In a lot of ways, 2016 kinda sucked. You can probably figure out what I’m talking about when I say that, and I hope that you would agree. Yet, somehow it was also a really good year. On a personal level, I moved into a new apartment with my girlfriend, left an emotionally abusive and draining job of three years, and started not one, but two jobs, one of which could very well become a career (the only downside to working two jobs is that it gives me less time to devote to Dying Scene). And then there was the music.
Oh yes, the music. Maybe 2016 wasn’t a great year for most things, but the music was terrific. I started narrowing down my list at the beginning of December, and after a day and a half I decided that, much like last year, I wasn’t going to limit myself to ten records. I know that’s against the rules, but breaking all the rules is punk rock.
You can find my list below.
I guess I’ll also throw this out there: I enjoyed Tacocat’s Lost Time, Chris Farren’s Can’t Die, Jeff Rosenstock’s WORRY., Doe’s Some Things Last Longer Than You, and Petrol Girls’ Talk of Violence this year, but not to the point where I felt like they were essential listening in the same way that the following albums were.
Best Album I Wasn’t Too Sure About Based on the Singles: Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me
I already knew I was going to like this album because I’m an Against Me! fan-person at heart, but I wasn’t too sold on either “333” or “Crash” when they were first released. I was concerned that maybe Shape Shift With Me would wind up being another New Wave or White Crosses… just “okay,” but overall forgettable. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more happy to be wrong about something. From the vicious opening of “ProVision L3” to the Replacements-aping closer “All This (And More),” Shape Shift With Me is easily the band’s best work to date. Some people will tell you that it’s all just hype, but some people also like The Big Bang Theory… sometimes lots of people are just plain wrong. “Norse Truth” is absolutely devastating, and my biggest music-related regret of the entire year is not even attempting to take off from work on the day that Against Me! played at Rough Trade in Brooklyn. Huge mistake.
Best Debut, and Sole, LP: The Lippies – The Lippies
The Lippies were really, really good. Like, almost too good for such a young band. It really sucks that they broke up just a month after their album came out. It all just happened so fast.
Best Album to Bring Me to Tears, Literally: AJJ – The Bible 2
When I use “literally” I don’t mean it in the incorrect way that people use it these days. I mean there were actual tears coming out of my eyes when I went to see AJJ and they performed “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread” and “Small Red Boy.” It was the week leading up to the Presidential election, and after bottling up all of my anxieties and worries for the better part of twelve months, hearing those songs really hit me hard. I hadn’t even realized I was crying until the end of “Small Red Boy.” Whether the band could have picked a better new name is up for debate, but AJJ is next to none when it comes to writing songs for people who hate the ugliness in themselves and humanity but also still see the best in everybody.
Best Album That I Listened to So Often It Annoyed My Girlfriend: Cold Wrecks – Breaking
Cold Wrecks guitarist/vocalist Mike Vizzi sent me a preview of the album and I listened to it almost non-stop in July. One day I was getting ready to play a game of Monopoly with my girlfriend (I never claimed to be cool) and I put Breaking on, and her response was an exasperated “Again?”
(I would like to disclose that I am friends with the members of Cold Wrecks and that our friendship has in no way influenced my decision to include their album here)
Best Solo Album, Non-Punk Division: Brian Fallon – Painkillers
I’m a diehard fan of The Gaslight Anthem but even I knew that there was a line to draw and in 2012 I declared that if the band continued on the path that they were headed on that I would have to exclude them from my Dying Scene Top 10 because it would no longer be punk. I was right that the direction that Brian Fallon has taken his music in is less and less punk sounding, but I lied about not including it on future installments of my AOTY lists because here we are. Painkillers (or, as I like to call it and totally didn’t just make this up as I was writing this, Americana Slang) is Fallon at his 100% Falloniest; a terrific thing for fans and the perfect ammunition for detractors.
Best Solo Album, Pop Punk Division: Mikey Erg – Tentative Decisions
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Mikey Erg innumerable times live. Whether it’s playing a solo set, performing as a part of a band (specifically in my experiences, House Boat and Worriers), or filling in on drums for another band (usually The Copyrights), I can’t imagine how they have the time to do anything other than play shows. Sometimes I’m not sure if Erg is even human. Anyway, in the times I’ve see them play solo I’ve gotten to hear a majority of the songs that make up Tentative Decisions time after time, so I was delighted to finally listen to them whenever I pleased.
Best Album I Meant to Review But Forgot: Muncie Girls – From Caplan to Belsize
Ever listen to an album and immediately knew that you enjoyed it, but when pressed to explain why you liked it you didn’t know how to put your feelings into words? That’s me with Muncie Girls‘ debut album, From Caplan to Belsize. The album came out in early March, and I never actually finished writing my review and by May I had given up on trying to finish it. In my defense, a small part of that was because I got caught up in job hunting, funerals, moving, reviewing other albums and, in no small part due to this very album, reading The Bell Jar. I may have never got around to reviewing the album, but I also never got tired of listening to it.
Best blink-182 Album of 2016: Posture & the Grizzly – I Am Satan
Best Hardcore Album That’s Also a Pop Punk Album: PEARS – Green Star
At the rate that they’re moving, what with the relentless touring and quickly moving up the ranks of punk-labels (and having only formed a mere three years ago!) PEARS could have easily written Go to Prison Pt. 2 and quite frankly I think most people would have been a-okay with that. But PEARS opted to go another route, and instead they crafted a stellar piece of work, infusing their frenetic energy with pop hooks and piano interludes, throwing in homages to bands of all genres and old home recordings to boot. Green Star is a heavy album, but it’s also an incredibly beautiful one.
Best Album to Listen to On Repeat Several Times in a Row: Mannequin Pussy – Romantic
Mannequin Pussy also made a beautiful record this year, but if you cough you might miss it. Romantic is full of heavy riffs and heartbreaking lyrics and is the best grunge album that never came out in the 90’s. And clocking in at seventeen minutes means that it’s very easy to put it on again and again. Gypsy Pervert was a fine album and all- it was good enough to get Mannequin Pussy on my radar in the first place, but Romantic is on a whole other level.
Best Album By a Band That My Facebook Friends Wouldn’t Shut Up About: Nervous Dater – A Hundred Beers
Last year I admitted that I almost missed out on PWR BTTM, and the only reason I didn’t skip them because I had a bunch of Facebook friends constantly posting about them. This year, that band seemed to be Nervous Dater. The only difference this year is that I found out about Nervous Dater before most of them- though that hasn’t stopped me from seeing a barrage of Facebook posts praising the band.
Best Album I’ve Waited a Decade to Hear: The Falcon – Gather Up the Chaps
I mean… the category sums it up pretty well. I got an actual adrenaline rush when I saw that the new album by The Falcon ready to review in my inbox a full month and a half before its release, and I’m pretty sure I made some kind of inhuman noise as well. At first I was a bit let down, but after a decade of waiting, there was no way that Gather Up the Chaps wasn’t going to be a little disappointing in my mind. However, as multiple listens proved, there was also no way that it wasn’t going to rock my world and transport me back into being 18.
Best Album By a Band That for Some Reason We Didn’t Cover on Dying Scene Beforehand: Bleached – Welcome the Worms
On the one hand… I get it, Bleached play a style of garage rock that’s almost a little too hip for Dying Scene’s usual cast of characters. But on the other hand, we do cover their tourmates in Beach Slang, so they deserve to be mentioned here. Welcome the Worms found its way into regular rotation early on in the year for me and it never went away.
Best Album By a Band We Probably Shouldn’t Cover on Dying Scene: Weezer – Weezer (The White Album)
I get it, Weezer has never been a band that was even close to being punk. Even Pinkerton, which plenty of modern emo bands cite as a major influence, isn’t very emo itself. Yet, in spite of this, we cover Weezer here on Dying Scene. Which is just as well, because Weezer’s latest self-titled album, which can also be called The White Album if you’re feeling bold and don’t mind that people might think you’re talking about The Beatles, is a fantastic pop record.
Best Album That I Bought Three Times: Manic Pixi – Iron Heart
Okay, so technically I only paid for it twice but I still have three copies. When Manic Pixi was first heading into the studio to record Iron Heart, I immediately donated to their fundraising campaign. Part of my campaign reward included both a physical copy and a digital copy of Iron Heart, which marks the first time I paid for the album, and the first two copies I bought. Then, after attending the album release show, I decided I wanted to hear it again immediately so I bought a second digital copy on Bandcamp the very next day.
Best Compilation Album: Various Artists – Band Cramps, Vol. 1
Truth be told, I didn’t listen to a whole lot of compilation albums this year but even if I had Band Cramps would still probably be the best one I listened to. Band Cramps shines the spotlight on seventeen up-and-coming bands from New York and New Jersey with prominent female members and donating all profits made from sales to the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. Good music and a good cause, what else do you need?
Best Album Released by Red Scare That I Slept on for Longer Than I Should Have Because I’m a Goddamned Idiot: Good Friend – Ride the Storm
I sing the praises of Red Scare Industries pretty regularly, and for good reason. Toby Jeg knows his shit when it comes to punk rock and is consistently putting out quality music. This knowledge, however, does not prevent me from occasionally overlooking releases with the Red Scare Industries stamp of approval. Last year, it was Success’ Radio Recovery. This year, it’s Good Friend’s Ride the Storm. In my defense, the album came out pretty late in the year (November, to be exact) but I also should have been looking forward to it the moment it was announced. Sorry, Toby.
Best Album That Hasn’t Come Out Yet So Really I Just Like the First Single: The Menzingers – “Lookers”
Hands down, my favorite song of the year. I don’t even care if The Menzingers are just ripping out pages from The Gaslight Anthem’s playbook: A damn good song is a damn good song. I fully expect After the Party to dominate my 2017 playlists.
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