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

Best of 2008

Brian's picks (2008)

staff picks

Brian Shultz is the reviews editor and an incessant reviewer here at -ed


In 2007, my grandfather died, my girlfriend of two and a half years broke up with me and I was fired from a job for the first time. So, yeah. 2008 couldn't really have been worse than that. Though this was probably the most stressful December in memory, it wasn't that bad a year all things considered.

I landed a paid news editorship and weekly feature contribution with the online arm of your guys' favorite music magazine, and that's why you haven't seen me much in the news department here since May (if you noticed at all). But since then I have inexplicably gotten to interview people like Marky Ramone, Brett Gurewitz, Tom DeLonge, Chris Walla, Geoff Rickly and Chuck Ragan. And that's pretty cool.

I made some more progress on a long-time-coming bachelor's degree, too. A year and a half to go...I think...

Anyway, here's me nerding out, so bear with.

[Like last year, I've added bracketed numbers at the end of the album blurbs to 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. I.E. Keep Your Eyes Ahead is their fourth full-length overall and their second for Sub Pop. But if you only see one number 1, that's because it's their debut full-length (of which there are many this year). No point in redundantly giving you two 1s with a semicolon in between.]

Honorable Mentions

The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead (Sub Pop Records) [4;2]; Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing (Polyvinyl Record Co.) [2;2]; Torche - Meanderthal (Hydra Head Records) [2;1]; Hostage Calm - Lens (Redscroll Records) [1]; Person L - Initial (Human Interest) [1]; Heathers - Here, Not There. (Plan-It-X Records / Hide Away Records) [1]; Carpenter - Law of the Land (Smallman Records) [1]; Russian Circles - Station (Suicide Squeeze Records) [2;1]; Good Old War - Only Way to Be Alone (Sargent House) [1]; Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs (Atlantic Records) [6;2].

Top 20 Albums

20. Shorebirds - It's Gonna Get Ugly [12"]
Rumbletowne Records
Latterman wrote some wonderful songs, but I never considered myself a huge fan for whatever reason. While Shorebirds doesn't completely leave behind those musical ideas of his former band, Canino has capitalized on the sporadic anxiety that marked 2006's ..We Are Still Alive and captured an emotion and desperation that was absent from the first Shorebirds 7". It sure doesn't hurt being anchored by ex-Jawbreaker bassist Chris Bauermeister. Despite the pedigree, this is, surprisingly, one of the more overlooked melodic punk rock releases this year. [1]
January 29 on Magic Bullet Records
One of the more buzzworthy post-rock bands around (well, a year ago, anyway) nearly proved they were worth all that salt on their eponymous offering. This Will Destroy You shift into more ambient and electronic territory here, and as a result it wasn't quite as stunning as the compact crescendos offered on their debut, Young Mountain. But listening to the patterns of This Will Destroy You unfold over its epic and restrained course makes for some of the best-spent 50 minutes this year. [2 (debatable);2]
Off with Their Heads
18. Off with Their Heads - From the Bottom
July 22 on No Idea Records
Nothing really seems entirely sardonic about the deathwishes littering From the Bottom, but since 2008 was a whole lot better for me than 2007, that's probably why I can see the humor in it. It's also miles ahead of their older stuff, better parlaying a barking nod to Jawbreaker circa Unfun; I don't know about anyone else, but at least it's my favorite version of "the D4 sound" to come out in '08 (and that's including C I V I L W A R). [1]
September 2 on Tooth & Nail Records / Solid State Records
The amount of flak you give these guys is incredible, because they're redeeming "metalcore" as an amiable and artistic style. They also write honest songs that never once pander to any given audience, Christian or otherwise, while exploring ambitious sonic territory that stresses the extremes of intersecting raucous discordance with extraordinary melody. [6;4]
November 4 on Temporary Residence Limited
The world's best band with the "screamo" misnomer teams up with (probably) the world's best band rightly receiving it. Thursday continue their ascent into writing majestic, lush songs that retain the dynamism of their punk and hardcore roots while Envy contribute more rousing bouts of ambience and intensity, as well as their increasing reliance on electronic integration.
March 18 on Barrett Records
Transit is simply an exciting band. Everything they write and record is better than what they did previously, with growing artistic flourishes that make their emotional, passionate pop-punk anthems that much better (check out the available clips from their upcoming Stay Home EP for proof). The fact that they're as young as they are is just scary. This makes silly pap like All Time Low and Hit the Lights seem even sillier. In a bad way. [1]
14. The Out_Circuit - Pierce the Empire with a Sound
February 12 on Lujo Records
Nathan Burke shows an incredible amount of restraint on the sophomore full-length from his solo project, the Out_Circuit. While Dntel's Dumb Luck was a solid collection of indie-electronic showcases with a host of guest vocalists, Burke scales back that idea on Pierce the Empire with a Sound and puts greater focus on the desolation of the moody soundscapes portrayed. But having voices like Thrice's Dustin Kensrue and Coalesce's Sean Ingram sure doesn't hurt -- and Burke's own soothing, breathy delivery makes for a fine main lead, too. [2;2]
April 15 on Vagrant Records
Though it was widely agreed that the second installment of Thrice's element-themed EPs wasn't as strong as the first (and there's no dispute here), Air and Earth still beared some rather captivating moments and a rarely-met cohesiveness. Channeling great references like the Appleseed Cast and the hushness their friends in Brand New have proven capable of on Air and great, unique folk flourishes on Earth, these two EPs continued Thrice's artistic growth and proved how proficient they could be in yet other musical areas. [6;2]
12. Blacklisted - Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God
April 1 on Deathwish Inc.
You could always tell Blacklisted were bound for something greater than being a second-rate American Nightmare follower or VFW alternative to the theater-bound Terror. With Heavier Than Heaven, Loneliner Than God, they've rightfully fulfilled that destiny. Shades of something incredible relentlessly permeate Blacklisted's attack; sure, this is some expertly played and rabid, rapid-fire hardcore with enough manic self-loathing to make a Bukowski fan perk up, but the squalls of feedback and atmospheric guitar noise that drench the album give it even more of a unique touch that few other current hardcore bands can touch with a ten-foot mic stand. If this is how they're going out (again), it's in fine form. [2;2]
11. Olehole - Holemole [12"]
September 30 on Underground Communique Records
The most ferocious work of Brian Moss's ongoing musical career (the Wunder Years, the Ghost, Hanalei), Holemole is a collection of charged, angular punk rock manifestos condensed into bombast midtempo slabs. Olehole funnel the best moments of Fugazi's discography into a vinyl-only release (well, there's a CD in there too) that simply rips, lashing out at weighty topics like anti-immigration and religious pollutants. [1]
10. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
August 19 on Side One Dummy Records
Once I was adjusted to the lingering, echo-ey reverb of Brian Fallon's vocals, all the sing-along choruses of The '59 Sound finally started to hit home. The closest thing to a pure rock record on this list, there's a reason the Gaslight Anthem are The Next Great White Hype. Frankly, I really couldn't care less about soda shops, vintage cars and leather jackets, but I guess I just find a lot of solace in how much Fallon really does. [2;1]
March 24 on Sub Pop Records
One of the luxuries of being a reviews editor is that some labels literally mail me every release they put out. In the case of labels like Fat or Sub Pop, that's pretty rad. But nothing Sub Pop has sent me in the past few years has hit me as hard as Foals. Despite the occasionally non-sensical narratives, Antidotes has a stunning and engaging atmosphere about it while managing to enscapulate every wonderful, body-shaking trait of math/dance/etc.-rock possible. It's like I threw a party and all the members of Minus the Bear, Bloc Party and Battles showed up. Then there's something about a TV getting kicked in and hairy genitalia being Sharpied on someone's face. [1]
8. Able Baker Fox - Voices
January 29 on Second Nature Recordings
Sure, it's no Survival Is for Cowards, but the lifeblood of the Casket Lottery -- Nathan Ellis -- runs thick through Voices, which gets its gruffness from Small Brown Bike brothers Mike and Ben Reed. It's a dynamic and breathtaking team that represents the best of Midwest heartache as told through powerful, melodic, call-and-response anthems and noodly guitar riffs. Here's to hoping they last at least as long as the Lottery or Bike did. [1]
7. Scream Hello - Everything Is Always Still Happening
September 16 on Red Leader Records
Scream Hello was definitely not the most popular band to drop an exclamation point from their name this year. But where a certain other act exercised their love of the Beatles on a long-gestating album, Scream Hello expertly and effectively referenced the heroes of '90s emo rock on their own. Splicing jagged Texas Is the Reason guitar riffs with soaring, mildly quirky vocals resembling Travis Shettel's younger cousin would be enough for most people, but employ it with their complex and ambitious pop songwriting and James Caverly's thematic narratives and the resulting sound is stunning. [1]
Bridge and Tunnel
6. Bridge and Tunnel - East/West
August 19 on No Idea Records
Although a top-heavy feel prevented Bridge and Tunnel's debut full-length from appearing a few spots higher, there is no denying that East/West is the most passionate and heartfelt entry in this entire list. Bridge and Tunnel's hearts bleed out the player as they howl about urban decay, societal ills and the completely fucked up fragments of the lives we live. The musicianship is steadfastly top-notch, referencing obvious favorites like Minus the Bear and American Football, but with the gruff delivery No Idea's made its mark with. It's a reverb-drenched, pitch-perfect mix that results in sporadic moments that honest-to-God bring me to the brink of tears. [1]
July 8 on Bridge Nine Records
For something so massive, choking and stifling, it's a wonder how Have Heart managed to write such a brisk sophomore full-length. All the Modern Life Is War comparisons Songs to Scream at the Sun has garnered are certainly warranted, but it's probably the best indication of MLIW's legacy thus far. Besides that, no one else in hardcore is writing as poetically and forward-thinking as Patrick Flynn; name another straight-edge act who has the gall to quote Maya Angelou in their liner notes. [2;2]
4. Anthony Green - Avalon
August 5 on Photo Finish Records
I've been following Anthony Green since he broke through as a naive but wide-eyed and supremely talented voice on Saosin's Translating the Name EP in 2003. Since then we've witnessed Green's growth as frontman and songwriter with the more textural and progressive Circa Survive and it's been great to listen in. So it would only make sense that his solo debut, Avalon, would be an incredibly compelling affair. Good Old War do a wondrous job of backing him up with roots-dipping folk tones and more modern acoustic brushes without getting in the way of Green's picturesque, vibrant narratives that unfold over Avalon's tidy and atmospheric course. [1]
Polar Bear Club
3. Polar Bear Club - Sometimes Things Just Disappear
March 11 on Red Leader Records
Once I finally accepted the fact that Sometimes Things Just Disappear was merely missing the flooring consistency of the band's powerhouse debut, 2006's The Redder, The Better EP, it emerged as a compelling force in my playlist. Polar Bear Club propel themselves with an honest-to-goodness nod towards Third Eye Blind's first record in the warm and resonating guitar textures while referencing Small Brown Bike's gruff emotion through Jimmy Stadt's commanding, small man / big throat voice. It's a great and original base to begin with, but Polar Bear Club have the complex and constructive songwriting to back it up. [1]
June 10 on Bridge Nine Records
Verse had been improving with every release in their short career and Aggression unquestionably continued this progression. Every moment on this album sounds absolutely huge as Sean Murphy delivers devastatingly passionate socio-political analysis of a world he's sincerely fed up with, as towering guitars burn, demolish and crash all around him. Their three-part "Story of a Free Man" narrative makes for a creative and wonderfully executed centerpiece, as well. The most epic album in hardcore since Modern Life Is War's Witness. [3;1]
Paint It Black
February 19 on Jade Tree Records
You know, I didn't want to do this. I didn't want to be predictable and hoist Paint It Black to the number one spot yet again. But frankly, nothing else that came out in 2008 had as much intensity, intelligence and innovation (within a pretty confining subgenre) going as New Lexicon did (a certain Chemistry notwithstanding). Dan Yemin has perfected his hip-hop flow while letting MC Dälek provide stark and unsettling atmospheres that perfectly complement the absolute outrage unleashed by New Lexicon in 15 genius waves. [3;3]

Video Proof

Anthony Green - She Loves Me So Scream Hello - You Have Good Taste
Foals - Olympic Airways Blacklisted - I Am Weighing Me Down

Top 5 EPs*

* - ...that were released on compact disc, digitally OR compact disc and vinyl

5. Halfway to Hell Club - Knowledge Is a Curse
self-released May 18
Plenty Long Island punk bands released EPs this year, but none captivated my interest as much as the long-awaited debut from Halfway to Hell Club, who boast playful but warm tunes halfway between Hot Water Music and Bouncing Souls.
4. New Found Glory - Tip of the Iceberg
April 29 on Bridge Nine Records
Now this is how New Found Glory should sound -- not tired, flat and overly balladic (see 2006's disappointing and immensely forgettable Coming Home), but energetic, dynamic and with a touch of hardcore influence. Covers of somewhat atypically-chosen songs from Lifetime, Gorilla Biscuits and Shelter are the icing on the cake.
April 8 on Red Leader Records
Smart & Stupid is to Everything Is Always Still Happening as fried mac ‘n cheese pockets are to a steak platter: a wonderful, tasty way to satiate the appetite while waiting for the full course. The fact that it featured three exclusive songs, like the excellent "A Few Minutes," definitely helped nudge its way into the list.
January 22 on Temporary Residence Limited
A bit of a curveball from the Japanese screamo superstars, Abyssal saw Envy pulling out some of their older stylistic tendencies and colliding them with their newer focus on expansive sounds. The result is one of their standout releases in their expansive discography and reason for them to appear on this feature twice. (Hell, maybe three times -- I haven't been able to fully digest their split with Jesu on Daymare Recordings, but that's some fantastic material as well and highly recommended.)
February 5 on Get Outta Town Records / Prehistoric Media
Endgame finally hit their stride, and then broke up. Serious bummer. This is some wonderful and sincere, sorely emotional melodic hardcore that acts as a great mainfestation of New Jersey's last 15 years, lifting notes from the creative peaks achieved by Turning Point (their split with No Escape) and Lifetime (Hello Bastards / Jersey's Best Dancers). At least they quit while they were at the top of their game -- pun totally intended.
Top 5 Vinyl EPs**

** - ...that were released vinyl-only (CD-Rs and digital permissible)

5. Incendiary - Amongst the Filth [7"]
July 11 on Eternal Hope Records
Incendiary's demo was promising enough, but their debut 7" capitalizes on it with serious aplomb. With only three songs to make their mark, Incendiary crush the listener with pounding, heavy, mid-`90s-styled hardcore that abandons the Cookie Monster vocal for a frustrated, high-pitched yelp of pure outrage.
4. Elder - Elder [10"]
June 24 on Forge Again Records
Though the epic screamo jams composed by this trio on their debut EP aren't entirely unlike another frequently-appearing band in this feature, Elder incorporate a shoegazing quality that make the dynamics all that much more powerful.
3. Seasick - Ouroboros [12"]
May 30 on Soul Rebel Records
Seasick makes my EP list for the second year straight, this time for another fierce, seven-song slab of searing, thrashy hardcore. The laser etching of this one-sided LP is hauntingly immaculate, yet the band keep the emphasis on the thematic, intelligent and volatile nature of their superbly recorded music. How ‘bout an actual LP now, guys?
2. Look Mexico - Gasp Asp [7"]
September 2 on Lujo Records (digital) / December 16 on Tiny Engines (physical)
Witnessing this band's growth has been beautiful. With every passing release they've grown stronger, striking more and more original territory with intricate riffs, Matt Agrella's soothing and improving voice and the band's playful nature staying completely intact.
1. Sinking Ships - Out of Touch b/w Bee Honda [7"]
Sinking Ships Records
While I never got to acquire an actual physical copy of this 7" as so few were pressed, the two songs put to wax here (which also appear on a three-way split with Japanese bands As We Let Go and My Love) hit me hard when I first received them late last year. This is the driving, heartfelt melodic hardcore we've all come to know and love from Sinking Ships, and definitely eclipses the material on both the Ten and Safe 7"s released last year.
Top 5 Compilations

Keep in mind I never got a chance to check out Hindsight Is 20/20, My Friend.

February 12 on Lujo Records
Oh, hey Look Mexico, there you are again. The title pretty much says it all; this is a must for any Look Mexico fan, compiling the band's first two EPs with a bunch of newer jams that date to the near-present day. It's a great little portrait of a young band simply exercising their love of mellow, noodly, American Football-esque emo and getting better at it in the process, as well as cut-ups and fuck-withs applied by remixers.
February 5 on No Idea Records
Unlike the graybeards that probably eclipse me by a near-decade, my favorite Hot Water Music albums were always the ones on Epitaph, so to get to hear all the outtakes and leftovers from that era compiled onto one disc was a real treat for me. Sure, the band were (is?) slicker and a little cleaner-sounding, but the emotion is definitely there and the melodies hit that much harder.
3. Resonance - Transfuse [12"]
February 26 on Collapse Records
It really hurts that I never got to see this band live, because I could imagine it being a pretty cathartic experience. Resonance definitely take influence from my favorites of melodic hardcore (Kid Dynamite, early Strike Anywhere), but with their Revolution Summer twist, it becomes a more personal and emotional manifesto that makes for some of the most heartfelt songwriting around. It's incredible how simply honest these songs sound -- off-key vocals, fractured guitar lines and all that simply become part of its effectual and touching character. It's stunning these were only the band's first two demos.
2. Crime in Stereo - Selective Wreckage
September 30 on Bridge Nine Records
Though teasingly short, Crime in Stereo offer a late-year stocking stuffer of solid songs, with a few that deserve "live staple" status. I've been waiting a long time to hear these Capital split songs and they definitely deliver -- but so does the fantastic Troubled Stateside outtake, "Love," and the one new jam, the fantastic "Everywhere and All the Time." No one is expanding on the Lifetime/GB formula with more grace and artistically accomplished sense than this band right now and Selective Wreckage provides the documentation for it.
May 10 on Soul Rebel Records
This massive second installment of The Right to Assemble is about as wonderful a document of a local scene as you can get. 22 of New Brunswick, New Jersey's finest contribute exclusive songs, and many of them are pretty terrific. Though heavily hardcore-based, you also get a smattering of pop-punk, melodic hardcore and noisier stuff. On top of that, you get a download card for all the songs plus bonus tracks that didn't make the cut, and the first volume, which was well before my time. If the attention and care that was put into this was put into all compilations, people buying music in physical form might be a bit more prevalent.
Top 3 Live Releases
October 14 on Canvasback Music / Favorite Gentlemen
Granted, this isn't a 100% live release, but rather a mix of studio and live stuff on both components. Still, the two new songs are solid, the alternate and live takes on familiar stuff is cool and the DVD is a great little afternoon watch with well-shot footage.
2. Inquisition - Uproar: Live and Loud! [CD/DVD]
March 18 on No Idea Records
This isn't here just because there's a brief closeup of me proudly repping the bandana crew, but because it's a really conclusive and complentary package to seeing this show live in person. The sound and video are the best you can get and the fact that Inquisition wrote some of the best under-the-radar punk songs out of Richmond make it a great release.
February 26 on Vagrant Records
That's another good thing about being a reviews editor -- getting bands shoved in your face you should've checked out a loooong time ago. I gave R.I.P. a listen on a bit of a whim and after being thoroughly rocked, was a true believer. This show sounds (and looks) like it was a ton of fun.
Top 3 Reissues
3. U2 - Boy
July 22 on Island Records
No matter how geriatric and embarrassingly grand they've tried to become, no one can take away how great U2's early albums were, especially the first: Their strong debut, Boy bursted with great classics like "I Will Follow" and "Stories for Boys." There's some great insight into the album from the band members in this deluxe edition, and a nice bonus collection of rare songs and from the era, as well as some alternate takes.
April 29 on Geffen Records
Not only does Jimmy Eat World's breakout album get its original title back -- which was pulled in lieu of post-9/11 hysteria -- but there's a whole bonus disc of treats and alternate takes, as well as seriously in-depth liner notes. When I received this in the mail, I hadn't really listened to Bleed American in years. Thus, it became a great reminder of how truly great the album was and all its little flourishes I was too naive to appreciate (Davey von Bohlen's guest appearance, for one) when I bought it at 15, just beginning to explore what "emo" truly was (emphasis on "was").
March 4 on Temporary Residence Limited
I'm sensing a pattern here. Temporary Residence's CD reissuing of A Dead Sinking Story didn't add too much -- just a remastering and a beautiful foil-esque cardboard sleeve, but it's a great album and the "restoration" of sorts gives it a much stronger aural impact than it already had. I hear the vinyl is pretty, too.
Top 5 Hardcore Debut LPs

All the standout full-lengths in hardcore this year seemed to primarily come from "veterans"...or, well, bands you could consider veterans considering such a band's typical lifespan. So I wanted to highlight some rather solid discs from some young guns that will likely make a big splash in a few years if they hold it together long enough.
5. I Rise - For Redemption
July 15 on 1917 Records
Having just gotten to listen to this, it's a pretty late addition to the list, but totally warranted. I Rise deliver their proper debut and it's a maddening, sledgehammer release of twisting and convulting hardcore. It's considerably heavier than their past stuff, but without a trace of metal -- and that's pretty refreshing. The 108 influence definitely bubbles up more than ever at some moments, but it's a great backbone to have.
4. Defeater - Travels
September 16 on Topshelf Records
Defeater have quite the obvious fetish for Modern Life Is War, even adopting the small-town persona; I mean, fuck, the singer even looks like a young Jeff Eaton. However, they apply that persona to a surprisingly well-thought out story on their debut that goes the length of the entire disc, which includes an acoustic folk jam that's actually quite well-done. Who knew good hardcore bands followed Warped Tour around selling CDs, too?
July 8 on Think Fast! Records
After Sinking Ships' breakup, the closest I can get is Roger Kilburn's signature riffs on Wait in Vain's Seasons. But I can't dismiss the rest of this fine album -- Timm McIntosh's gruff shouts make a nice front and his touching lyrics give the ongoings a personal feel.
2. Braindead - No Consequences
June 10 on Braindead Records / Burn Bridges
Braindead had some pretty decent tunes on their first few 7"s, but No Consequences is a step up in every regard. Tinged with melody and a fierce drive, it's a diverse debut with subtle creative tendencies. Moments like the surprisingly melodic flair of "Guilt and Shame" and the epics of "So Single" and "A Wake for a Dream" are momentous and hint at something seriously fantastic further down the line.
1. Hostage Calm - Lens
May 27 on Redscroll Records
Hostage Calm's demo was a promising collision of Descendents' humor and Dag Nasty's sincerity, but it all comes to serious fruition on Lens. I mean, doesn't anyone else besides me and this band realize how awesome Rain's La Vache Qui Rit EP is? And that Turning Point EP I never shut up about, too? Tendencies of both impact this album hard, but Hostage Calm retain their identity with driving melodic hardcore essays about our frustrating apathy to seriously fucked up events happening all around us.
Top 5 Disappointments
self-released January 1
I had no idea this band was still around when they offered to send me this album, but remembering their EP from 2004 being a good time, I accepted graciously. What happened to simply writing good tech-y skatepunk songs in the Strung Out vein? Now they just sound confused, as if they couldn't decide if old Thrice or old Over It was better and chose to poorly ape both. [1]
4. Stove Bredsky - The Black Ribbon Award
May 20 on Hydra Head Records
Stephen Brodsky, I love you and every weird thing you do, but you lost me on this one. I hear what you're trying to do, but it just isn't quite working for me. Now go reform Cave In, or at least record another sweet-ass Octave Museum album. [1]
October 14 on Tooth & Nail Records
Copeland was never a guilty pleasure for me -- just a pleasure, simply. But I should've known something had gone awry when they went a little overboard on the cheese factor with the title of their latest album. You Are My Sunshine just doesn't captivate me like their first three albums do, and while the experiments are hardly complete failures (and the band still sound pretty heartfelt), they aren't nearly as successful as the ones on Eat, Sleep, Repeat. [4;1]
September 30 on Bridge Nine Records
The few times I'd seen Energy before this album's release, I really wasn't into the vocals, but I absolutely loved what I was hearing musically. Here, the band can't even interest me in that department anymore, aside from an occasional bass riff that sounds straight out of AFI's halcyon days. Rather ironically, Invasions of the Mind just sounds tired. [1]
June 17 on Vagrant Records
Ugh. Songs Not to Get Married To might have been Reggie's worst at that point, but at least he was trying some interesting things, like more serious songs and heavier moments right out of his Coalesce days. Last Stop: Crappy Town is just boring and uninteresting, with little-to-no dynamics and half a memorable chorus at best. [5;4]
Most Improved Band
September 9 on Epitaph Records
Much better. Lover, The Lord Has Left Us... was a failed attempt at integrating world music into the band's already experimental sound; they just went overboard. Here, a stripped-down lineup creates a stripped-down sound with more of a focus on simply writing good songs; it works quite well for them, while they still manage to slip in plenty of progressive elements.
Top 3 Record Labels
3. Vagrant Records
Another 3-spot for Vagrant, thanks to the second installment of Thrice‘s The Alchemy Index, Rocket from the Crypt's R.I.P. and All Systems Go III, Moneen's DVD, Hold Steady's Stay Positive (maybe their best yet?), Murder by Death's Red of Tooth and Claw, the Matt Pryor solo debut and Warship's Supply and Depend. Oh, and they signed the awesome So Many Dynamos and offered to release a country legend's last recordings. I guess the City and Colour album was pretty dec, too.
2. Sub Pop Records
I've never enjoyed as many Sub Pop releases in a calendar year as I did 2008. Foals' Antidotes? Awesome. The Helio Sequence's Keep Your Eyes Ahead? Pleasant as fuck. No Age's Nouns? Jams and a half. Grand Archives' self-titled? Just chill.
1. Bridge Nine Records
I gotta give it to Bridge Nine this year. Sure, they basically set themselves up for this with their excellent set of 2007 signings, but they also officially locked up good or great ones like H2O, Verse, Cruel Hand and Defeater (and one other seriously amazing band you'll hear about eventually). And their release schedule? Goddamn. As you can see above, two made my top 20 (Verse's Aggression and Have Heart's Songs to Scream at the Sun), while H2O's Nothing to Prove was a soaring comeback, Cruel Hand's Prying Eyes pretty decent and Ceremony's Still Nothing Moves You damn solid. There were also bang-up compilation jobs for Ruiner and Crime in Stereo. Good show, good show.
Top 10 Sets That Did Define Us
  1. Crime in Stereo - 8/29 - a kitchen - Sayville, NY
  2. Polar Bear Club - 12/5 - Westcott Community Center - Syracuse, NY
  3. Transit - 12/27 - 173 Bleeker St. [apt. bedroom] - Brooklyn, NY
  4. Modern Life Is War [last NY show] - 4/6 - Knitting Factory - New York, NY
  5. Broadway Calls (Jawbreaker - "Boxcar" & Kid Dynamite - "Cheap Shot, Youth Anthem") / Comadre (Kid Dynamite - "Pause" & Refused - "The Deadly Rhythm") / Shook Ones (3 originals & Descendents - "I'm the One") split set - 11/2 or 11/1 - storage space - Gainesville, FL
  6. Bridge and Tunnel - 8/30 - ABC No Rio - New York, NY
  7. Have Heart - 1/6 - First Unitarian Church - Philadelphia, PA
  8. Tegan and Sara - 11/6 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY
  9. Fucked Up [1 hour or so of the 12-hour marathon set, including "Blitzkrieg Bop" w/ Moby] - 10/13 - Rogan storefront - New York, NY
  10. Thorns of Life - 11/14 - The Fort - Brooklyn, NY
Poorly Sequenced and Unnecessarily Long*: A 2008 Mixtape

This may as well be my title for this entire feature, too.

  1. Verse - The New Fury
  2. Polar Bear Club - Hollow Place
  3. O Pioneers!!! - Summers in Necro Norway with Ryan
  4. Slingshot Dakota - The Golden Ghost
  5. Endgame - Peace of Mind
  6. Blacklisted - Memory Layne
  7. Braindead - So Single
  8. Halo Fauna - Rehashing Descartes
  9. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
  10. Carpenter - You Can't Keep a Good Man Down
  11. Elder - Town of Clay
  12. Mansions - Talk Talk Talk
  13. Social Circkle - Canned Response
  14. Career Suicide - Cherry Beach
  15. Person L - Sunshine
  16. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
  17. Now, Now Every Children - Not One, But Two [LP version]
  1. Tokyo Police Club - Centennial
  2. Have Heart - Bostons
  3. Killing the Dream - Thirty-Four Seconds
  4. Defeater - Prophet in Plain Clothes
  5. Wait in Vain - Seasons
  6. Hostage Calm - Nosebleed Section
  7. Resonance - Surgery
  8. Alkaline Trio - Calling All Skeletons
  9. Heathers - I Remember
  10. Rogue Set - Sunrise Revamp
  11. Vampire Weekend - A-Punk
  12. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Think I Wanna Die
  13. Look Mexico - You're Not Afraid of the Dark, Are You?
  14. Fear Before - Treeman
  15. My Heart to Joy at the Same Tone - The Hours Change So We Don't Have To
  16. Transit - For the World
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
  • Modern Life Is War
  • Sinking Ships
  • Resonance
  • Endgame
  • Since by Man
  • New Mexican Disaster Squad
  • The Ergs!
  • Shorebirds
  • LaGrecia
  • Somerset
Most Anticipated of 2009
  1. Brand New - TBA (Interscope / Tiny Evil)
  2. Crime in Stereo - In My Head I'm Everyone But Me (Bridge Nine)
  3. The Thorns of Life - TBA (TBA)
  4. Transit - Stay Home EP (Run for Cover)
  5. A Wilhelm Scream - TBA (TBA)
  6. Tegan and Sara - TBA (Vapor/Sire)
  7. mewithoutYou - mewithoutYou & Friends (working title) (Tooth & Nail)
  8. Circle Takes the Square - Ritual of Names (Robotic Empire)
  9. Polar Bear Club - TBA (not at liberty to say)
  10. Crime in Stereo / Verse / Paint It Black tour
  11. Moneen - TBA (Vagrant)
  12. Thursday - Common Existence (Epitaph)
  13. Set Your Goals - TBA (TBA)
  14. Poison the Well - TBA (Ferret)
  15. Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing (Canvasback / Favorite Gentlemen)
  16. Mansions - New Best Friends (Doghouse)
  17. Shook Ones - TBA (Paper + Plastick)
  18. Look Mexico - TBA (TBA)
  19. Weatherbox - The Cosmic Drama (Doghouse)
  20. 108 - Forever Is Destroyed (Deathwish)
  21. Soul Control - TBA (TBA)
  22. Circa Survive - TBA (TBA)
  23. Two Tongues - Two Tongues (Vagrant)
  24. Cursive - TBA (Saddle Creek)
  25. Strike Anywhere - TBA (Fat Wreck)