Aubin is a news editor, reviewer, and the founder of Punknews.org. - ed.
Looking back at 2008
Next year, Punknews.org will turn 10. It's hard to believe that we're still here, and even harder to comprehend everything that has happened since 1999. If you remember, '99 was the midst of the first Internet boom; major events like the dot-com bust, the 9/11 tragedy and Sarah Palin weren't even on the radar. Fugazi and Kid Dynamite were still together. Hell, Kanye West hadn't even released an album yet and now he can't seem to stop.
You might have seen the Punknews.org history page, but I can promise you that 2009 will bring some of the biggest changes and improvements to Punknews.org in ages. But before we go there, we should probably look back at 2008.
Along with music, the amount of compelling creative works in 2008 has been outstanding; we got Fallout 3 and Fable 2 in video games, movies like The Dark Knight, Wall-E and Slumdog Millionaire and books like The Graveyard Book and Lush Life. With that in mind, let's look at the best albums of 2008.
Best of 2008
20. Flying Lotus: Los Angeles
While much of the genre hype this year revolved around Girl Talk, the real star of hip-hop-influenced experimental music was certainly Flying Lotus. Like DJ Shadow's Endtroducing, Flying Lotus creates an elegant and relaxed record that fuses hip-hop beats, cinematic instrumentation and dub tempos.
While I enjoyed Erase All Names and Likeness, it really didn't explode the way Ruined Lives does. Lives is a intense and aggressive take on the kind of post-hardcore that Gravity Records and Level Plane specialize in.
While the post-rock/metal pool has become a little crowded since Isis and Pelican blew up, there is clearly a great deal of untapped potential left in the genre, as evidenced by Station. Trading in the slow build-to-climax of their contemporaries for evolving variations on a theme; Station is as hypnotic as it is cathartic.
Like 2007's The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere
, 31 Knots' songs are deceptively simple but effortlessly explore ideas and experiments. Usually, "experimental" is code for meandering everywhere but where you want them to go, but 31 Knots graciously invites you along.
Haunting and memorable hardcore equally influenced by Black Flag, the Melvins and Explosions in the Sky.
Sure, they're incredibly serious about everything, but this record is undeniably fun to listen to. With thumping beats and distinctively British inflections in any word, the band really does follow in the path of their heroes in Wire and Gang of Four.
These Arms Are Snakes occupy their only little place in music; like Fugazi and At the Drive-In, the music has undeniably evolved from punk and hardcore, but their melodic, rhythmic and creative sense is unparalleled.
I'll be honest, TWDY is not doing anything spectacularly new. The band occupies a precarious place directly between Pelican and Explosions in the Sky, but what they lack in uniqueness, they more than account for in songwriting. Few instrumental albums have the sweeping power of This Will Destroy You; it's haunting, beautiful and heavy. Listen to it while reading Cormac McCarthy's Road and you'll understand.
I didn't see it coming. Every year, an established band promises a return to form after a number of disappointing albums and Metallica has had a lot
of those. Yet, here we are in December 2008 and I'm still enjoying Death Magnetic
. It's not Master of Puppets
or ...And Justice for All
but it'll remind you why you loved Metallica and that's worth something.
I guess this is growing up.
Miserable, misanthropic, melodic and memorable.
A stunning political hardcore record. Barely contained vocal fury layered on creative and complex arrangements. For all the attention given to "experimental" and "chaotic" hardcore bands, it's easy to forget that some of the best hardcore comes down to songwriting, not gimmicks.
A union of Strung Out, the Mars Volta and Dragonforce with all of the good and none of the bad. Just compelling, progressive punk and metal.
This one came out of nowhere; I dug it up after a positive review on this site and was blown away by what I heard. Highly intelligent and creative hardcore with a powerful narrative and diverse and memorable songwriting. Hopefully their signing to Bridge Nine will bring them some of the attention they richly deserve.
This has been a big year for the Gaslight Anthem, and it is fully deserved.
Fat Wreck Chords
All the hype and anticipation for a new Dillinger Four record started to run together in 2008. After years of waiting for a new record, I started to wonder if I had just gotten used to the waiting and started to wonder if any record would satisfy us. Well, I'm happy to say that C I V I L W A R satisfies completely. Songs like "Clown Cars on Cinder Blocks" and "Americaspremierefaithbasedinitiative" are among the best songs written in 2008, period.
Unlike many of the bands crushed under the inevitable indie rock hype steamroller, No Age are actually done a disservice by the hype machine. Swirling distortion and feedback combined with an undeniable pop sensibility, No Age are the heirs of Sonic Youth and Hüsker Dü.
Recorded like a independent metal album, but undeniably hardcore in bend, This Is Hell's Misfortunes is a flawless modern hardcore record. The final two tracks, "Memoirs" and "Last Days Campaign" create 2008's best hardcore epic.
Like nothing else released this year, TV on the Radio continue to confound expectations and encourage creativity. More accessible than Return to Cookie Mountain and yet more comfortable with stylistic shifts and musical experimentation, Dear Science cover everything from the Beach Boys to Fugazi.
I tried to explain Fucked Up to someone and realized that Fucked Up isn't Black Flag or the Fugazi; they're the Who. Just like the Who aimed to stretch the vocabulary of rock'n'roll, Fucked Up want to create a new one for hardcore. Songs like "Black Albino Bones" and "Royal Swan" stretch hardcore to the point of breaking, but push it forward rather than abandon it. Not since the Refused has any band played so fast and loose with the "rules" of hardcore while creating more opportunities for those who follow.
Parts & Labor - Paint It Black - Polar Bear Club - Mogwai - La Dispute - Deerhunter - Rise Against - Nine Inch Nails - Girl Talk - Shorebirds - Suicide Note
Thursday - P.O.S. - Leathermouth - Appleseed Cast - Black Lips