Hey boys and girls, Jay Stone checking in with yet another year-end list. As has been the case every year I’ve done one of these exercises, I put way more than ten albums on my list this year, because honestly, cutting the list at ten leaves out too much awesome music. As you should also know, there’s a lot of awesome music that we don’t cover at Dying Scene, so I put some of that on the list as well. And if you scroll all the way down, there’s also a handy Spotify playlist that’ll keep you fired up for a couple hours. Check it all out below!
The Lillingtons – Stella Sapiente, No Trigger – Adult Braces, Oh My Snare – Murk Matinal, The Eradicator – The Eradicator, Dead Bars – Dream Gig, Dead Swords – Skeletons and Broken Souls.
Stuff We Don’t Cover
Steve Earle – So You Wanna Be An Outlaw, Craig Finn – We All Want The Same Things, Joshua Black Wilkins – Rogue, Scott H. Biram – The Bad Testament, Jason Isbell – The Nashville Sound.
The Spotify Playlist
20. Mt. Eddy – Chroma
I think that I actually like this album a lot more than #20, but I only stumbled upon it late in the game and consequently didn’t get a chance to fully dig in. If I revisit my “Best of 2017” list in June 2018, this will probably be a lot higher. The fact that they’re maybe 18 years old is totally bewildering to me.
19. Decent Criminal – Bloom
Northern California’s Decent Criminal put out a full-length album in 2016 and turned right around and put out a superior one this year. Decent Criminal channel a sort of 90’s garage/alternative rock vibe amidst their power-pop fury. Really rad band that should be bigger than they are.
18. Teenage Bottlerocket – Stealing The Covers
I’m normally opposed to putting cover albums on my year-end lists, but goddamn it this is just too fun. If you’re not familiar, TBR compiled a bunch of songs from unsigned bands they’ve encountered along the way and recorded in traditional Teenage Bottlerocket. They’re smart, they’re fast, they’re funny. If you didn’t know better, you might think songs like “Shit, Fuck, God Damn” and “Why The Big Pause” and “Robocop Is A Halfbreed Sellout” weren’t originally by Teenage Bottlerocket themselves.
17. Darius Koski – What Was Once Is By And Gone
Longtime Swingin’ Utters guitarist and principal songwriter Darius Koski put out his second solo album on Fat Wreck Chords a couple months ago and hit a home run in the process. Compiled from bits and pieces of recordings he’s amassed over the years, it eschews a bit of the Americana vibe of his first solo album, 2015’s Sisu, and takes some dark and weird and melodic turns.
16. Ratboys – GN
You know how sometimes you hear a band on your crappy laptop speakers and you think “hey, they’re alright” and then you see them live and you think “whoa, that band actually rules and their old albums don’t do them justice” and then they put out a new album and you think “see…I was right, their old albums don’t do them justice.” Ratboys was that band for me this year. I’m not going to try to quantify Ratboys’ sound except to say that if you’re of a certain age (say, at least mid-30s) and/or still have a penchant for melodic 90’s indie rock, don’t sleep on GN.
15. Showoff – Midwest Side Story
So being on eight-thousand music industry email blast lists is typically more of a curse than a blessing, but sometimes you stumble into a goddamn goldmine. So it was that the initial email announcing that Chris from Showoff and his wife had started a new label, Dodgeball Records, AND that said label was putting out the new Showoff album. Showoff have obviously been around for a long time, but Midwest Side Story is their first full length since 2001, when they were on Madonna’s record label. This album rules hard, and is a perfect throwback to the late 90s pop punk heyday.
14. Ezra – Speakers In The Sky
Speaking of surprise press releases, what caught me most about the promotional lead-up to Speakers In The Sky‘s release, I seem to recall Ryan Young referring to it as his favorite album right now and one of his favorite albums of all time. Sure, he’s biased because he released the album on his label, but I’ll be damned if he wasn’t on to something. Earnest, bombastic, piano-driven punk rock that’s full of one hopeful, triumphant crescendo after another.
13. Racquet Club – Racquet Club
There are a lot of people who came to Racquet Club by way of frontman Blair Sheehan, and rightfully so, primarily through his prior work with fencepost emo bands like The Jealous Sound and Knapsack. A longtime fan of Samiam, and specifically of Sergie Loobkoff’s guitar playing, I took a bit more of a circuitous route. No matter which road brought you to Racquet Club, their self-titled debut full-length is chock full of all of the reasons; swirling melodies, dynamic rhythm, dive-bombing guitars. Sounds like a record that you’re already super familiar with right from the first listen.
12. Greg Graffin – Millport
I’ve been a fan of Greg Graffin’s for the better part of a quarter-century now, but aside from the stripped-down version of “Sorrow” that came on the deluxe version of New Maps Of Hell a decade ago, I’ve found his previous solo work to be more “miss” than “hit.” That changed with Millport in a big way. Graffin surrounded himself with a who’s who of alt-country and Americana players and banged out a stellar ten-song album. The electric rendition of “Lincoln’s Funeral Train” gives the plodding but somber feeling that you’re witnessing that very ride go by.
11. Choke Up – Stormy Blue
I’ve been all-aboard the good ship Choke Up for a couple years, since the first time I saw them live at a small bar in Boston (shout out to O’Brien’s). I’d never heard them before, but I was clearly alone in that regard, as the band’s fans were among the most passionate and vocal as I’ve ever heard, singing along at every opportunity. Fast-forward to another show this year – at a bigger venue – that coincided with the release of the band’s stellar sophomore album, Stormy Blue, and the results were effectively the same, a fact made more impressive by the fact that the chant-along took place vocally for songs that weren’t even officially released yet.
10. Tim Barry – High on 95
I’m not alone in this line of thinking, but Tim Barry is one of the few songwriters out there that I’ve kinda looked upon as a spirit guide over the years. No matter what they life stage you’re going through, Tim’s not only been there but he’s written just about the most straight-forward gut wrenching lyrics about it. High on 95 finds him with ample fertile ground to pull his inspiration from more than a decade into his solo career. Check out “Running Never Tamed Me” for the painful proof.
9. The Bombpops – Fear Of Missing Out
The Bombpops are one of those bands that have been in my peripheral for a long time, but it took me a long time ultimately get into. In fact, it took a couple listens to their debut full length, Fear Of Missing Out, and an entertaining appearance on the Mable Syndrome podcast before I really “got” them. They’re fun, they’re high energy, and they play the kind of frenetic pop-punk that basically defined my formative music listening years. No wonder they landed at Fat Wreck Chords!
8. The Scandals – Lucky Seven
For a variety of reasons, I’ve set a hardfast rule in years passed and about not putting EPs in my year-end list, and I’ve stuck to it religiously since 2011. 2017 finds me vacating that rule not once but twice, Here, we have the Lucky Seven EP put out by New Jersey’s The Scandals, a four-piece punk rock and roll outlet centered around the obscenely talented Jared Hart. It had been way too long since the Scandals had put out new music – in part because they’re so damn busy – and it’s only five songs, but you take what they give you. And what they give you is a little gritty and rough around the edges but with melodies and harmonies (they’re from Jersey, so there are plenty of “whoa-oh-ohs”) by the truck load.
7. Cory Branan – Adios
From this point forward, all albums on my list are effectively interchangable, and may have even changed since I hit “submit” on this story. How Cory Branan doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath – and play the same sized venues – as guys like Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton and John Prine and even John Moreland is goddamn baffling to me. Branan is far-and-away one of the best lyricists this scene has ever seen and it’s not even particularly close, and he plays guitar like he’s summoning something from a deep, dark place. Speaking of deep, dark places, the years leading up to Adios found Branan both becoming a father and losing his own father, and he used those polar opposite life events to pen his “death album” in a way that’s as smart and razor-sharp and stomach-punching as ever.
6. Rebuilder – Sounds From The Massachusetts Turnpike
Here we go again with breaking my own internal “no EPs” rule, but it’s for damn good reason. It’s no secret that I’m a big Rebuilder cheerleader, but the boys stepped up their game again, surprising even me in the process. Sounds From The Massachusetts Turnpike is a little more straight-forward “punk rock” than its full-length predecessor, Rock And Roll In America, was, and co-frontmen Craig Stanton and Sal Medrano continue to churn out thoughtful, earnest harmonies the likes of which we don’t hear nearly enough of anymore.
5. Hot Water Music – Light It Up
Hot Water Music have reached the point in their collective career where they could probably rest on their laurels, come together to play a handful of festivals here and abroad, and that would be fine with their devout fanbase. But this is Hot Water Music we’re talking about, and “resting on their laurels” doesn’t appear in their vocabulary. Light It Up marks the band’s eighth studio album, and it sounds exactly like you’d hope a Hot Water Music album would sound in 2017; it’s got some raw elements that evoke the early days, it’s got more than a little influence from Ragan and Wollard’s solo projects, and it’s propelled by a backbeat that’s gotten a little punkier since George Rebelo took over the drum reins in Bouncing Souls. Nice logical progression from Caution-era change in direction.
4. Dave Hause – Bury Me In Philly
My love and appreciation for Dave Hause and his songwriting have been highlighted many times on these pages over the last half-decade — Devour remains a desert island album in my book — and so I almost feel guilty having this album listed fourth. When Dave and I talked close to a year ago, just before BMIP hit the streets, he mentioned being nervous to hear my take because he knew how much Devour meant to me. I said at the time that he totally nailed it on BMIP, and my opinion on that has only strengthened over time. It’s an album of redemption, and of moving on, and serves as a happier, brighter light in the darkness, which is so tremendously important for personal and societal reasons right now. It’s a little weird at times, it’s a little 80s-inspired rock and roll at other times, and it’s all damn enjoyable.
3. The Menzingers – After The Party
Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the 1980s, but I will never not be a sucker for coming-of-age films and especially coming-of-age albums. After The Party is, in many ways, The Menzingers real foray into that territory, and it’s stellar. The hooks and the big, sweeping, singalong choruses that we’ve come to love from the Pennsylvania foursome are present and as tight as ever. Lyrically, it’s an open and honest and funny and sad reflection on what it’s like to realize that the hopes and the dreams and good times you had in your younger years have come to a sometimes screeching halt and, because you’re still standing, you’re left to figure out what’s next. I know people love Chamberlain Waits and especially On The Impossible Past, but After The Party is The Menzingers’ crown jewel.
2. Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Warriors
I’ll be blunt: there’s not a thing about this album that I don’t love on a whole variety of levels. Warriors is the first real aggressive album of the post-Trump election, and start to finish, it’s a gigantic middle finger and an epic shot across the bow to those that think that women, minorities, and people the current administration have a tendency to marginalize. We’re lucky to have a band like Bad Cop/Bad Cop proudly waving their collective battle flags. Honestly, I could have just put this whole album in the Spotify playlist above, but I chose to highlight a couple that are indicative of their ability to overcome personal and social demons and kick all kinds of ass on the other side.
1. The Flatliners – Inviting Light
Not to rip myself off, but just as with Warriors, there’s nothing I don’t love about this album. Proving that nothing gold can stay but you can always spray paint it again, The Flatliners are not a band that’s content to put out the same sounding album twice, and they took their time crafting Inviting Light with good reason. It’s still raw and full of deadpan, sarcastic piss-and-vinegar in all the right places, but the band really focused on the music and the melodies this time, creating an incredibly dynamic album full of sweeping highs contrasting with droning lows. Start to finish, from first listen, this album made total and complete sense to me. “Chameleon Skin” might be my favorite song of the year.