaker crunch. Easel do their best to keep up, though, and their style is fun, competent and melodic enough to leave an impression as well.
** - ...that were released vinyl-only (CD-Rs and digital permissible)
#5. Bridge and Tunnel -- Bridge and Tunnel
May 9 on No Idea Records
Better than Latterman (the former drummer of which is here)? Yep, I think so. Bridge and Tunnel pull from Hot Water Music and American Football for a fearlessly passionate sound thatâs intricate yet emotional and touches upon pertinent issues. The opener and closer here definitely push Bridge and Tunnel to the upper echelon of 7-inches this year, although live is really where you get to experience the band.
#4. Permanent / Resonance -- Split
November 5 on Collapse Records
Permanent and Resonance both step up their games, the former with a mid-`90s, bizarrely-vibed hardcore feel and the latter with a rough, ragged and emotional Kid Dynamite adaptation.
August 21 on Second Nature Recordings / Crash and Bang
One of the most important heavy bands of the `90s returns with two pulsating, disjointed numbers that retain the bandâs angular, ever-changing dynamics and their intense, slightly muddled ferociousness. If Coalesce is back for good, a whole new generation of hardcore and metal bands might have their inspiration.
May 15 on Rivalry Records
Quicksand, Supertouch and Burn provide solid, well-rounded influences for Soul Control to create hardcore from, and thatâs just what they do. Their self-titled demo features four of their strongest songs to date, full of Matt Amore's refreshingly introspective lyrical inlook and the band's swirling, stomping guitar tones.
July 17 on Bridge Nine Records
On Scared People, Bay Area thrashers Ceremony have about eight minutes to prove why theyâre one of the best active hardcore bands -- and yet, thatâs plenty of time for them. Scared People is convincingly angry, abrasive, and full of menacing, maddening fury, and thatâs why itâs my favorite 7" of the year.
You Know, I Really Wish I Actually Had a Chance to Hear...
- Joe Lally -- Nothing Is Underrated
- The Measure [SA] -- Historical Fiction
- PsyOpus -- Our Puzzling Encounters Considered
- The Receiving End of Sirens -- Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi
- Rosetta -- Wake/Lift
- Say Anything -- In Defense of the Genre
- Straylight Run -- The Needles, The Space
#3. Various -- Plea for Peace Volume 2
April 24 on Asian Man Records
Plea for Peace contains two discs of nearly no-bullshit tunes, and it all supports Mike Parkâs Plea for Peace Foundation. A live version of a cassette-only Cave In track and more live Jawbreaker that's previously unreleased? Dealbreaker.
#2. Thursday -- Kill the House Lights [CD/DVD]
October 30 on Victory Records
Thursday provide some goodies in this collection, with an assortment of enjoyable rarities and three impressive new songs, as well as an expertly-crafted documentary of their career.
#1. Various -- Our Impact Will Be Felt: A Tribute to Sick of It All
May 8 on Abacus Recordings
One of the better hardcore tributes in recent memory, Our Impact Will Be Felt is simply done very, very well. Tons of memorable, homage-paying performances take the stage here, from Rise Against and the Suicide Machines to Bane and Kill Your Idols. Sick of It Allâs storied legacy is given a valiant finger-point.
September 11 on Hydra Head Records
Hydra Head provides some unintentional pointers on appropriately re-releasing records: wait at least 7 or 8 years; remaster it; throw on a whole disc of outtakes and alternate versions. Not too shabby. It sure doesnât hurt that Botchâs We Are the Romans is one of the best and most influential metalcore records of the last decade (if not the).
Shipwreck A.D. -- Abyss
November 27 on Deathwish Inc.
Shipwreck A.D. wash away the silly redundancies and overused mosh parts of their early material for a smarter, more choking metallic hardcore sound on their first full-length. This isn't to mention that Abyss is a concept record following its narratorâs journey from the bottom of the sea to the top of a mountain. Engaging, original lyrical themes and a stifling, heavy sound make for quite a renewed impression.
#3. Vagrant Records
Vagrant Records not only continued their admirable reinvention by signing a few more indie rock and pop bands like the A-Sides and Dr. Manhattan, but also added personal favorite (and acclaimed) Murder by Death. On top of that, they released a diverse collection of strong/solid full-lengths in the likes of the first two volumes of Thriceâs The Alchemy Index, Saves the Day's Under the Boards and the Bledâs Silent Treatment, not to mention the massive CD/DVD rarities set from Alkaline Trio, Remains.
#2. Bridge Nine Records
Someone rather hilariously regarded Bridge Nine as becoming the Microsoft of hardcore, and I can't say I disagree. The label locked up some of the biggest hype names this year: Crime in Stereo, Ruiner, Ambitions and Ceremony (most of which I actually think deliver on it). As well, they put out a few albums that should become benchmarks for the bands: notably, Champion's live CD/DVD set, Different Directions | The Last Show, and Crime in Stereo's Is Dead. I also greatly enjoyed Ceremony's Scared People 7", and despite some cautioned disappointment I didn't find Ruiner's Prepare to Be Let Down all that bad.
#1. Equal Vision Records
Equal Vision takes home the top spot in the label list for the second year in a row. Possibly topping their 2006 release calendar, their annual block here was highlighted by great full-lengths from Modern Life Is War (Midnight in America) and Circa Survive (On Letting Go). I also very much enjoyed Hot Cross' final effort (Risk Revival), and definitely found the Fall of Troy's Manipulator, the Snake the Cross the Crown's Cotton Teeth and Dear and the Headlights' Small Steps, Heavy Hooves to be solid listens. There was also an impressive reissue with the Sound of Animals Fighting's Tiger and the Duke. The label may not have filled out their roster much, really only signing Modern Life Is War (and that Fred guy), but they unleashed enough goods this year to make up for it.
Manchester Orchestra -- I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child
Manchester Orchestra practically became everyoneâs âitâ band in 2007; imaginably, touring with Brand New certainly didnât hurt that. Taking influences like Neutral Milk Hotel and Death Cab for Cutie and fronting it with Andy Hullâs soothing, comforting, John K. Samson-like voice made for an emotional, spiritually wrought debut full-length that I finally checked out after being blown away live when the band opened for mewithoutYou.
This Will Destroy You -- Young Mountain
True, this could even be the "Best EP of 2005 I Didn't Hear Until 2007," but it did receive a proper release in the oh-six. This Will Destroy You also won me over easily after showing off their epic yet economical post-rock sound opening for 65daysofstatic and Fear Before the March of Flames at a tiny Polish bar in Brooklyn. And also true -- they wear their influences on their sleeves quite a bit, but come the arrival of their soon-to-be released full-length and they'll be making their own fireworks.
|The Outsiders / Martin Atchet||D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S.|
|First & Ellen|
Top 10 Sets Witnessed
- Modern Life Is War - 3/31 - 538 Johnson Ave. - Brooklyn, NY
- Polar Bear Club - 10/21 - 69 Louis St. - New Brunswick, NJ
- Paint It Black / Shook Ones split set - 10/27 - Ryan from Dirty Money's second-floor apt. - Gainesville, FL
- â¦And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - 10/20 - Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, NY
- Explosions in the Sky - 3/20 - Webster Hall - New York, NY
- On the Might of Princes - 5/20 - Club Europe - Brooklyn, NY
- Tegan and Sara - 11/19 - Webster Hall - New York, NY
- Cursive - 5/17 - Roseland Ballroom - New York, NY
- Bridge and Tunnel - 10/27 - Market Street Pub - Gainesville, FL
- Manchester Orchestra - 6/19 - Highline Ballroom - New York, NY
- Agent - TBA (Iron Pier) - Long Island's best band without a full-length under their belts has been playing new material since April, emotionally and melodically complex compositions which pay further tribute to their mid-`90s emo influences (Braid, the Promise Ring, Texas Is the Reason; they've actually done live covers of title tracks by the latter two).
- Brand New - TBA [???] (Interscope / Tiny Evil)
- Glassjaw - TBA (Warner Bros.)
- Circle Takes the Square - TBA (Robotic Empire [?])
- Career Suicide - 7" EP [double-disc] (Deranged [?])
- Sinking Ships - TBA (self-releasing)
- Moneen - TBA (Vagrant)
- Shook Ones - TBA (TBA)
- No Trigger - TBA (TBA)
- Ceremony - TBA (Bridge 9)
- Thursday - TBA (TBA)
- mewithoutYou - TBA (Tooth & Nail)
- Rx Bandits - TBA EP (Mashdown Babylon)
- Set Your Goals - TBA (Eulogy)
- Audio Karate - TBA (Kung Fu [?])
- Thrice - The Alchemy Index: Vols. III & IV: Earth & Air (Vagrant)
- Murder by Death - Red of Tooth & Claw (Vagrant)
- Settlefish - Oh Dear! (Deep Elm [?] [U.S. release])
- Bullet Train to Vegas - The City and None of the Above [?] (TBA)
- Hot Water Music - TBA [???] (Epitaph)
- Have Heart - TBA (Bridge 9)
- This Will Destroy You - This Will Destroy You (Magic Bullet)
- Soul Control - TBA (Rivalry)
- Bridge and Tunnel - TBA (No Idea)
- Final Fight - TBA (Deathwish Inc.)
- Paint It Black -- New Lexicon
- Endgame -- Distracted EP
- Polar Bear Club -- Sometimes Things Just Disappear
- This Is Hell -- Misfortunes
- Able Baker Fox -- Voices
- The Cancer Conspiracy -- Ω
- The Humanoids -- TBA 7" EP
- Speaker Speaker -- Call It Off