Tyler Barrett is a staff reviewer at Punknews.org - ed. Another year, another barely believable chapter in life, and of course another great pile of CDs to enjoy (among another pile of CDs that's significantly less great). It's funny... MP3s have been spreading around the internet for the better part of a decade now, but I find nothing to be as convenient, satisfying and worth my money than a shiny, plastic compact disc. Neither the cumbersome vinyl LP or the "soulless" (per Tony Victory) MP3 can come close to what I get out of opening up a new compact disc and finding a spot for it on my shelf. Speaking of Victory, what happened to that label? And for that matter, what happened to Drive-Thru, Fearless and Equal Vision Records? Labels that had financially (and sometimes critically) successful outputs a few years ago pumping money into whatever was trendy at the time barely seemed to make a mark the last two years. Meanwhile, companies like Fat Wreck Chords, Red Scare and No Idea haven't slowed their yield of quality albums at all. Hmmm...talk amongst yourselves. Anyways, enough with the spontaneous analyses...on with the list:
Top 20 LPs of 2009
Franz Nicolay: Major General
The man, the myth, the moustache. In between touring and recording with the Hold Steady, World/Inferno Friendship Society, Guignol and a host of other acts, Franz delights with songs like "Nightratsong" and "Jeff Penalty" among others that made this album a winner.
The Mars Volta: Octahedron
Well, I donno what to say. I didn't really think I would like this softer side of the Mars Volta very much, but I'm nevertheless impressed by Omar and Cedric's continued songwriting prowess
Holding on to Sound: Songs of Freedom
This Las Vegas trio broke onto the scene in a big way in 2009, scoring opening spots for NOFX and Off with Their Heads among others, and spreading their gruff reggae punk styles through Songs of Freedom.
Green Day: 21st Century Breakdown
Yeah, we know, Warning was better, and frankly, American Idiot was better, too. But 21st Century Breakdown is still a good listen, and more importantly, it succeeded in further pissing of the incessantly irritable John Lydon.
Nine Eleven: City of Quartz
Chorus of One
French hardcore that would be just as capable of grabbing one's attention without the over-the-top name. 2009 seemed like a fairly quiet year for youth-crew-revival hardcore, but Nine Eleven's effort made up for the lack of others'.
Star Fucking Hipsters: Never Rest in Peace
Featuring the Subhumans/Citizen Fish duo of Dick Lucas and Jasper Pattison and a more varied set of styles than Until We're Dead, this disc further demonstrates the far-reaching capabilities of the Choking Victim family.
Unknown Instructors: Funland
Take legendary contributors from the Minutemen, Black Flag, Rocket from the Tombs and Saccharine Trust among others, let them write beat poetry and play whatever they want, and you get the trippy dreamscape that is Funland.
The Manix: Stay Low and Go
Heart of the Lakes
Fun, catchy, and sincere Minneapolis pop-punk heard here somewhere in between a a long EP and a mini-LP. Solid dudes, solid tunes.
Cursive: Mama, I'm Swollen
A concept album incognito, Cursive's return was a near perfect balance of punk energy and indie rock introspection.
Noise by Numbers: Yeah, Whatever...
This Windy City pop-punk supergroup's debut was surprisingly deep, bringing to mind '90s Chicago acts like the Broadways and Tuesday with a more accessible rock sound.
Rancid: Let the Dominoes Fall
Influencing everyone from Modern Life Is War to Off with Their Heads, Rancid was given an unfair shake in the review of their ska-filled comeback this year. Sure, it's no Life Won't Wait, but with songs like "East Bay Night," "New Orleans" and "Up to No Good," it's the next best thing.
Sonic Youth: The Eternal
Sonic Youth's last two albums have been so focused and consistent, it's almost like the legendary band has hit a kind of renaissance period after a time when the art had begun overshadowing the enjoyment. The Eternal's post-punk-meets-garage rock proves Rather Ripped was no resurgent fluke.
Strike Anywhere: Iron Front
From Jade Tree to Fat Wreck to Bridge 9, Strike Anywhere hasn't lost a step and prove it on their latest LP. Melodic hardcore at its finest.
Dead to Me: African Elephants
Fat Wreck Chords
Forging onward without Jack Dalrymple as Chicken's foil proved a difficult task, but Dead to Me was up to the challenge. Diverse and divisive, this record moved the band into uncharted territory, losing some fans but hopefully winning over a few of the skeptics.
Converge: Axe to Fall
Can anyone match the intensity of Kurt Ballou and Jacob Bannon alongside Nate Newton and Ben Koller? No one can. No one can even come close and that is a scientific fact.
Teenage Bottlerocket: They Came from the Shadows
Fat Wreck Chords
Since Kody Lillington joined in 2004, Teenage Bottlerocket has been absolutely unstoppable when it comes to writing fun, catchy tunes that just keep getting better.
Dear Landlord: Dream Homes
Forget the rivalry between Minneapolis and Chicago. With the Arrivals first and now the infectious pop-punk of Dear Landlord spreading through the country faster than H1N1, Dream Homes captures the fun in a half-hour of infectious tunes.
Banner Pilot: Collapser
Fat Wreck Chords
It's hard to fully explain what makes this album so good, because it's more a feeling than a qualitative analysis. At any rate, it's one of the most intelligent, thoughtful pop-punk records to come out in a long, long time.
Top 10 Eps
Amish Electric Chair: Straight. No Chaser
Melodic and political punk much like Anti-Flag but with more humor and less redundancy of subjects.
This Is Hell: Warbirds 7"
Sounding more Suicidal Tendencies than Bane, This Is Hell still manage to pull off some killer cuts and a fantastic cover of Warzone's "Crazy But Not Insane."
Intro5pect: Record Profits
Returning to the label that launched their career, Intro5pect's beeps, whirs, and at 300 bpm rhythms, they haven't lost a beat.
Reaching Hand: Threshold
Thorp / Chorus of One
Female-fronted straight edge hardcore. From Portugal. It's good. That's all.
MxPx: Left Coast Punk
After years of weak releases, MxPx has returned to form in the last two years, going D.I.Y. for this 15-minute EP.
Paint It Black: Surrender 7"
Fat Wreck Chords
The first of two Paint it Black EPs on this year's list, the only thing worse about this was its shorter length.
The Loved Ones: Distractions
Fat Wreck Chords
"Spy Diddley" was a great song that finally found its way onto a studio release after appearing on the Fat Christmas comp three years ago, and the Loved Ones' cover of Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' "Coma Girl" is second only to the original.
Paint It Black: Amnesia 7"
Punishing and relentless, "Salem" was one of the year's best hardcore songs and this EP proved Bridge 9 is still devoted to authentic no-holds-barred-hardcore.
The Lawrence Arms: Buttsweat and Tears 7"
Fat Wreck Chords
Even though I really could've gone for a Larry Arms full-length, Buttsweat hit the spot while leaving me thirsty for more.
Classics of Love: Walking in Shadows
The triumphant return of Jesse Michaels in a band that overflows with the unpredictable punk spirit and the thoughtful musical poetry one would expect from the 20-year punk veteran.
Why Being Poor Sucks (albums and EPs excluded because I haven't heard them in their entirety)NOFX - Coaster; Propagandhi - Supporting Caste; Thursday - Common Existence; A Wilhelm Scream - A Wilhelm Scream EP; Shook Ones - The Unquotable A.M.H.; Polar Bear Club - Chasing Hamburg; American Steel - Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts; Anti-Flag - The People or the Gun; The Sidekicks - Weight of Air; Pulley - Time Insensitive Material
Top 3 Compilations
Pinhead Gunpowder: Kick Over the Traces
Sure, it's a best-of album for a band that never had it. Then again, it is Pinhead Gunpowder, one of the best East Bay punk bands of all time.
The Slackers: Lost and Found
The Slackers continue their tradition of massive output with a bunch of the great reggae and ska tunes everyone expects and their fans horde.
Last Lights: No Past No Present No Future
A crucial collection of songs compiling the band's existence before the tragic death of lead singer Dominic Mallary. Consider it a final gift from one of the most promising young voices in hardcore.
Top 3 Reissues
Druglords of the Avenues: Sing Songs
We didn't get a new Swingin' Utters album in 2009, but Red Scare came to the rescue reissue this fantastic self-made debut fronted by Johnny 'Peebucks' Bonnel. Not only is it one of the catchiest street punk albums in a long time, the lyrics hold up against the most literate of wordsmiths out there.
Top 3 "New to Me" albums or albums I didn't fully appreciate until this calendar year
The Locust: New Erections
For a long time, I refused to consider listening to the Locust for what I presumed was a gimmick only designed to make up for their horrifically abrasive music. I was partially right.
Tokyo Police Club: Elephant Shell
At first I considered this a guilty pleasure, but as time has worn on, I've realized it's one of the most listened albums I own. With the classic pop hooks of the Beatles and the mod-punk energy of the Jam, there's no guilt in this pleasure.
Radon: We Bare All
OK, this is actually a compilation, but this category is for old stuff anyway so who cares. Radon is one of the hidden legends of punk rock, and their ability to write a catchy tune with whacked-out lyrics is second to none.
- Banner Pilot - Central Standard
- Rancid - East Bay Night
- The Loved Ones - Coma Girl
- Noise by Numbers - Northern Lights
- The Manix - NO Country
- Dear Landlord - I Live in Hell
- Teenage Bottlerocket - Skate or Die
- Green Day - Murder City
- The Lawrence Arms - Demons
- Classics of Love - Countdown
- Sonic Youth - Malibu Gas Station
- Cursive - I Couldn't Love You
- Star Fucking Hipsters - Dreams Are Dead
- Unknown Instructors - Frownland
- Franz Nicolay - This World Is an Open Door
- TSOL - Go to Bed Sleepy
- Strike Anywhere - I'm Your Opposite Number
- Dead to Me - Fell Right In