2014: Year End Review by Dustin Blumhagen

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ThePunkSite.com’s Best Of 2014

Best of 2014Once again all of us here at ThePunkSite.com have taken the holidays to sit back and revisit all of our favourite albums of the year. Narrowing them down into easy-to-consume list forms – here’s what the people behind the website you’re currently browsing thought of this year’s music output.

 

Bobby Gorman | Cole Faulkner | Steven Farkas | Dustin Blumhagen 


2014: Year End Review by Dustin Blumhagen 

1994 was the year that punk officially hit the mainstream due to the massive selling influence of Green Day’s Dookie, Rancid’s Let’s Go and The Offspring’s Smash. These three albums exposed a generation to the catchy sounds of punk music and heralded in a new wave that would coincide with the X Games, MTV’s 120 Minutes and the rise of Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords. Lookout Records released Screeching Weasel, Pansy Division and Mr. T Experience, bringing pop punk into the mainstream. The third wave of ska was kicked off via the likes of Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Less Than Jake. Burning Heart Records let the West know that Sweden was a punk force with releases from Refused, Satanic Surfers and Millencollin, all of who would go on to have great careers in the following years. Sounds have changed over the years and a lot of great new music is coming out today that has little resemblance to the skate punk sounds of the 90s. But this year those of us entering our 30s were graced with some fantastic new releases from bands we likely discovered in junior high, which is a complete trip to think about. In celebration of the impact that the punk music of 1994 had on me, I separated the albums from these alumni into their own category.

 


Top Ten (+1) Albums Of The Year

The Isotopes 11. The IsotopesThe First Four Seasons (Red Scare Industries)

This collection was initially released in Canada last year and made my 2013. But Red Scare just officially released it down south and it is worth mentioning again. These are fun, fast paced traditional pop punk songs about baseball. They are both raw in sound and smart in theme; the perfect soundtrack for America’s game. 

La Dispute – Rooms of the House 10. La Dispute Rooms of the House (Big Scary Monsters Recording Company)

A little chaos in the playlist is always welcome. It helps balance the folky moments and syrupy pop punk. La Dispute are one of the best post hardcore bands out there today. While I continue to mourn the absence of Ruiner, I can revel in the chaotic beauty that this album offers. To me, lyrics are what separates a decent album from a great one and this definitely contains enough literary depth to elevate it above the crowd. 

The Rebel Spell – Last Run 9. The Rebel SpellLast Run (Rebel Time Records/ Harvest King Records)

I don’t know how the tropical climate of coastal BC creates so many angry punk bands (D.O.A., Real McKenzies, SNFU…), but The Rebel Spell are carrying the street punk torch for the next generation. They explore injustice in various forms through their music and are actual active activists who live what they preach. Anti Flag are their southern counterpart, but the Rebel Spell is doing it on their own merits, touring hard and getting their music out there without big label money. The Tsilhqot’in War starts off with a beautiful melody that introduces a true tale about the Canadian genocide of our Aboriginal peoples. They sing about the Tar Sands, the environment, racism and religion. We can argue all day about what “punk” truly means, but to me personally, it is built around intelligent people standing up for human rights and striving to make a difference against oppressive political powers. By this definition, The Rebel Spell (and Morning Glory) are one of the few true punk bands out there today. 

Morning Glory - War Psalms 8. Morning GloryWar Psalms (Fat Wreck Chords)

Standard Issue is the catchiest political punk song not written by The Clash. They explore metal on this release, but temper it with plenty of anthemic sing along moments. War Psalms is a huge departure from the muted sound of their debut. In the absence of new Propagandhi, this is the best metallic political punk available this year. 

Modern Baseball - Run for Cover 7. Modern Baseball You’re Gonna Miss it All (Run for Cover Records)

As a diehard fan of The Weakerthans, I am eagerly awaiting new music from the guys. The discovery of Modern Baseball this year helped to ease the pain slightly. The nasally croon of two vocalists approaches the range of Samson and their intelligent lyrics owe as much to the Canadians as their tour mates The Wonder Years. They are awkward nerds who play fantastic pop punk songs that are absent of the overplayed bro mentality that seems to be inundating the scene today.

Chuck Ragan Till Midnight 6. Chuck Ragan Til Midnight (Side One Dummy Records)

The bearded bard returns with a new solo effort, which is deeply entrenched in country music. At this point, I would argue that HWM is his side project, as his solo releases continue to explore the best aspects of Americana on a regular basis. 

Comeback Kid - Die Knowing 5. Comeback KidDie Knowing (Victory Records)

New York and D.C. may be the traditional homes for hardcore, but this year Winnipeg blew away all contenders in the scene. Yes, Bane and Madball had solid releases, but nobody bridges the gap between classic hardcore and modern metalcore as smoothly as CBK. Andrew Neufeld’s evolving vocals and strong lyrics showcase a wide variety of influences, with hints of hip hop and indie rock creeping in. The addition of Stu Ross on guitar provided depth to their sound and amped up their already chaotic live presence. 

 

Ryan Adams - 1984 4. Ryan Adams1984 (Pax Am Records)

Adams laid low for a while to deal with ear issues, but he came back with force this year. His self-titled release was a solid collection of 80s influenced rock and roll, but it was the lesser hyped 1984 that was the true gem. This is raw punk rock that will make fans of Husker Du and The Replacements smile wistfully. It’s a beautiful mess that only the enigmatic Adams could pull off successfully. 

Against Me! - Total Treble 3. Against MeTransgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble Music)

Laura Jane Grace lived up to her surname as the face of transgender people, elegantly and eloquently smashing down archaic barriers based on sexuality and gender in a series of moving media pieces. But it was this brilliant piece of music that truly made the difference this year, as Grace reminded the world that women can rock as hard as anyone. 

Blacklist Royals Die Young With Me album art 2. Blacklist Royals Die Young With Me (Krian Music Group)

This is a heartfelt autobiographical concept album about being diagnosed, fighting and ultimately prevailing against cancer. Their musical growth on this release shows a maturation, both in sound and lyrical content. This is a fantastic rock and roll album, coupled with plenty of soul. Brian Fallon wishes that he could write even half this well. 

Cayetana 1. CayetanaNervous Like Me (Tiny Engines Records)

The first thing you hear when hitting play is the vocal warble on Serious Things Are Stupid, which has a mournful sound that lies somewhere between Sleater Kinney, Cub and John K. Samson. Augusta Koch’s voice is surreal, wavering between a frail croon to a howl within the length of a single song. They explore power pop, indie rock and new wave in a way that sounds fresh. They manage to balance garage band grit with insanely infectious hooks. Rarely does a band hook me immediately these days, but Cayetana are one of my favourite discoveries in recent years. This explosive debut is an essential addition to your album collection.

Class of 1994

Lagwagon - Hang!

5. LagwagonHang (Fat Wreck Chords)

The metal guitar noodling threw me off a bit and I’m still reluctant to declare this anywhere near the level of my Lagwagon favourites like Hoss and Trashed. But new music from Joey Cape is always welcome. 

NOFX - Fat Wreck Chords

4. NOFX Backstage Passport Soundtrack (Fat Wreck Chords)

NOFX are the AC/DC of punk rock. They release the same sounding songs over and over with very little surprises (which is probably why The Decline is their most important release ever). If you like them, then you will probably continue to like them. This soundtrack contains some familiar songs and some new ones, but it is typical NOFX fare for better or worse. 

Pennywise - Yesterdays

3. Pennywise Yesterdays (Epitaph Records)

These are Pennywise songs from way back that were recorded to celebrate a fresh new start for the reunited original lineup. The ghost of Jason Thirsk weighs heavily on the album, which hearkens back to the days when he was in the lineup and they released some of my favourite skate punk albums that I still love to this day. Some may dismiss this as a novelty release, but I argue that it’s the best thing we’ve heard from these guys since the mid-90s. 

Swingin Utters - Fistful of Hollow

2. Swingin’ UttersFistful of Hollow (Fat Wreck Chords)

The Utters have never enjoyed the same level of recognition as many of their 90s peers, but they have always been enjoyable. The blend of folk inspired lyrics and music with street punk makes them an interesting stand out among the flood of bands to arise during that period. Despite a consistent release of great music, Fistful of Hollow is one of their best albums in years, blending their influences seamlessly into a complete album package. If you haven’t listened to them in years, now is the perfect time to revisit the group. 

Rancid - Hellcat Records

1. Rancid…Honor is all we Know (Epitaph Records)

The first punk band that I fell in love with was Rancid. Let’s Go was unlike anything I’d ever heard before and I still listen to it regularly. They’ve experimented with different sounds over the years and irregularly released new music, but …Honor is worth the wait. It sits somewhere between the street punk of the second self-titled release and Let’s Go with its catchy punk anthems. The ska and reggae influences are toned down this time as is the number of tracks, but it is a surprisingly energetic release from these aging punks. 

 

Top EPs

  1. Front Porch Step – Whole Again (Pure Noise Records)
  2. Cayetana – Hot Dad Calendar (Tiny Engines)
  3. Youth Decay – Older, Fatter, Drunker (New Damage Records)
  4. Get Dead – Bygones (Fat Wreck Chords)
  5. Four Year Strong – Go Down in History (Pure Noise Records)

 


Dustin Blumhagen is a reviewer, interviewer and news contributor at ThePunkSite.com