Mike French is a staff reviewer at Punknews.org - ed.
IntroductionIn 2009, I was added to the Punknews team; I met my favorite band that isn't the Descendents; I recorded two EPs; and I celebrated a one-year anniversary with my girlfriend. There were definitely low points (I discovered I have a paralyzing fear of hospitals, for one), so the year wasn't all sunshine and laughter. Regardless, I made it and 2010 will see the release of my own music and the start of many great opportunities and projects. I want to skip any further rambling and just get right to the music!
Honorable MentionsNOFX - Coaster; The Arteries - Blood, Sweat and Beer; American Steel - Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts; The Catalyst - Swallow Your Teeth; Coalesce - Ox; Converge - Axe to Fall; Government Warning - Paranoid Mess; Hatred Surge - Deconstruct; The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart; Propaghandi - Supporting Caste
Top 20 Full-Lengths/LPs
Teenage Bottlerocket: They Came from the Shadows
Fat Wreck Chords
Teenage Bottlerocket has definitely upped the Descendents influence. The most fun record of the year.
Doomriders: Darkness Comes Alive
I remember seeing this band open for Danzig in 2007 and I had no idea who they were. It also seemed like no one was really into them live, but I looked them up, and sure enough they ripped. Two years later, they release Darkness Comes Alive and really kicked my ass. Remember when metal was catchy? They do.
Nothington: Road, Bridges and Ruins
This replaced Dream Homes as my stereotypical Orgcore choice. There's something in their basic approach that is painfully nostalgic. Also, the band knows exactly when to hit the climax notes in their melodies. Doesn't "Not Looking Down" remind you of the type of song that would be on a Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack?
Tegan and Sara: Sainthood
This album reminds me of Elvis Costello's Armed Forces in the way that there is both a prominant synthetic and organic (or "classic") sound to it -- not to mention "Don't Rush" has a chorus that sounds like it was taken straight off it.
AFI: Crash Love
AFI almost poured out every last ounce of hardcore in time for Crash Love, but this Morrissey-influenced pop album isn't devoid of heaviness; the drums have a pounding, energetic and assertive punk rock feel that recalls old-school AFI. Good job, Adam.
Blacklisted: No One Deserves to Be Here More Than Me
"Mike, it's not that good." "Mike, it's too slow and pretentious." Don't give a fuck; this album rules. It's got influences coming from everywhere and in a world where the "album" is slowly dying, Blacklisted really establishes an atmosphere and mood throughout. You kind of need to listen to the whole album in sequence to "get it."
Bomb the Music Industry!: Scrambles
Quote Unquote / Asian Man
Nothing more needs to be said from me. Read my review. As far as I'm concerned, the most ethically "punk" band in the past few years.
Pulling Teeth: Paranoid Delusions / Paradise Illusions
Basically a metal band now, but Pulling Teeth's frontman Mike Riley has a punk rock spirit to his lyric and vocal attack. There are some fucking awesome guitar solos here.
Owen: New Leaves
Another beautiful-sounding Owen record from Mike Kinsella. Despite his seemingly miserable past, the differences in his new life (husband and father) really shine here.
Punch really knows how to take generic hardcore parts and use them against the listener, deceiving them into thinking they know the formula. You don't know the formula. You probably thought a breakdown was coming after the build up in "Ol' Factory." Wrong
Cymbals Eat Guitars: Why There Are Mountains
Cymbals Eat Guitars wears their influences proudly on their sleeves, but in an extremely captivating and epic fashion. I'm sure these guys will get huge; it's easy to spot good songwriting.
Baroness: Blue Record
I understand the Mastodon comparison, but I really believe Baroness found their own sound. It's hardly even metal -- just heavy. This is really mind-blowing music that I, for one, prefer over anything Mastodon has ever done.
Paramore: brand new eyes
Fueled By Raman
Never understood how people have such a deep hatred for pretty simple pop. "Ignorance" is easily the best mainstream single to come out this year -- maybe because the verse reminds me of Marathon's "Matchmaker, Matchmaker." Regardless, Paramore really stepped up their game and wrote both an aggressive and tender pop record.
Coke Bust: Lines in the Sand
Coke Bust has accomplished what most in this genre fail to do: Write actual songs. With the awkward dichotomy of melodic octave lines and dissonant power chord riffage, there's so much more going on here than meets the eye...or ear, I guess.
Social Circkle: City Shock
About fucking time, eh? There's a certain energy to this record that is refreshing; those drums have me scratching my head. Also, those riffs! Hot damn!
Trapped Under Ice: Secrets of the World
Ignorantly brutal, fun, and involving. Maybe Scott (OverDefined) will mention something about that infamous promo shot too, but their music speaks for themselves. They aren't really singing about "the streets," and they aren't flexing their muscles (at least with any kind of agenda). These guys are just brilliant musicians and that's really all it comes down to.
Castevet: Summer Fences
Count Your Lucky Stars
A powerful mix of emo, post-rock and beard punk. It was my biking soundtrack until my bike got stolen.
Shook Ones: The Unquotable A.M.H.
Paper + Plastick
Painfully infectious; the catchiest record of the year. Does that one riff in "T-Monk" remind you of the Jazz June?
Polar Bear Club: Chasing Hamburg
I stand by my theory that anyone who doesn't appreciate this band is just not looking hard enough at their actual music. But really, between an incredible live performance (yet modest and endearing, like a good hardcore show) and disgustingly in-depth songwriting, Polar Bear Club is currently the best active band. Fight me.
Top 5 EPs
Paint it Black: Amnesia
In 2008, Bridge Nine seemed to be an unstoppable force; who knew in 2009 one of their best releases would be a 7-inch? Paint it Black got a lot more intense on Amnesia and finally recorded in a way that complements their heaviness better.
Title Fight: The Last Thing You Forget
Run for Cover
Less Saves the Day and more mid-'90s emo amalgamation. Way to sound like Polar Bear Club, guys.
Make Do and Mend: Bodies of Water
I got this on a DIY CD-R in December of 2008, subsequently reviewing it and being blown away. I told everyone in that review that you could download it for free, but by that time, they had already gotten a deal with Panic. One of the most sincere live shows I've ever seen. Make Do and Mend, thanks for giving me a friend on one of the loneliest winter nights of my life.
DC/Metropolitan Locals SpotlightMost of my weekends were spent alongside the DC/metropolitan punk/hardcore scene. These are my favorite local artists who released music in 2009:
- Coke Bust - Coke Bust is DC's hadcore powerhouse. They released their debut LP Lines in the Sand this year and finally made me a fan. Kudos.
- Deathrats - They released a self-titled seven-inch on To Live a Lie Records and put on my favorite local hardcore show -- all this year. Deathrats has some seriously unorthodox playing that's refreshing for the genre.
- The Ambulars - DC's answer to the Alkaline Trio. "Lighthouse," from their 2009 EP (Summer of the Ambulars), is one of the catchiest melodies ever.
- Give - Started sounding like a Revolution summer throwback, but with their LP, they sound kinda like a mixture of indie rock and straight rock 'n' roll.
- Troops of Tomorrow - A bunch of hardcore kids playing some genuinely sloppy street punk -- the way it should be. It's really cool to hear their youth crew influence in their music. In 2009, they released a demo casette and opened for Trapped Under Ice and Title Fight.