While 2011 was a year of instant classics and enthusiastic experimentation, 2012 is a year that reinforced the basics of punk rock. This year we had young bands come out of nowhere and reinvigorate old sounds (who would’ve thought, that in 2012, melodic hardcore would be exciting again?) and old bands returning to prove their relevance. While 2012 didn’t strike me the same way as 2011 did, I still found plenty to love this year.
Check out my list here.
The fast paced riffing, melody, and unbridled machismo displayed on songs like “Monitor Burn” and “Swinging For the Fences” are why Lost Ave is one of my favorites of the year. Sounding something like an 80’s cock-rock band playing skate punk, A Dying Regime is a lot of fun and definitely a band to keep an eye out for.
Frankly, melodic hardcore has gotten exceedingly bland in the last decade. The 90’s epifat heyday has resulted in bands that only exist to sound like each other, and for awhile it was looking like the genre would forever be a boring parody of itself. And then, much to my delight, Yankee Brutal came out and injected some much needed energy into the tired formula. Fast, melodic, and angry– The Everlasting Greed was one of the best surprises of the year.
Hardcore has been defanged by macho posturing, flat-brimmed hats, and a silly violence-as-catharsis attitude. OFF! is here to remind us that fury can still be righteous, and that it can be born from ideas, not a desire to muscle flex. OFF! will undoubtedly have a hard time shaking its obvious legacy (yes, Keith Morris of Circle Jerks fame is in it, get over it), but its speed and lyricism are to be respected just as much as its pedigree.
It may be their airtight doo wop harmonies, or perhaps their ridiculous catchiness, or maybe it’s just that I’m so deathly afraid of switchblades that I couldn’t dare speak a negative word– but one way or another, I’m compelled to love this album. Gimmicky? Yes. But this is the right way to do a gimmick. This album is fun pop-punk that can’t help but infect you with its charm. Without a doubt one of the biggest, most pleasant surprises of the year.
I miss the days when Hot Water Music sounded like a couple of bears roaring over Fugazi backing tracks, but that doesn’t mean their current sound is anything to dismiss. More rock oriented than ever, this is a continuation of the sound they cultivated on Caution, and as anyone who’s heard that album knows, there’s nothing wrong with that. To make the case even stronger for Exister, it features some of the band’s best songwriting to date.
Bomb the Music Industry! will always be one of my favorite bands, so while I was disappointed to hear about their almost-kind-of-break-up, Jeff Rosenstock’s solo album was a welcome release that really pushes the envelope. Made up of mostly unreleased demos, Rosenstock is at his darkest and most experimental and it results in a moving, emotional record that oozes musical enthusiasm.
4. Mixtapes- Even on the Worst Nights
Mixtapes play pop punk with such relatability, melody, and personality that Even on the Worst Nights ended up being one of my favorite releases of the year. Great from front-to-back, Mixtapes breathe life into Replacements-style heartfelt punk rock about growing up.
“Weapon of God” turned out to be one of my favorite tracks from the entire year, but the truth is the entire album is amazing. Taxpayers take the concept album to new heights by actually delivering quality music that pushes boundaries without ever getting lost in its own narrative. The companion piece novel fills out the experience neatly without making the album feel incomplete. God Forgive These Bastards is a high watermark for what a punk rock concept album can be.
Some songwriters are just great no matter what they do, they possess the talent required to effortlessly create great art. Ezra Kire is one of those songwriters, capable of coaxing an emotional reaction out of most any material. Poets Were My Heroes is bombastic, melodic, and raw– bringing Kire’s voice into a baroque realm that occupies its own unique place in punk rock. Poets Were My Heroes is a classic.
On the Impossible Past established The Menzingers as some of the sharpest, most talented songwriters in punk rock. I believed that at the beginning of the year, and I believe that now. But it’s the end of the year now, and I’m tasked with putting my favorites in numerical order. And while one could argue that such a process is superficial and unnecessary, forcing art, something subjective by nature, into objective boundaries, I prefer to think of it as a chance to organize emotions. I’ve had a year to think about On the Impossible Past, and I’ve heard a lot of records since its release, but none of them touched me quite like this one. The truth is, The Menzingers have crafted a record so incredible, I can feel it resonating in my bones long after the excitement surrounding it faded. It leaves no doubt in my mind, that On the Impossible Past is my album of the year.