The end of the year is always my favorite time of year because who doesn’t love massaging their own ego while talking about their favorite records? It’s wonderful to see everyone showing off their tastes in music, often times thought of as superior, and I love every moment of it. We were told directly by Dying Scene head honcho Johnny X that we had to stick to writing a simple list of 10 albums this year, but I decided to go in a different direction because anarchy. But also because I wrote this before he gave any guidelines.
You can jump into my self-indulgence below.
Best album that helped get me through several 12+ hour work days: Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?
I could go into a long spiel about how Bomb the Music Industry! was really important to my development as a person. I could talk at length about how the band taught me the importance of DIY ethics much like how Fugazi did for youth subculture in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I could go on for paragraphs about how even though I didn’t always love their music, Bomb the Music Industry! held a special place in my heart for standing up for what they believed in.
I could do all that, but instead I’ll say this: there were several weeks in a row this year where I worked over 50 hours, and listening to Jeff Rosenstock’s latest solo outing is what got me through each individual day. Rosenstock truly understands how to turn the shitty realization that you might be a shitty adult into a super great song.
Best pissed off hardcore record that made some of my co-workers uncomfortable but they still let me listen to: War on Women – War on Women
More work related memories! There are plenty of people I work (or have worked with) who don’t care for most of what I listen to, but it’s usually okay because our paths don’t cross all that often, except for when we’re setting up for a brunch shift. Generally they can ignore whatever I have on until I leave the room, but War on Women hold the distinction of being the one band that I was asked to turn off in the middle of a song because the lyrics were making my coworker uncomfortable.
I guess they should have just been glad I wasn’t listening to G.L.O.S.S. at the time. Anyway, this record rules and the fact that the lyrics can make people uncomfortable, including myself sometimes, makes me love it more.
Best album to shout along with alone at work: Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People
Similar to We Cool?, Frank Turner’s latest album got me through a lot of long work days. The highlight of my job is that I spend half of my days unsupervised, which means I get to play music as loud as I want and I can shout along without disturbing anyone. Turner knows how to write singable anthems, and Positive Songs is nothing but goddamn anthems.
Best album by a band that for some reason we didn’t cover on Dying Scene beforehand: Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
Sure, Screaming Females utilize more guitar licks and distorted solos than your average punk band, but we really dropped the ball here. Rose Mountain is probably the band’s most accessible album to date, which makes it the ideal starting place for someone just starting to get into them. Maybe that’s you! The hooks are front-and-center, stuffed inside heavy riffs, and wrapped in a neat, 36 minute package.
Best debut LP by a band that released two stellar EPs last year: Antarctigo Vespucci – Leavin’ La Vida Loca
If you ask me, there’s only one band that released two great EPs in 2014 and a wonderful full length in 2015 that matters, and that band is Antarctigo Vespucci. If you think it’s any other band you’re wrong.
Best album by a band I didn’t care for much before: Elway – Better Whenever
Historically speaking, I’ve never really been a fan of Elway. It wasn’t for any particular reason, I just didn’t feel a need to listen to more adult pop punk about being sad. But “Chillswitch Engage” from last year’s Red Scare 10th Anniversary comp was so good that I gave the band another shot and that might just be the best musical decision I made all year. Better Whenever is a record for the freaks and losers who need a place to belong, and reminds me why I was drawn to punk rock in the first place.
Best album that I bought after only hearing two and a half songs: Success – Radio Recovery
In September I flew out to California for my cousin’s wedding, and I pulled an all-nighter looking for new music for my flight. I had read positive reviews for Success and their new album, Radio Recovery, but I hadn’t actually heard a single song. I pulled up Spotify and was barely through the first chorus of “Revolution Schmevolution” when I decided I needed to buy the whole thing. If someone extracted all the horns from Hello Rockview, the result would be Radio Recovery.
Best posthumous album: Daddy Issues – Fuck Marry Kill
Last year I discovered Daddy Issues’ debut single, “So Hard,” and I instantly fell in love. It was funny, sexy, and best of all, super fucking catchy. When they released the Double Loser EP in February, I bought it immediately and was… well, not let down, but I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped. I kind of forgot about it, until late October when the band sent out a newsletter informing everyone of a new album. And that they weren’t really a band anymore. I gave it a listen upon its release, gave it a second listen right away, and decided that it needed to be in my collection. I usually don’t trust albums that find a balance between lo-fi chill vibes and snotty, in-your-face tunes, but Fuck Marry Kill walks that line with ease. The only complaint I have is that it doesn’t have more songs.
Best album by a band that released a killer album last year: Hospital Job – Never Get Cold
Not content releasing two of the best pop punk albums of 2014 (Hospital Job’s The Believer and The Copyrights’ Report), Luke McNeill went ahead and released another winner. Never Get Cold is a little slower, and a total “stay inside with some cocoa” record, but the songs still hit hard in all the right places. If The Believer was Hospital Job’s My Brain Hurts then Never Get Cold is their Wiggle.
Night Birds!: Night Birds – Mutiny at Muscle Beach
Best ska EP that doesn’t really sound like ska at all: Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine – Tiny Refuge
I’d like to disclose that I’m friends with the members of Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine, but I’m also fans of them. It puts me in a weird position but I think listing their new EP as one of my favorites while criticizing them for calling themselves a ska band without playing much ska on their best release to date is a fair compromise.
Best ska EP that does, in fact, sound like ska: High School Football Heroes – 2K15: Like Dynamite
Now this is how Long Island ska should be done. Pay attention, Eli Whitney dudes.
Best album by a band that could be pegged down as a “supergroup” but is instead treated as a whole and noted for their sharp, powerful lyrics: Worriers – Imaginary Life
I mean… that’ pretty much says it all. Worriers released what is probably the most important pop punk record of 2015.
Best album I initially checked out solely because some of my Facebook friends wouldn’t shut up about it: PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries
This might come as a surprise (it won’t) but I’m friends with a lot of music lovers. It’s at a point where I can’t keep track of all the bands and songs that show up on my News Feed. This past September, however, I saw a large number of posts about PWR BTTM that I couldn’t ignore it. Glam rock and Garage rock don’t share a whole lot of common ground these days, but this duo finds a way to blend them together without making it sound like it’s still the 1970’s.
Best Alkaline Trio solo album: Derek Grant – Breakdown
How crazy is it that all three members of Alkaline Trio released solo albums this year? Matt Skiba (along with his Sekrets) released an album full of very Skiba tunes. Dan Andriano’s second outing with The Emergency Room sounded really good on paper (Andriano backed by members of Hard Girls and the Jeff Rosenstock Band, with Rosenstock producing to boot?) but the final result was a tad disjointed. Derek Grant is the only one of the three who provided an album that had both a new sound and didn’t stumble around.
Best album that I helped name: Sketchy – I Wanted This to Go Different
When Sketchy’s drummer Craig Shay posted a Facebook status asking what Sketchy should name their debut album, I assumed it was a joke because the band had mentioned several times that their album would be titled This Machine Kills Optimism. So I joined the thread, which was essentially four people trying to one-up each other with bad jokes and/or TV and movie references. Turns out it wasn’t a joke, the band really was looking for a new album title. I won.
Best album put out by my friends: Freya Wilcox & The Howl – Bareknuckle Love
I bet if you looked up “nepotism” in a dictionary with pictures, there’s a chance you’d see a photo of me. But seriously, this EP is really good. Freya Wilcox and the Howl are really good. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open for a full length soon!
Best album of 2014 I didn’t discover until 2015: Manic Pixi – Sugar Bomb!
I caught Manic Pixi for the very first time at the launch party for Punk Out and it was love at first listen. Technically speaking, this was my most played album in 2015, something that I’m sure they would appreciate.
Best compilation of previously released material: Mixtapes – These Are Us
It’s amazing how much music Mixtapes released in their four years as a band, this comp only scratches the surface but it does a respectable job at gathering most of Mixtapes’ b-sides and rarities. Plenty have dismissed the band as simplistic twee pop, but those folks are way off. Sure, they’d toured with the likes of Real Friends and Four Year Strong, and Soupy of The Wonder Years provided guest vocals on one of their albums, but you know what? They also toured with Direct Hit!* and Masked Intruder, Grath of The Steinways/House Boat** also did guest vocals on the same album as Soupy, and their last show was at FEST 13. How many other pop punk bands have united the scene like that? I thought so. These Are Us isn’t 100% perfect (it’s missing a song or two, and the audio quality dips at times) but it’s a terrific bookend to a band that wasn’t 100% perfect.
*They also did a split together.
**And Barrakuda McMurder and Science Police and Top Bunk and more, probably.
Best live album: Against Me! – 23 Live Sex Acts
I only got to see Against Me! once this year. Compare that to the eight times I saw them in 2014, and once seems a bit underwhelming. This live album helped me fill that void. Also, I was likely at the recording for at least three songs on this album.
Runners up: These are all releases that I enjoyed, but not quite as much as the others. Also I had already written a lot at this point and it’s not like I’m getting paid to do this:
Dyke Drama – Tender Resignation (Listen here)
Happy Fangs – Capricorn (Listen here)
Not Scientists – Destroy to Rebuild (Listen here)
Science Club – Day Job (Listen here)
The Spook School – Try to Be Hopeful (Listen here)
Worlds Scariest Police Chases – Adolf Hipster (Listen here)
Also, big shout out to Courtney Barnett for releasing Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, the best non-punk album I listened to all year.