2017 was not a great year for me. Between looming mental health issues, broken hearts (both breaking someone else’s and having mine torn), and a handful of failed attempts at restarting my life, I don’t even have to mention the state of the world to get into how bleak things were… I even stopped regularly contributing to Dying Scene this year! But I still got invited to share my 10 favorite records and since music is one of the things that helped me get through this year, here I am.
In years past I’ve gone all out when sharing my favorite albums: bringing attention to those that might not have gotten as much notice as the heavy hitting names in the scene, or giving each album a number one spot in their own category. This year I’m keeping it simple: my 10 favorite albums by artists that we cover at Dying Scene. You can check it out below.
10. Direct Hit! / PEARS – Human Movement
I’ve been critical of splits in the past when they don’t offer anything new, but when you get a whole album’s worth of new material, I’m all for it. Direct Hit! and PEARS are, in my mind, two of the most exciting bands today and I knew this split would be, at the very least, entertaining. However both bands delivered nothing but ripper after ripper. It blows my mind that Direct Hit! is only getting heavier over time, and given the never-ending touring schedule of PEARS, it’s amazing they have any time to hit the studio.
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09. Lemuria – Recreational Hate
(I’m sure this one is going to cause some minor controversies as the album won’t be given a wide physical release until next year but the digital release was mid-December and digital music counts for a lot more than we’d like to admit these days)
The exact moment that I found out Lemuria was selling “Mystery LP” bundles, I went ahead and ordered one even though I was trying to watch my spending. I was fully expecting the bundle to be some sort of rarities or demos compilation, so when they revealed it was a brand new album instead, I rejoiced. Then I listened to it, and I was even more excited. My only regret was not ordering the large bundle that (if I’m not mistaken) also came with a shirt.
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08. Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Warriors
I’ve never disliked Bad Cop/Bad Cop, per se, but like a lot of 90’s Fat Wreck pop punk, I also never thought of them as a band that I might one day consider to be an all-time favorite. Warriors comes out swinging and effectively changed my stance on that. Combining politically charged and vicious lyrics and sickeningly sweet harmonies, Warriors is one of the biggest surprises of my year.
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07. Nervous Dater – Don’t Be a Stranger
Nick Hornby once asked by way of his fictional character Rob Gordon (or Fleming, if you prefer the original novel): “Which came first: the music or the misery? […] Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”. I don’t know how much I can contribute to any philosophical discourse about the nature of music vs. the human condition. Also, who has the time for that? However, what I do know is that I felt miserable this year, but listening to Nervous Dater’s Don’t Be a Stranger made me feel less miserable.
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06. Freya Wilcox & the Howl – Tooth & Nail
I feel like I’d been waiting forever to hear this one. And it was a long wait, but the payoff was worth it. The album’s first half rips through so quickly that it hardly leaves room to breathe, but it’s “Leaving,” the album’s heartbreaking, powerful centerpiece, that makes sure you’ve got no breath left. I’ve heard Freya Wilcox & The Howl perform all of these songs live countless times, and I’m glad that I can finally carry them around with me to listen to whenever I want.
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05. Sincere Engineer – Rhombithian
I hadn’t ever heard of Sincere Engineer before this year, but the moment I saw that they were signed to Red Scare I knew I’d like it. All it took was a single listen and I was sold. For the lack of better terms, Rhombithian combines the overly confessional lyrics of modern Midwestern punk rock with the near-mathy technicality of the emo revival scene (a la Triple Crown / Kind of Like Records), and the result is a collection of upbeat downers that you can easily sing-along / cry-along / drink-along to.
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04. Cayetana – New Kind of Normal
I almost moved to Philadelphia this year, and I think that this album had a lot to do with that. Okay, so that’s only half true- I wasn’t in the greatest mindset around the end of the summer and I thought that maybe moving would solve all of my issues. I just so happened to be listening to New Kind of Normal on the bus ride to Philly and it felt like Cayetana were speaking to me directly, or at least about me, through these songs. I ended up not moving, but the future is unwritten and the door is always open. (For the record, I didn’t pick Philly because Cayetana hail from there, but it is a funny coincidence.)
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03. Iron Chic – You Can’t Stay Here
Usually it takes me awhile to fully appreciate new Iron Chic material. Not Like This came out in 2010, but I didn’t really “get it” until about 2013- coincidentally around the time The Constant One came out, while that record didn’t enter my regular rotation until 2015 or so. With that in mind, it feels weird to not only rank an Iron Chic album as one of my favorites of the same year that it came out, but also to rank it so highly. And yet, here I am. You Can’t Stay Here is more of the same, and unlike a lot of my other favorite records, Iron Chic don’t seem to necessarily be looking for any kind of closure or way to put a positive spin on things. It’s depressing, and not exactly comforting, but life can be that way too, and sometimes you can do nothing but accept that.
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02. Katie Ellen – Cowgirl Blues
You know the broken hearts I alluded to in my intro? Back in July I ended a seven and a half year relationship. Yeah, that was really rough. Coincidentally, Katie Ellen released Cowgirl Blues that very same week, and not only did I listen to it for the very first time after it happened- it was the first music I had listened to at all after the breakup. Lyrics like “It’s hard to know when you should leave,” “I miss getting excited picking up the phone,” and “I hope you’re happy, I think you’d want the same for me” summed up everything that I was feeling (I’m sure I’m contorting their meaning so it fit my specific situation) and this album ended up becoming the soundtrack to the rest of my summer- within a month each individual track had a play count of at least 50.
As these things go, I can’t listen to it anymore. I tried at the beginning of December, and It only brings up too many painful memories. But for a few months, Anika Pyle’s lyrics helped me more than anyone else ever could.
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01. The Menzingers – After the Party
Whereas Cowgirl Blues spoke to me on a deeply emotional level, After the Party encapsulates every fear and self doubt I have that isn’t related to romance. As someone who is going to enter their 30’s next year, I’ve been feeling a lot of societal pressures to present myself as a “real” adult, and- like many other people in the same position as me- I have no idea how to do that. And while this is a tale as old as time, or at least it’s as old as whenever human life expectancy began to regularly reach 40 and up, The Menzingers have written the latest “How To?” guide, in which they carefully explain that they don’t have a clue. After the Party does a lot to ask how to exit the period of arrested development that so many people these days are stuck in, but does little in the way of answers. Yet, they make it so fun that it almost becomes bearable that the true answer (there is no one way to be an adult) isn’t such a bitter pill to swallow after all.
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