Tyler Barrett is a staff reviewer here at Punknews.org. Check back next week for year end lists from the Punknews editorial, and soon after the lists decided by your votes. - ed
What a year for change. I can't think of anything significant in my world that wasn't flipped on its head in 2008. Graduating from college and moving from my small-town Iowa backdrop to Minneapolis was really the catalyst, as I set off to carve out my place in the "real world," where the stakes are much higher and the economy still sucks. I was fortunate enough to land a job working on a nonpartisan campaign that was not only the most exciting work imaginable, but helped acquaint me with the Twin Cities. Let me tell you, folks: This is where punk is happening. Not just in the âorgcore of Dillinger Four, Off with Their Heads, Banner Pilot and the like populating many of this years Punknews top lists, but in sweaty crust-punk basements on Saturday nights and in boarded up practice spaces or garages with only space heaters to keep warm in the frigid, subzero temperatures. I've been to some great shows this year, made some amazing friends, and watched a two-plus-year relationship flicker and fade under the strain of distance. I've learned that hindsight is certainly 20/20 when change happens, but sometimes the only thing you can do is close your eyes and take the leap...
Top 20 Albums of 2008
This was certainly not nearly as good as Fading American Dream, but that was pretty much expected. Still, Mike McColgan knows how to write, and there are some fantastic anthems on State of Grace.
I'm not sure if I should consider this a guilty pleasure, but I seem to be about the only person on this site who enjoys Duane Okun's self-loathing and sardonic misanthropy. Until the Get Up Kids reunite, this will do.
Epitaph / Burning Heart
Again, I may be somewhat of a black sheep for still liking Millencolin, but what can I say? I'm always a sucker for nostalgia. Even if this release was more pop than a sheet full of bubble wrap.
The Blood Brothers were one of the most original, unique, and talented punk bands ever. It sucked to lose them, but the by-products of their breakup are still making great music. I smell a legacyâ¦
I don't know exactly how to say thisâ¦but I think I may be in love with Sheena Ozzella's voice. I didn't think they could actually "get better" from their fantastic split with Kind of Like Spittingâ¦but somehow they did.
While certainly not as good as Hidden World, Fucked Up has made no bones about their desire to evolve. Chemistry shows evolution without losing what makes Fucked Up the hardcore powerhouse they are.
I love Shock Nagasaki. I love No Trigger. So it should come as no surprise that a band made up of members of the two would put out a such an ass-kicking hardcore punk record.
This is the second Dropkick Murphys legacy inclusion on the list, and one of the most fun albums to come out all year. While packed with politics and personal issues, Everybody Out! should come with some complementary dancing shoes.
The Bronx just keep kicking out incredible records that defy categorization. Call it punk, call it hardcore, or just call it rock (actually, please don't) -- the Bronx have one of the most intimidating sounds out there.
The first of several Minneapolis releases found on this list, Banner Pilot almost makes up for the fact that Thorns of Life haven't dropped any official material yet.
Nothing screams "painful realism" like Ryan Young's canticles of modern day fuckupery. It may be OWTH's first official studio full-length, but I somehow doubt this album's greatness caught anyone by surprise.
The Hold Steady are growing up, but not necessarily slowing down. References and homages to 7 Seconds, Joe Strummer and Dillinger Four among others witness the Hold Steady deviating slightly lyrically, but still putting out an incredibly solid and fun record.
Though Jason Shevchuk's new project was severely short-lived, the offering LaGrecia produced showed a depth in his songwriting beyond the hardcore stylings of Kid Dynamite and None More Black, but with just as much passion and intensity.
John Reis is the King Midas of rock and roll. Everything his creative genius touches turns to gold, and See You in Magic is no exception. Ripe with unique riffs and impressive guitarwork, the Night Marchers pick up right where Rocket from the Crypt left off.
Fat Wreck Chords
The Chinese Democracy of punk rock, Dillinger Four's long-awaited followup to Situationist Comedy certainly did not disappoint like its mainstream counterpart. Still can't compare to their live show, thoughâ¦but nothing can.
Another long-awaited offering, Stay Down is just as good, if not better, than anything the Popes have ever done. That in itself affirms this record's greatness, and hearing re-tooled versions of "Stefanie" and "First Time" among great new songs like "Welcome to Janesville" and "Grab Your Heart and Run" make this album worth the wait.
While I think it's fair to say PunkNews was instrumental in rocketing the Gaslight Anthem to international renown, I shunned the hype until finally hearing testimony from a real person in November of this year. Is it possible to feel nostalgia after just the first listen of a record? It is with The '59 Sound.
I was a pretty big fan of the Lillingtons, but I can say without a second thought that I love Teenage Bottlerocket even more. I have no idea how they can stretch out three chords so far, but I suppose if it ain't broke, just keep making it better. And that's exactly what they've done.
Letting loose some of the catchiest garage punk I've ever heard, the Muslims are the one band on this list I can really claim as my own discovery and not a referral. They've since changed their name to the Soft Pack, which is unfortunate because it was actually their intriguing name that drew me to them in the first place. Triviality aside, this rarely left my rotation.
Forty years on this earth and Dan Yemin still mops the floor with people half his age. Intense, intelligent and with interesting production to say the least, New Lexicon is this year's finest album.
Protest the Hero - Fortress
; Time Again - Darker Days
; the A.K.A.s - Everybody Make Some Noise
; Less Than Jake - GNV FLA
; No Use for a Name - The Feel Good Record of the Year
; This Is Hell - Misfortunes
; Public Serpents - Feeding of the Fortune 5000
; the Mars Volta - Bedlam in Goliath
; Pennywise - Reason to Believe
; (Vlad and) the Impalers - (Vlad and) the Impalers
; H2O - Nothing to Prove
; Evacuate - Evacuate
; Michael Franti and Spearhead - All Rebel Rockers
; Deadly Sins - Selling Our Weakness
Top 3 EPs
Seeing Zach de la Rocha and Tom Morello perform a capella at the RNC helped reignite my affection for Rage Against the Machine, and since they're no longer recording music, this EP came with perfect timing (plus ODaaL's unique minimalist approach is interesting and effective).
Need I repeat myself? I loved the Blood Brothers. Apparently, I also love everything else their former members are now doing.
Top 3 B-Sides Collections
Fat Wreck Chords
This is just about as good as it gets when it comes to EPs, proving Jack Dalrymple and Chicken are an unbeatable songwriting combo with the gumption to try new things and the confidence to do it right.
For a fairly new and uneducated Crime in Stereo fan, Selective Wreckage shows the band's recent evolution from their hoodie-punk upbringings to the more expansive sound on Is Dead rather well.
Fat Wreck Chords
Street punk the way it was meant to be done. 26 dirty working-class anthems from Northern California with more attitude than you can shake a skin at.
Top 3 Disappointments
It's Rocket from the Crypt! What else needs to be said? One of the greatest bands of all time delivers some choice archiveage. This zombie just can't seem to stay dead, but I'm certainly not complaining.
I really, really wanted to like this more than I did. It wasn't unlistenable by any means, but after the disappointing Lover, the Lord has Left Usâ¦, I was hoping for a much more focused effort. No such luck.
Feeling rather disinterested about this release, I debate even including it on the list. But apparently any publicity is good publicity. Right? Right?
Top 3 Pleasant Surprises
This album lacked everything that made Flogging Molly such a fun band. No energy, no lifeâ¦big disappointment.
Based on their name and song titles, I was expecting a whole wheel of cheese. In reality, there was some cheese but it was sprinkled between layers of fun, entertaining punk rock.
One release after putting out a song slandering "Fox TV," Pennywise is dropping albums on Myspace Records. In their defense, Epitaph hasn't been much better, and Reason to Believe is some of the band's best work in years.
Top 3 Live Shows
Due to what I believed was unwarranted hype, I initially rejected the Mars Volta. But I won't deny I'm a victim of viral marketing. I did the whole puzzle
for the free Circle Jerks cover, and the insanely awesome Goliath the Soothsayer Game
, and soon enough I was flying my Mars Volta fanboy flag high.
- Bane / H2O â Live in Minneapolis @ Triple Rock Social, November 20
- Scared of Chaka / Dillinger Four / Off with Their Heads â Scared of Chaka reunion live in Minneapolis @ First Ave and 7th Street Entry, September 18
- Modern Life is War â Final show live in Marshalltown @ Moose Lodge, April 26
Top 3 Record Labels
- Reunion - Retrospective
One of the unsung hardcore legends of the `90s, these performances put chills down my spine as Trial sent audiences from their hometown of Seattle to Budapest, Hungary into frenzies of unity and camaraderie.
3. Bridge Nine
Bridge Nine has really spiced up their lineup, witnessing releases by bands like Crime in Stereo, Ceremony, H2O, Cruel Hand, Verse, Have Heart and more in 2008.
2. Fat Wreck Chords
Another great year for Fat, as 2008 saw releases by Dillinger Four, Dead to Me, Star Fucking Hipsters, the Loved Ones, Swingin' Utters, Real McKenzies, Lagwagon and more.
Albums disqualified from Top 20 albums or Top 3 EPs, due to the sad fact I haven't yet heard them
Vagrant Records comes alive! After a few years releasing some material of questionable quality, Vagrant Records is back thanks to some great leadership and fantastic signings. Great records from the Hold Steady, Protest the Hero, the Night Marchers, Murder by Death, the (International) Noise Conspiracy and Rocket from the Crypt. A far cry from Emanuel, Dashboard Confessional and Senses Failâ¦a good, far cry.
- Blacklisted - Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God
- The Fad - Kill Punk Rock Stars
- Polar Bear Club 0 Sometimes Things Just Disappear
- The Copyrights - Learn the Hard Way
- Public Serpents - Feeding of the Fortune 5000
- Nerf Herder - IV
- The Slackers - Self Medication
- Verse - Aggression
- Shai Hulud - Misanthropy Pure
- Killing the Dream - Fractures
- Real McKenzies - Off the Leash
- Mansions - Mansions EP
- Kepi Ghoulie - American Gothic
- Lagwagon - I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon EP
- Good Luck - Into Lake Griffy
- Star Fucking Hipsters - Until We're Dead
- Wait in Vain - Seasons
So am I still waiting?
- Street Dogs - "The General's Boombox"
- The Bronx - "Knifeman"
- LaGrecia - "You Like Baseball I Like Ghosts"
- Jaguar Love - "Highways of Gold"
- Dead to Me - "Little Brother"
- The Muslims - "Nightlife"
- Lemuria - "Pants"
- Banner Pilot - "Absentee"
- Everybody Out! - "Ghettoblaster"
- Off with Their Heads - "1612 Havenhurst"
- Paint It Black - "Dead Precedents"
- The Night Marchers - "Jump in the Fire
- Dillinger Four - "Minimum Wage Is a Gateway Drug"
- Teenage Bottlerocket â "Down in the Basement"
Will 2009 be the year that Rancid finally drops their followup to Indestructible
? Will Propagandhi make good of their progress updates with a new LP? When will Dr. Dre finally let loose Detox
? Only time will tell, my friends.