All of a sudden, it’s Top 10 List time again, which means my fifth year as a staffer here at Dying Scene is coming to a close. In some ways, I love doing these lists, since they allow me to highlight some of the music I dig and perhaps to shine a little bit of light on a some bands that might get otherwise overlooked. But in more ways than one, I loathe this process, as I frequently find it nearly impossible to trim the list to ten (as is evidenced by my less than precise history of compiling these lists). I sometimes feel like we should do these lists twelve months after the close of the year, as that would allow for some albums to sink in moreso than cramming over the last two weeks of December does.
But I digress…
Some years (like last 2014 and 2012, in my opinion) are top heavy, with a small number of clear-cut favorites that find their way to the top of the pile, separated from the field by a fairly sizable gap. Some years, however, have no real front runners, but have an overwhelming number of almost interchangeably solid releases. While the book isn’t quite closed on 2015 yet, I think when all is said and done, we’re dealing with more of the latter than the former.
Painful though it was, I did successfully trim my list to 10 this year, though not without a few noteworthy honorable mentions. In fairness, if I were to do this list again in two weeks, it would include all of the same albums but perhaps in vastly different order. First and foremost, I think there are some non-Dying Scene-related albums worthy of mention on any “Best of 2015” list. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the hell out of The White Buffalo’s Love + The Death of Damnation, Wilco’s Star Wars, Ryan Adams’ 1989, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free, Craig Finn’s Faith In The Future, and Michael Christmas’ What A Weird Day.
Okay, enough with the long-winded intro. Here’s what you all came for. As always, no EPs (though check out the All Brights) and no live albums (though Against Me!’s is on the short-list of best ones I’ve ever heard). First, the “Honorable Mentions.”
#11 (Tie) – Lucero – All A Man Can Do, Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Like Us, Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy, toyGuitar – In This Mess, Joey Cape – Stitch Puppy, Rocky Votolato – Hospital Handshakes, Darkbuster – No Revolution, H2O – Use Your Voice
10. Pentimento – I, No Longer (Bad Timing Records)
I will admit to knowing nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, about label politics (aside from that we’re all supposed to hate Victory, I guess). As such, I can’t pretend to understand what happened between Buffalo’s Pentimento and their former label home of Panic Records. It sure seems to me that Panic dropped the ball in rather epic fashion, as Pentimento has churned out yet another dynamite full length.
Listen to: “My Solution is In The Lake” or “Sink Or Swim.”
9. Antarctigo Vespucci – Leavin’ La Vida Loca (Really Records)
There are corners of this community of ours that seem to think that world-renowned punk celebrity and dominator of all things Instagram Chris Farren can do know wrong. There are corners of this community that happen to think that, aside from blowing up Bomb The Music Industry, Jeff Rosenstock can also do no musical wrong. If we were to make a Venn diagram of those two camps, we’d essentially be left with a perfect circle. Makes sense, then, that Leavin’ La Vida Loca should rank as probably the most fun album of the summer gone by.
Listen to: “2 Days,” “Save Me From Myself”
8. Desaparecidos – Payola (Epitaph Records)
Look, I’m not going to pretend I was familiar with Desaparecidos the first time around, or that I was waiting with baited breath for this album for the better part of a decade; neither one of those things would be true. I knew/know of Conor Oberst from, like, twelve of his other projects, but I guess I had missed Desaparacidos. It’s not my fault; I lived in a cave for a while there. Anyway, this album is great; highly-charged, fast-paced, layered intensity, really from start to finish.
Listen to: “The Left Is Right,” “MariKKKopa”
7. Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People (XtraMile Recordings)
There are a handful of artists from my quarter-century that I’ve actively been listening to my own music (editor’s note: fuuuuuck that sounds depressing in black and white) whom I am pretty much on board with lock, stock and barrel. Frank Turner has solidified himself as one of those artists, where you just know that even an average album is going to connect with you on a level that a lot of other albums either won’t, or won’t be given the change, to connect on. On my very first listen, I thought PS/NP was going to be that type of average album. Good, but not great; more solid than Tape Deck Heart, but with higher lows and lower highs. But then came the album-closing stomach punch of “Silent Key” and “Song For Josh,” two very different, very personal tracks that struck a real chord.
Listen to: the aforementioned “Silent Key” and “Song For Josh,” though “Get Better” and “Josephine” are textbook Turner at his prototypical best.
6. Bad Cop, Bad Cop – Not Sorry (Fat Wreck Chords)
There are myriad reasons that I fell in love with this album. A lot of them are nostalgia related, I think. Pop punk was my bread-and-butter in the early 1990s, well before it got weird and fake and autotuned and plastic. Not Sorry brought me right back to those no pretense days. There’s the added bonus that the four
Ninja Turtles Bad Cops seem destined to take the punk world by storm and beat it into submission. For that reason, the anthemic “Like, Seriously” should have been the album’s first track, but I digress. Either way, we need more bands like Bad Cop, Bad Cop.
Listen to: “Like, Seriously,” “Nightmare”
5. City and Colour – If I Should Go Before You (Dine Alone Records)
I’m not going to lie, this album took me by surprise. I liked the first couple City and Colour albums okay enough. I though Little Hell was really good, though it didn’t really have staying power necessarily. I think I listened to The Hurry And The Harm maybe once all the way through and didn’t find it compelling. So I had kinda lost track of ol’ Dallas Green, until one day my daughter and I were walking through a local Barnes & Noble and they were playing If I Should Go Before You over the loudspeaker on a loop. I was hooked right away. The album is atmospheric, sexy, dirty, raw, poignant, and all of the things I wasn’t quite sure Dallas still had in the tank. Album opener “Woman” is far and away my favorite track of the year by anybody.
Listen to: the opening trio of “Woman,” “Northern Blues” and “Mizzy C” is about as solid as it gets this year.
4. Jared Hart – Past Lives & Pass Lines (Say-10 Records)
New Jersey’s The Scandals have long been one of those bands that have been both critical darlings and have amassed a small legion of vocal, loyal fans. And yet, for whatever reason, they haven’t put out enough music regularly in order to truly break through to the next level or two that they’re capable of. And so, it was with great anticipation (at least to me) that the band’s founding frontman, Jared Hart, put out his first solo full-length this year. While all of the songs are centered on the acoustic, there’s enough layered vocals and varied instrumentation to keep the album from ever feeling formulaic or all-too familiar. Hopefully this kept the creative juices flowing enough so new Scandals and solo material will become a regular thing!
Listen to: “The Guillotine,” “Totem,” “The Runaround”
3. Strung Out – Transmission.Alpha.Delta (Fat Wreck Chords)
Like most of you, I’m a veteran of a great many live shows over the last couple decades. Live music remains the venue for most bands to really make a name for themselves. For my money, there is not a single tighter live band on the planet (at least in this scene) than Strung Out. I’ve seen the band a handful of times at venues large and small, and they have absolutely destroyed each and every time. So much so that there’s almost no comparison. A Strung Out show is so intense that it’ll almost leave you empty. I think that more than any album in their catalog, Transmission.Alpha.Delta captures that ferocity in perfect fashion. You can tell that Jason Cruz and the fellas poured literally everything they had into this album, and it paid off in spades.
Listen to: “The Animal In The Machine,” “Tesla,” “Rebellion of the Snakes.”
2. Bryan McPherson – Wedgewood (O.F.D. Records)
It genuinely pains me that Bryan McPherson is not more of a household name. I strongly believe that he was born in the wrong time; that if he were writing and performing his particular band of protest punk inspired folk music forty years ago, we’d be teaching his music to school children (okay, in some of the more progressive parts of the country, anyway). McPherson’s lyrics a razors, cutting quickly, beautifully, honestly and directly to the core of deep rooted societal issues that are uniquely American. If you’re in to the recent trend toward acoustic punk, Wedgewood is the prototype.
Listen to: the whole damn thing for god’s sake…it’s 49 minutes long, you’ve got time.
1. Rebuilder – Rock And Roll In America (Panic State Records)
If you’re a frequent Dying Scene reader, you may well be aware that I’ve got a special connection to this album. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Rebuilder co-frontmen Sal Medrano and Craig Stanton as they tracked guitars for this album in the studio. I later interviewed Medrano around the album’s release, and about the Boston scene in general. I shot their album release party at a sold-out bar in Boston. That being said, I think I’m enough of a professional (ha!) to be able to differentiate between personal attachment and a genuinely great album. Rock And Roll In America is a genuinely great album from start to finish. It’s smart, it’s fun, it’s just heavy enough to catch you in the feels but hopeful enough to help keep you pointed in the right direction. I can’t say enough good things about it.
Listen to: again, listen to the whole thing. But if you’ve gotta choose, start with “The Natural Bohemian” and “Le Grande Fromage.”
As a bonus, here’s a bunch of the tracks I mentioned above, plus a few random goodies!
Add Rebuilder to My Radar