Best of 2008 - (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2008

Best of 2008: (2008)

staff picks

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Who We Are is staffed by volunteers, writing when they have time and largely of their own individual motivations. There is no editorial mandate here, no bands that we collectively plan coverage of, and likewise none that we collectively plan to praise or pan in reviews. It's fitting then that this overall site list is first seen by most of the editors when the public sees it.

Thus this overall list is determined entirely by math, scoring the albums on the individual writers' lists and running the totals. Once again, we believe you'll find a nice cross-section of the tastes of the Punknews editors and reviewers here.

Of course, the real meat of our yearly retrospective can be found in the individual staffers lists. Make sure to check them out, there are quite a few this year. Also, don't forget the most important list of all, which is yours.

Without further ado...'s Top 20 Albums of 2008

Bridge Nine
By moving away from crisp, rapid-fire youth crew anthems and embracing the ragged, restrained mid-tempo brilliance of Modern Life Is War's Witness, Have Heart have crafted an emotionally complex and nuanced hardcore album. Vocalist Patrick Flynn manages to elicit feelings of desperation, anger, exhaustion, loneliness and confinement while the rest of his band employ a masterful sense of dynamics. They shift from sparse and moody moments of tension to brash minor-key barrages like it's the most natural thing in the world. (Matt Whelihan)
I will admit I went overboard on the review for this record, but it really is a profound piece of heavy music. They are hands down the best hardcore band out right now. If you don't like the record at first, catch them live and they will win you over. (OverDefined)
Scream Hello
Red Leader
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. (Brian)
Sleep It Off
14 ska-punk songs like the kind I used to find on Hello Rockview and Borders & Boundaries. Is GNV FLA a pandering retread after the utter failure that was In with the Out Crowd, Less Than Jake's last album? I don't care. (Jelone)
Sub Pop
There's a fine line between gratuitous noise and welcome chaos, and on Nouns, No Age dance dangerously close to that line. Layers of fuzz, echoing guitars and buzzing loops only strengthen what lies at the base here: a guitar-and-drum duo that simply want to pound the shit out of their instruments. Throw in the fact that these dudes know how to write buried melodies like it ain't no thing and you've got songs that are just as memorable as they are abrasive. (Matt Whelihan)
The Loved Ones
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. (Bryne)
No matter where they're drawing their inspirations from (no, it's not purely a Graceland rip), you can't deny the great songs that fill this record. If you hate them for their image or because you're anti-hype, then you're missing out. (Greg0rb)
Go Kart
Their first EP could have been a fluke, but with their first proper album they prove to be one of the best pop-punk bands around. The band's gruff yet superbly melodic sensibilities are juxtaposed against some of the most world-weary lyrics around on songs like "Empty Your Bottles" that few bands can match. (JonDaley)
No Idea
It is always satisfying when a band delivers on its promise and this album does just that for Bridge and Tunnel. With a dense wall of sound that perfectly marries the aggression of hardcore with '90s Midwestern emo, each time you listen to it there is a bassline or guitar part that you didn't notice before. (JonDaley)
The Constantines
Arts & Crafts
This band kills me they're so good. It's indescribable. I've never played them for someone and had them go "meh." Kensington Heights is the first album from the band that shows their wide range. Their debut self-titled album was more of a subdued rocker; Shine a Light was a raw, kick in the pants from some singer/songwriter punks. Tournament of Hearts was a mindblowing experiment in minimalism. This album sees the band attack full-on rockers paired with folksie finger-pickers and even a few ballads. It's a message to the world: "Hi world, we're Constantines. And we play a few different types of songs, just like they used to do." (Jesse)
John Darnielle continues to be the most engaging storyteller in all of music. His tales of love and redemption backdrop Heretic Pride, but there is so, so much more. (Anchors)
Red Scare
I consider Teenage Bottlerocket to be the greatest active example of an archetypal punk rock band. Their influences are classic, rooted directly in the Ramones, and yet they never sound like revivalists. It's fast, fun, dumb and the attitude's perfect. The band never falls into `70s anachronisms nor do they make the mistake of co-opting currently trendy ideas. If decades from now friends are still getting together to play punk music, it's going to sound a hell of a lot like this. (Adam)
Asian Man
This is only their first LP? Really? The past two years have been insane for this band and you can hear it on the album. It sounds like they finally got a chance to slow down and spend some time just playing and hanging out. When I last talked to them, they said their songs seem to change a lot over the time that they play them and you can hear that her. Get Better has a real "sessions" feel to it. It's a complete document -- even if it isn't their best material, it's cohesive and tight and helps to shed the inevitable yet obnoxious comparisons to Discount and Fifth Hour Hero. (Justin)
No Idea
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 separate Off with Their Heads from the rest of the gruff pop-punk pack. (Bryne)
Polar Bear Club
Red Leader
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. (Brian)
Craig Finn could very well be the voice of a generation. His lyrics seem to perfectly capture the purgatory between being young and being grown up as well as the wondering and self-doubt that goes along with that. The band continues to sound more and more like the E Street band, largely due to an increased keyboard presence. Everything falls perfectly into place on Stay Positive and its 11 songs, making it the perfect album to listen to as I stumble through my own life. (Ben)
Jade Tree
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. (GlassPipeMurder)
Fucked Up
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. (Aubin)
Fat Wreck Chords
I guess I wasn't expecting it to be this good. They always wrote catchy hooks but they stepped it up into straight-up amazing songs that can stand on their own against anyone. It's nice to actually see a band (and people for that matter) age gracefully; check the lyrics to "A Jingle for the Product" for proof. (OverDefined)
Gaslight Anthem
Relentless touring and an amazing debut LP were just part of why these guys are enjoying so much success so early. A combination of varied influences, personal reflection and a classic storyteller mentality blend together resulting in one of the best records of not only the year, but the decade. (Chris)

Past #1s

Honorable Mentions

Smoking Popes: Stay Down (Appeal); Verse: Aggression (Bridge Nine); Good Luck: Into Lake Griffy; The Bronx: The Bronx (White Drugs); Able Baker Fox: Voices (Second Nature); Tim Barry: Manchester (Suburban Home); the Riot Before: Fists in Pockets (Say-10); Akimbo: Jersey Shores (Neurot); Chad VanGaalen: Soft Airplane (Sub Pop); 31Knots: Worried Well (Polyvinyl); Vivian Girls: Vivian Girls (In the Red)

Top 5 EPs

Tie - 4. The Mountain Goats: Satanic Messiah
A perfect companion piece to Heretic Pride, this is probably the closest we will ever get again to old-school MG -- not in a lo-fi sense, but in a stripped-down sense with simple accompaniments to four soft yet lyrically-biting songs. John Darnielle's other EP with Kaki King probably would be on this list too had he come close enough to me to grab the tour-only release. He was a busy man in 2008. (Greg0rb)
Tie - 4. Look Mexico: Gasp Asp [7"]
Tiny Engines / Lujo
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. (Bryne)
Temporary Residence
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. (Brian)
Dead To Me
Fat Wreck Chords
My favorite "Punk Rock" band finally released some new music. And it sounds like Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. Seriously, the title track from this EP could have been on Rock Art or Streetcore -- and it's damned near perfect. "Ran That Scam" is another fantastically introspective look at one of our favorite former scumbags -- and it still works. Here's to hoping African Elephants appears and the band doesn't implode. (Justin)