I’m not going to lie to you. 2014 was a bit of a downer year for music as well as movies. In both categories, it wasn’t easy to scrape together ten shining examples of excellence in entertainment. Which isn’t to say the ten on this list are less than stellar in my own opinion. But with the exception of the first few spots, I wasn’t blown away by much of what the world of punk and quasi-punk had to offer this year. I can only hope that means that old man punk rock has been saving all his gems for 2015.
Below are my top ten picks for the best punk (and punk-ish) releases of 2014.
10. Only Crime – “Pursuance”
Due to other commitments, near death illnesses and, well, life, Pursuance was an album long in gestation before finally dropping this past spring. While the world awaits new releases from Good Riddance and Descendents, Pursuance is a nice holdover, featuring a healthy mix of both those bands, as well as old school jazz rhythms like those found on Vince Garibaldi’s records (the guy that made the flawless Charlie Brown Christmas album). Hardcore jazz punk? Yes please.
9. Imelda May – “Tribal”
Irish rockabilly queen Imelda May has been putting her impressive pipes to use for nearly ten years now. Churning out a smorgasbord of 50’s rock n’ roll, blues, r&b and soul. Always fast, heavy and razor sharp. Tribal is her tour de force, a record that straddles the line between psychobilly, surf and gypsy punk. Think Wanda Jackson. But faster.
8. The Hi-Boys – “Shake”
Another exemplary rockabilly ripper from these Australian sock hoppers. Much more traditional 50’s rockabilly than Imelda May’s more modern take. Although they do drift into proto-psychobilly territory a la The Cramps from time to time. For fans of this electrifying form of music, or those of you who STILL haven’t gotten over Elvis’ death, Shake will ignite a wild rumpus under your own in no time.
7. NOI!SE – “The Scars We Hide”
Call it Oi!, call it street punk, call it Euro hardcore, call it adult contemporary if you want, one thing is for certain: Seattle’s Noi!se are one of the best punk bands on the planet right now. And The Scars We Hide is one of the catchiest, hardest hitting, most emotionally rich and uncompromising recordings the genre produced these past twelve months.
6. (Tie) The Interrupters – S//T
Here’s what I don’t get about Tim Armstrong. He helps produce, market and even co writes a great deal of this fantastic ska punk debut record from this Hellcat foursome (he also used most of the band in many of his Tim Timebomb and Friends recordings), and as a result produces a record which is way better than the new Rancid one. Move over grandpa, the younguns are taking over.
6. (Tie) Tim Timebomb & Friends – S/T
The first full length collection of Tim Armstrong’s impressively ambitious Tim Timebomb recordings, which featured hundreds of songs he recorded with, you know, his friends. These cuts literally give you a little bit of everything the man is about: punk, ska, reggae, first wave country, r&b, blues, folk, rockabilly. With the decent, but disappointing new Rancid record causing shoulders to shrug the world over, let it be officially said that as of 2014: the Rancid camp side projects are officially better than the band itself.
5. Roll The Tanks – “Broke Til Midnight”
An endlessly energetic, impossibly catchy sophomore release from these Boston area rippers. Toe tappy, poppy punk tunes about friends, drinking and spinning vinyl. All while broke til midnight, when the paycheque hits the bank account. To go vintage Chandler for a moment, ‘could they be any more blue collar.’ And real. This shit rocks. Like PUP’s debut with more sheen.
4. Death From Above 1979 – T”he Physical World”
How ‘punk’ you consider this band to be is negligible, what isn’t is the pure rock and roll brilliance of their comeback album The Physical World. Stripped down, concise, well crafted songs that will tap toes and bang heads until the next Death From Above release. In 2024, probably.
3. PUP – S/T
Technically this is a cheat for me because the album came out here in Canada last year, but because I heard it after I made my list last year, and because Side One Dummy didn’t pump it out in America until earlier this year, it shall finally receive the spot it deserves. I, as does everyone who has heard and gotten hyped on this record, expect big things from these Torontonians. Dropping a debut record that is equal parts thrashy punk and crooney melodies, gritty and pretty and sloppy and spitty. An instant classic. Mark my words.
2. Pixies – Indie Cindy
While some believe that for the Pixies to return without Kim Deal is a affront to the legacy of the band, I feel that as long as Frank Black is holding the reins, I will follow this band into the ocean. Where I would like to dip my toe, every time I listen to this brilliant, gorgeous, abrasive record. Is it Doolittle? No, and nothing else will ever be. But it is Pixies through and through. What more do you want?
1. Swingin’ Utters – “Fistful of Hollow”
This album is everything I wanted it to be and more. Better than anything else I heard this year. I’ve listened to it more than any other album that was released in 2014, and it’s only been out a month! Seeing the band perform some of the album’s choice cuts opening for Lagwagon a few weeks ago didn’t hurt things either. Also features the best song of the year for my money in ‘Tell Them Told You So.’ Truly one of history’s greatest punk rock bands. Fistful of Hollow is one of the reasons why.