It’s been a pretty average year for music, not as bad as last year, but overall still pretty mediocre. What’s most notable to me is that this year lacks a real front runner, or a new band to blast out of the margins and take the punk world by storm. The list features a lot of established bands and their 3rd or 4th album. There are some new bands and first albums on the list but I would classify most of them as underdogs who I found by accident and aren’t universally known. There also seems to be no movements or emerging trends (mid 1990’s skate punk, mid 2000’s folk-punk, etc.), just echos from yesteryear. Then again, I could be just getting cynical and angry with age, time for my quarter-life crisis jazz phase I guess.
Best Albums of 2012
15. Murderburgers – How to Ruin Your Life
This album manages to make 4 chord songs sound novel again. Despite punk pop’s genre limitations, the songs sound distinct from each other.
14. Sharks – No Gods
On their first proper album, Sharks take their sound in a more street punk direction, away from the early ska sound of the first EP. While not being a classic, it’s definitly worth a few spins, I’m excited to see where this band goes next album.
13. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Jack White does another album! this time with a proper drummer (a studio session johnny one-take type). It honestly sounds like more of what he is known for, bluesy garage punk with his signature vocals and lyrics.
12. Sundials – When I Couldn’t Breath
The most polished outing from the Sundials yet, on this one they find a sound that channels 90s alternative with the same energized sadness they’re known for. I’ve always felt like this band fits better into a single or an EP. While it still feels true with this one, they seem to be getting one step closer to the genre classic they’re capable of.
11. Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
Everyone gave this band a bunch of hate for releasing an album that had only 9 songs (one being a cover), and clocks in at under 15 minutes. But they manage to not recycle a single idea, offer any filler, or let a song grow stale in it’s duration.
10. Her Parents – Physical Release
This band is made up of members of other bands I’ve never heard of from England and they took me by surprise. At first the goofy lyrics and comical delivery seemed like a gimmick, but after repeated listening the songs and their energy grew on me. A solid release, no bad songs.
9. Careers in Science – Foreverwolf
I’ve been lucky enough to catch this band live a few times (and play with them once). They have a sound that reminds me of early-to-mid Propagandhi but with songs about birthdays, video games, and scene politics. This is an excellent album, can’t wait for more from these guys.
8. The Ambulars – Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel
I stumbled on this band when they gave their album away for free on bandcamp (don’t be an asshole, throw them a dollar). I was blown away by the beauty of some of the songs (At Least We Have the Night), and the catchiness of others (Teenage Hate). It’s not a perfect album, I get bored during some of the songs, but it certainly has enough golden moments to make it on this list.
7. Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
I’ve always been a bit on the fence about this band, they sometimes seemed to me to be like a manifestation of all that was boring about punknews.org. With this album they proved me wrong. Delivering songs all over the spectrum, at all times accompanied with dramatically painful introspective lyrics the members of the band may or may not have actually lived. It sounds like the Clash but socially awkward.
6. Gallows – S/T
First album with the new singer, and it’s pretty good, maybe better than ‘Grey Britain’ but worse than ‘Orchestra of Wolves’. If Grey Britain was the band at it’s most epic and polished, this would be a return to a dirty punk sound. Song writing wise the band doesn’t really pull any surprises, no particular song if classic, but most of them are good.
5. The Darkness – Hot Cakes
Don’t be put off by the singles, ‘Hot Cakes’ is a return to form for this band. Featuring songs for and against love, a really good Radiohead cover, a conflicted song about thai ladyboys, and a lot of other crazy shit only the Darkness can sing about. Stop pretending you’re better than this.
4. White Lung – Sorry
The punks and the hipsters seem to be agreeing about this band, ‘Sorry’ is dominating Maximum Rock n Roll’s top tens, while getting a good review on pitchfork. It’s almost a reflex at this point to throw anything pitchfork praises in the garbage, please don’t with this one, it’s pretty great.
3. Teenage Bottlerocket – Freak Out!
As I said when I first reviewed them, this isn’t their best, but it’s pretty good. I just need more from this band every few years. Their live show is amazing as well.
2. Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
Another solid release from radio rock’s last hope. It’s starting to sound more like a good version of Pearl Jam than Springsteen, which is alright with me.
1. Burning Love – Rotten Things to Say
Of all the albums released this year this is the one that stuck with me the most. I previously said that it was worse than their last album ‘Songs for Burning Lovers’, I’d like to retract that statement and call it a tie. This album has a lot of power and anger; sometimes coming out as a thirty second throwback to 80s hardcore, other times coming our as a metal song about serial killers, but always sounding good.
Best EPs, Singles, Splits of 2012
I should mention that we released a new EP ‘Why Isn’t Allen Here?’ in 2012, it didn’t make the cut, but it’s decent.
5. The Gamits/Murderburgers All in Vinyl Split
I’m just glad to get more songs from the Gamits (I thought they were dead), the Murderburgers do a good job too.
4. Convoys – GOGO/BANG EP
We’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the Convoys many times, some of the best songs we’ve been listening to live for the past year or so show up on this EP.
3. The Disconnects / Crazy & the Brains – Are on the Other Side Split
This is from two cool new bands I found out about this year. The Disconnects remind me of the Dictators and the New York Dolls, Crazy & the Brains remind me of the Violent Femmes but with Xylophone.
2. One Man Army – She’s an Alarm EP
A triumphant return for these street punk legends. Fingers crossed for more.
1. Crusades – Parables EP
This 2 song EP shows the band at their strongest. It features an epic intro and outro sandwiching the two songs with cryptic Nietzschean/apocalyptic lyrics and chainsaw guitars.
That’s all from us, happy new year to you all! 2012 wasn’t the greatest, but it’s still better than rock bottom (2011). Let’s make 2013 another step forward.