2008 was a great year in music. Unlike 2007’s very thin set of offerings, 2008 featured dozens of great albums. I’m making this a top 20 list, because honestly the difference between #6 and #20 is almost nil, all of which would have cracked last year’s top 10. Even so, there wasn’t an album that grabbed me as much as Keepin 6
last year; No Trigger
, The World/Inferno Friendship Society
, Mika Miko
, or Off With Their Heads
in 2006; or The Epoxies
– Heavier than Heaven, Lonelier than G-d
A gripping, heavy hardcore classic. Absolutely, devastatingly brutal. The album ends with the best two songs on it—Canonized
. Most albums nowadays don’t have enough good songs to finish this strongly.
– Kill Punk Rock Stars
Gets #2 instead of #1 because it’s not quite as consistent as Heavier than Heaven. But it has some of the catchiest songs of the year. It’s a horrible shame that they broke up so soon after their breakout album.
3.Paint It Black
- New Lexicon
Actually quite similar to the Blacklisted album in a lot of ways. It’s not as catchy as Paradise, but it’s incredibly heavy. Gravity Wins
stands out as brilliant. These guys are now probably the most consistently awesome force in hardcore.
– Half-Wit’s Decent
Now here’s something different. This is actually circus music. No joke. And it’s incredible. This is their fourth release, but the first to be good all the way through. They’d always been great at starting albums, but they’ve finally learned to close it. There’s one actually bad song on the album, and it’s overall still not as consistent as the top 3, but the great songs are really a perfect sample of something different.
5.Off With Their Heads
– From the Bottom
This is a grower. The first ten or fifteen times through I liked it, but it didn’t really stick. It wasn’t until I came back to it about a month later that I realized the genius. It might not live up to Hospitals, which might be one of the top ten albums of the decade, but it’s every bit as powerful. And every bit as depressing lyrically.
This is the most inconsistent album on the list. Fulcrum And Lever
might be the song of the year, and it’s somewhat of a minimalist departure from their other stuff. The Geeks Were Right
and Machine In The Ghost
are also excellent, but about half of the other songs on the album are honestly skipable. The good songs are so good, though, that I wound up listening to this album many dozens of times.
7.Less Than Jake
I had honestly written them off after two consecutive bad albums (excluding the decent B-Sides collection they put out in between). But this was really a great comeback for them. It has strong influences from their early work, sorely lacking recently, but it doesn’t try to copy what came before. It’s definitely got a refreshing style. Fun all the way through.
– Songs to Scream at the Sun
I think you might be noticing a theme, but this is another brutal, heavy hardcore album. Hardcore is going through an amazing time, where the metal influence of the last 10 years is fading back in favor of a darker, deeper sound. Have Heart specializes in the heaviest vocals around, Dan Yemin included.
– Black President
Despite that this was their debut, their name came before Obama’s candidacy. This was honestly the album I anticipated most this year, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s straight up punk rock, no holding back. Fast, furious, and catchy.
This is actually the second album in the top 10 that was given out for free at the release show (Paint It Black being the first). I tried to stay objective in my rankings, but it’s hard not to have a good first impression when you’re hearing the songs live at a great show and then pop in the free disc immediately thereafter. This is the first pure ska (minus the punk) album to crack my top 10 in a number of years, but it’s well deserved.
This album is actually quite different from the prior three hardcore albums. It’s faster and far less heavy. As the title implies it’s more pure aggression than impending doom.
– Learn The Hard Way
It’s hard to put out three full lengths in three years, much less have any of them be good. But for them all to be good is bordering on absurd. And yet The Copyrights have done just that. While Learn the Hard Way might not be quite as good as last year’s Make Sound
, it is nonetheless an excellent, catchy piece of pop-punk goodness. Switchblades
alone is worth playing on repeat for about two hours.
13.The Gaslight Anthem
– The ’59 Sound
Ok, fine. It’s good. Or at least fucking catchy as hell. I can’t even tell anymore. Shut up.
14.The Loved Ones
– Build And Burn
It wasn’t too long ago that I was really worried whether The Loved Ones would stay on the right side of the punk/emo divide, given that their EP toed much closer to the line than their brilliant demo. Flash forward to 2008, and they’re one of the most reliable forces in straightforward punk rock. Another great album that’ll give you a few dozen spins.
– On Parallels
This is another incredibly inconsistent album. Two Shotguns
and You Like Baseball, I Like Ghosts
are two of the best songs of the year, but a couple of the songs are pretty bland and boring. Jason is best when he is playing fast and hard. This isn’t Kid Dynamite
snobbery, but rather my pointing out that File Under Black
is actually the best None More Black
16.The Max Levine Ensemble
– OK Smartypants
Another great pop punk album. Very catchy and fun… not to mention spastic. “Now tell me, okay smartypants, what do you do when you get bored? What do you do with your boredom?” Could listen to that all day.
– C I V I L W A R
This might be an anti-grower. When I first got this album, I listened to it about 40 straight times, no joke. But now Gainesville
is the only song I really want to hear. In any case, you can’t argue that this wasn’t a great return from a great punk band.
– Prying Eyes
Yet another crushingly brutal hardcore album from Bridge 9 Records. Just as heavy and brutal as any of the albums in the top 10, it only loses out because it’s not as catchy. The opening and closing tracks stand out most, which is always nice.
– Nothing To Prove
Quite contrary to the title of the album, H2O had quite a lot to prove with this album. While their live show is unquestionable, their last album (a major label debut!), 2000’s Go
, was not well-received—for good reason. And that was 8 years ago. But H2O is back. Though they’re not nearly as hard as they once were, their sound is reminiscent of older Bouncing Souls
. Can’t really quibble with that.
Did you like New Mexican Disaster Squad
? You’ll like this—it’s got “members of.” I’m shocked this hasn’t gotten more play in the Orgcore scene.
There were also some great EPs and singles released this year. I am making a top 8 list, because I never got my hands on the Roxy Epoxy
split or the Lidia Stone
EP, and I assume they would have made a top 10. Roxy’s split is Europe-only for some reason, and Lidia Stone sold out of their EP in no time. Ah well.
– Struggle & Strife
This is kind of unfortunate, actually. They followed up their self-titled EP, probably the second best EP of last year, with easily the best EP of the year. Unfortunately, two great EPs in a row made their debut, self-titled full-length somewhat redundant. The full length wasn’t bad at all, but it hasn’t been getting many spins after my heavily listening to the two terrific EPs.
Last year, Nanuchka released the great Mediterranean single. This year, they followed it up with an EP featuring that song and other slowish tunes. They’d been playing the songs for a while, but they are lovely, and it’s nice finally to have them on an album.
– Unoriginal Recipe
Another band whose EP overshadowed the full length. Unfortunately, Gorilla Marketing
was far more disappointing in its own right. Unoriginal Recipe, though, did not disappoint in the least, providing six of their classic, catchy tunes.
4.Dead to Me
– Little Brother
Not quite up to the hype, but it’s still a really fun EP. I don’t know what possessed them to make a reggae song, but the track Little Brother
’s really not too bad, even if it’s not the song of the year that many claim.
From the ashes of Latterman
rises quite a promising, new project. I’m expecting great things.
6.Trapped Under Ice
– Stay Cold
More hardcore! Woooo!
7.Bomb the Music Industry!
– Under The Influence 7”
Wouldn't be a year end list without Bomb the Music Industry!, now would it? This is an interesting one. Bomb The Music Industry! is a phenomenal band, but they consistently cover terrible songs, with expectedly merely adequate results. This is no exception. Mustard Plug’s cover of Fugazi
’s Waiting Room
is really interesting, and I’m not sure if it’s genius or annoying. In many ways it’s quite faithful… but then the horns come in… I think you just have to listen for yourself.
– Good Americans
Hmmmm…. The first track, Rebel
, is genius. Straight up. The title track, up next, is good. Then there are a couple more mediocre new songs. And then the EP closes up with some awful acoustic versions of some of the less impressive songs off their last album. Not a good way to close it out, boys. It had been a number of years since Raised on Whipped Cream
, an album with its own, long horror story. But overall it was a great album, similarly with two brilliant songs opening it up. This EP certainly did not meet my expectations in a follow-up, but the ability to write a song like Rebel gives me hope that they haven’t lost it.
2009 looks to be just as good as 2008. In roughly chronological order, expect:
Major General (Franz Nicolay’s band), Matt and Kim (I hear this album is awesome), Bomb the Music Industry! (just finished it up), Propagandhi, Shinobu, Roxy Epoxy (finally a full-length), Strike Anywhere, The Aquabats (yessssssss), Strung Out, Cheeky, So Many Dynamos, The Thermals, Screaming Females, and maybe Mustard Plug, Rancid, the Shook Ones, The Slackers, and the World/Inferno Friendship Society. This is to say nothing of Bomb The Music Industry!’s many planned EPs, The Bouncing Souls’ complicated release plans (a song a month, collected into four 7”s of three songs each), and other EPs from The Loved Ones, Bigwig, Classics of Love (Jesse Michaels' new band!), and the Mad Caddies.