Best of 2008 - Bryne's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2008

Bryne's picks (2008)

staff picks

Bryne Yancey is a staff reviewer here at Check back next week for year end lists from the Punknews editorial, and soon after the lists decided by your votes. - ed


This is my first year as a staff member here at, so I suppose an introduction is in order.

My name's Bryne (pronounced like "Brian," an old family name that goes back several generations and was likely started by a woefully-inept-at-spelling physician incorrectly filling out a birth certificate; the details are hazy, which is how we Yanceys tend to stumble through our lives). Needless to say, roll call on the first day of school was always fun. Somehow I was able to endure, and am now a strapping, inadequately educated 24-year-old man. And despite having never taken a writing class in my life (I did say 'inadequately educated'), here I sit, a staff member at the most heralded source for punk news on the entire series of tubes. It's no secret that we here at the 'Org piss integrity (albeit with streams of humbleness and minimal smarm), and I hope to keep that storied tradition alive until the next group of strange, slow and/or old folks are ready and willing to carry the torch.

On a more personal note, 2008 has been a year of challenges with great rewards. My webzine What We Hate has grown considerably and we're showing no signs of slowing down in 2009. I didn't go to many shows, but despite some financial hurdles was able to make the pilgrimage to Gainesville this year for The Fest. I've taken up photography and podcasting as legitimate hobbies. I've started biking everywhere and have the bulging quadriceps to prove it; attempts to start a bike gang remain unrealized. And as the proverbial icing on top of the proverbial cupcake, I've earned an opportunity to write for what has been my favorite site for the better part of a decade. This is certainly an odd thing to write about a website, but I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for these blues, grays and whites. It feels awesome to be here and have the chance to give back a little bit, and possibly help steer some uninformed kids toward bands or records they wouldn't otherwise know about, much like the previous generation did for me.

Oh yeah, some killer music came out in 2008, too. On with the list!

The 20 Best Records of 2008 (Insert Witty Title Here)

20. Nada Surf - Lucky
February 5 on Barsuk Records
Lucky was my re-introduction to Nada Surf; I hadn't really listened to them since they were, ahem, popular. One might call this record a good Sunday morning listen or a good afternoon autumn drive listen; I'd just call it a good pop record.
19. The Copyrights - Learn The Hard Way
February 26 on Red Scare
Once I got over the fact that this record wasn't Make Sound part deux, I was able to enjoy it quite a bit. The recording is rougher and more organic than its slick predecessor, but the strong hooks and catchy melodies remain.
18. Polar Bear Club - Sometimes Things Just Disappear
March 11 on Red Leader Records
This record didn't hit me as hard as I'm sure it did a lot of you, but I still enjoyed it well enough for it to make the list. The sky is seemingly the limit for Polar Bear Club and Sometimes Things Just Disappear shows boatloads of potential for these guys going forward. I'm geniunely excited to see what they come up with next.
17. Blacklisted - Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God
April 1 on Deathwish Inc.
With apologies to Dan Yemin and Paint It Black, Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God was the only hardcore record I sincerely enjoyed in 2008. George Hirsch's lyrics are surprisingly eloquent and his delivery often goosebump-inducing, and the instrumentation happening behind him is chaotic and dramatic.
16. Papermoons - New Tales
July 18 on Team Science Records
A Texan duo crafting mellow emo that's perfect listening on a Sunday morning. Frankly, I liked New Tales a lot more than I thought I would.
January 8 on Red Scare
Wyoming's finest pop-punk band deliver another heaping helping of easily digestable, highly enjoyable tunes about love, boredom and awkwardness, three things to which I can certainly relate. The 'repeat listen' factor is a boon for me when making these sorts of lists, and Warning Device was undoubtedly built for them.
Drag the River
14. Drag the River - You Can't Live This Way
January 22 on Suburban Home Records
Jon and Chad broke up the band late last year, then You Can't Live This Way was released, and since it's far and away the best record of their careers, they decided they had better reunite and tour behind it. Being brought out of hibernation due to your own sheer awesomeness is a pretty impressive thing.
13. Tim Barry - Manchester
November 4 on Surburban Home Records
After a solid yet inconsistent debut in Rivanna Junction, Manchester is Barry's potential as a singer/songwriter away from Avail fully realized. The instrumentation is more varied and Barry is beginning to come into his own as a singer, as opposed to a talker/yeller.
12. Banner Pilot - Resignation Day
August 12 on Go Kart Records
The release of this record seemed to be in limbo for a while (Amazon has the release date as November 11, which I know is incorrect) but once it arrived it made all the thumb twiddling worthwhile. Just another solid slab of Midwestern pop-punk that's surprisingly heartfelt and know, for a bunch of fat bearded dudes to enjoy.
Cheap Girls
11. Cheap Girls - Find Me a Drink Home
April 22 on Bermuda Mohawk Productions
Heartfelt power-pop with balls that would've been huge on the radio had it been released 15 years ago.
10. The Loved Ones - Build & Burn
February 5 on Fat Wreck Chords
The Loved Ones traded in their conventional pop-punk sound forged on 2006's Keep Your Heart for a sound deeply rooted in Midwestern Americana by way of New Jersey. The end result is Build & Burn, a record that will likely stand the test of time as a result.
9. Tigers Jaw - Tigers Jaw
September 9 on Prison Jazz Records
One the best 'new' bands to emerge this year for sure. A record steeped in emo influences both classic and contemporary. Every song feels like an exercise in heartbreak, and man, I can relate.
Jr. Juggernaut
8. Jr. Juggernaut - Ghost Poison
April 29 on Suburban Home Records
No one seems to be talking about Ghost Poison and I find the omissions confounding, to say the least. These guys play a brand of guitar rock that's part Dinosaur Jr., part John Cougar Mellencamp, part Hüsker Dü, all awesome. The musicianship on this record (especially the guitar solos) are top-notch.
7. Dillinger Four - C I V I L W A R
October 14 on Fat Wreck Chords
Punk's Chinese Democracy finally sees the light of day, and it's no surprise that it rules. Erik, Paddy and the boys opted for a more organic recording for C I V I L W A R that gave the melodies more room to breathe than the barrage of guitars on past releases ever did. (Also, how weird/funny is it that this record and the real Chinese Democracy ended up being released in the same year, within about a month of each other?)
6. Chuck Ragan & Austin Lucas - Bristle Ridge
September 16 on Ten Four Records
A collaboration of epic proportions, though I didn't know that going in. Ragan's gruff, passionate delivery complements the smooth vocals of Lucas quite well, and the instrumentation on this record is so lively and fun it's hard not to stomp one's foot at the sound of it.
5. Scream Hello - Everything Is Always Still Happening
September 9 on Red Leader Records
This record continues to blow me away every time I hear it. Most of us who had heard Scream Hello's previous EPs knew they had tons of potential, but they somehow surpassed it with Everything Is Always Still Happening. Honesty and emotion seep from each song, but none of it's contrived or sappy. If you miss Texas Is the Reason (and you should), pick up this record.
Off with Their Heads
4. Off with Their Heads - From the Bottom
July 22 on No Idea Records
Part of me thinks that someone ought to form the Ryan Young Needs a Hug Committee, but the rest of me thinks he should just continue to be pissed and suffer, since his suicidal, sardonic lyrics are what seperate Off with Their Heads from the rest of the gruff pop-punk pack.
3. Lemuria - Get Better
February 26 on Asian Man Records
Probably the best 'debut' this year; Get Better is a record full of sweet moments rooted largely in relatable awkwardness. The length is just right (that's what she said?) and the vocals of Sheena Ozzella and Alex Kerns complement each other perfectly.
2. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
August 19 on SideOneDummy
Just in case you're not all completely sick of hearing about this record, here's my take on it: It's extremely catchy, the songs are well-written, the lyrical references are neat and the production, though it takes some getting used to, is stellar. There, now let's move on.
Ninja Gun
1. Ninja Gun - Restless Rubes
July 8 on Suburban Home Records
I listened to Restless Rubes far more than any other record released in 2008, which is good enough for me to hand it the top spot. As I wrote in my review a few months back, it's the closest thing to a perfect record I've heard this year, largely due to the quality of the songs, they way they flow on this record and the lush, pristine production. More than that, these songs are extremely relatable to anyone who grew up in the South and I feel like every line Coody sings on this record is something I've experienced in the past, whether it's narrow-mindedness, blind faith, bickering parents, etc. I'm already itching for a new record from these guys.

Honorable Mentions

Some other records that rocked and/or rolled my 2008: La Dispute - Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair; Static Radio NJ - An Evening of Bad Decisions; Vietnam Werewolf - Ohio's City; Punchline - Just Say Yes; the Sword - Gods of the Earth; Useless ID - The Lost Broken Bones; Waylon Jennings and the .357's - Waylon Forever; Young Widows - Old Wounds; Bridge and Tunnel - East/West; the Constantines - Kensington Heights; Eli "Paperboy" Reed and the True Loves - Roll With You; Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life; the Hold Steady - Stay Positive; Metallica - Death Magnetic; Anchor Arms - Cold Blooded; Mock Orange - Captain Love; the Serious Geniuses - You Can Steal the Riffs, But You Can't Steal the Talent; Murder by Death - Red of Tooth and Claw; No Harm Done - Escape; No Use for a Name - The Feel Good Record of the Year; Olehole - Holemole; Only Thunder - Lower Bounds; Pennywise - Reason to Believe; the Riot Before - Fists Buried in Pockets; Smoking Popes - Stay Down; Virgins - Miscarriage.

Top EPs/7"s/Demos of 2008

5. Ryan's Hope - Chaos
May 11; self-released
If there's one band on the planet who need to be picked up by a strong indie label, it's these guys. Come on, label people, I know you're reading this. You're dropping the ball with this band. These five songs are heavy, fast, intense and fun, not to mention free.
4. Sakes Alive!! - Act I
August 18 on Barrett Records
After generating some well-deserved buzz with their 2007 demo "Presents", these guys turned it up a couple of notches for Act I and created quite possibly the most intense six minutes of the year.
3. Paper the Operator - Solemn Boyz
April 1 on Viper Bite Records
That Jon Sebastian sure knows how to write a hook. With its tight melodies and catchy choruses, Solemn Boyz sounds like a long-lost collection of Jimmy Eat World outtakes. Awesome.
2. Hellmouth - Demo '08
?; self-released
A bunch of veteran dudes from Detroit get together and create a demo that blurs the lines between punk, thrash and hardcore without sounding watered down. Their full-length due out in early '09 is going to absolutely destroy.
1. Look Mexico - Gasp Asp
September 2 on Lujo Records (digital) / November 25 on Tiny Engines (physical)
Simply put, the best batch of song these guys have put to tape thus far. The interplay of the instruments is unique and memorable and Matt Agrella's voice has never sounded better. The band's next full-length shouldn't disappoint.

My 2008 Mixtape:

    SIDE A
  1. The Gaslight Anthem - Great Expectations
  2. Dillinger Four - "Contemplate This on Your Tree of Woe."
  3. Papermoons - Find Me an Island
  4. The Loved Ones - Brittle Heart
  5. Off with Their Heads - I Am You
  6. Cheap Girls - No One to Blame
  7. Look Mexico - You're Not Afraid of the Dark, Are You?
  8. The Copyrights - Charlie Birger Time
  9. Chuck Ragan & Austin Lucas - Darling Corry
  10. Jr. Juggernaut - Wailing West
  11. Blacklisted - Stations
  12. Tigers Jaw - Chemicals
  13. Scream Hello - 20/21
    SIDE B
  1. Paper the Operator - Solemn Boyz
  2. Lemuria - Lipstick
  3. Banner Pilot - Empty Your Bottles
  4. Drag the River - Fleeting Porch of Tide
  5. Teenage Bottlerocket - Totally Stupid
  6. Hellmouth - Overtime in a Shark Cage
  7. Ninja Gun - Red State Blues
  8. Nada Surf - I Like What You Say
  9. Tim Barry - South Hill
  10. Sakes Alive!! - I'm Religious
  11. Ryan's Hope - Bastard Epidemic
  12. Vietnam Werewolf - Regarding the Recent Exodus
  13. Polar Bear Club - Convinced I'm Wrong

Looking ahead to '09

As if 2008 could be topped, 2009 will likely see killer releases from the likes of the Swellers, A Wilhelm Scream, Strike Anywhere, Transit, Fake Problems, Hellmouth, Sakes Alive!!, Austin Lucas, the Takers, Mike Hale, In the Red, Broadway Calls, Green Day, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Ben Nichols, Lucero, Let Me Run, Neko Case, the Loved Ones, New Found Glory and many, many other bands that are escaping me at the moment. I look forward to reading your comments (it's true) and reading about your favorites. Or you can just tell me how much my list sucks; whichever you prefer.