Keep Track of the Time, 2016: The Lists

Posted: December 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

Yeah, so that was 2016. A total and utter shitfest. BUT there was a ton of excellent punk rock music to cheer yourself up with, the best of which is detailed below. I’ve given my top ten (and more) below, followed by Read Hard’s list. Between us both we have also compiled a playlist of our favourite songs of 2016. You can listen here:

Peace and love, y’all. See you on the other side.

Dave’s Top Ten of 2016

  1. The Murderburgers- The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People (Asian Man/Round Dog)

There have been a ton of great albums this year, but this was always going to be my number one. The 12 Habits…is a blistering, intense pop-punk album dripping with emotion and passion, yet also catchy as shit. As soon as I heard “The Waves”, I knew something special was going to be released, but to sustain such a high level over 12 songs is a fantastic effort. It is just hit after Goddamn hit. The intense, personal nature of songs like “I Used to Hate That Life” and “Opium Bombs All Around” will stay with you; this is a pop-punk album for the ages. I guess that I can best compare it to Dream Homes, with Dear Landlord the former masters of doing this kind of bleak, ‘low-lives’ pop-punk (and yes, Zach Landlord is present on the album). However, alongside that grimness, The Murderburger tap into hope and a yearning to improving oneself that Banner Pilot have often done themselves over the last few years: a chink of light in the grey, resolutions without solutions.

Listen here: https://themurderburgers.bandcamp.com/album/the-12-habits-of-highly-defective-people

  1. Martha- Blisters in the Pit of my Heart (Dirtnap)

Power-pop/pop-punk bliss on Martha’s second full-length. Right from that first EP, I always knew Martha was a band with an ear for a melody, but, blimey, the song-writing and musicianship has stepped up so much from them. Blisters in the Pit of My Heart is a record with a pop core, where the hooks are the number one priority. Listen to the lush, ear-worm-y hits, “Chekhov’s Hangnail”, “Ice Cream and Sunscreen” and “Goldman’s Detective Agency” if you don’t believe me. Really, I could pick any track. Blisters is essentially a record about being an anxious twenty-something from a small town in Northern England, dealing with equal parts hope and despair. There are so many good lyrics on here, with some of the best coming on the super-upbeat and catchy “Precarious (The Supermarket Song)”, which kind of sums up the overall tone of Blisters: “I’m a person, you’re a person, nothing else is really certain”.

Listen here: https://marthadiy.bandcamp.com/album/blisters-in-the-pit-of-my-heart

  1. Joyce Manor- Cody (Epitaph)

Talking about a band who went to the next level of what I thought they were capable of, holy shit, Joyce Manor! I mean Never Hungover Again was a very good record indeed, but Cody is a Goddamn masterpiece. I had this album basically on repeat for about 3 months and it is still not getting old. It is not a ‘traditional’ one, but Cody is still basically at its core, a pop-punk record. There are also doses of ‘90s, Weezer-esque indie rock elements in there (See: “Last You Heard of Me”), and, I know that Joyce Manor has been lumped in with the whole ‘emo revival’ scene- I would say they are more just passionate and emotionally aware, rather than ‘emo’ per se- but if we are calling them ‘emo’, Cody could be considered Saves the Day-esque at times. This album is one big hit factory, and pretty varied, too: “Fake Id”, the lost early ‘00s teen anthem from an alternative timeline, the super-perky “Angel in the Snow” that you just can’t help finger-tapping to (trust me, I’ve tried) or the melancholic heartbreak of “Over Before It Began”. This is all basically pop-punk: concise; no-frills; catchy hooks; anxiety about growing up and nostalgia for your youth. Of course, although Joyce Manor are known for their succinctness, the standout song on here is their longest (the 4 minute plus, experimental “Stairs”, featuring this year’s creepiest lyrics), offering great potential of what Joyce Manor might do next.

Listen here: https://joycemanor.bandcamp.com/album/cody

  1. Mikey Erg!- Tentative Decisions (Don Giovanni)

In the years since The Ergs! broke up, Mikey has released a few bits here and there, but this is the album we have been waiting for: and Tentative Decisions did not disappoint one bit. In many ways, this is a continuation of Upstairs/Downstairs, with Mikey bringing back to life the heart-felt, succinct and fast-paced pop-punk ditties that defined the band (see: “Faulty Metaphor”, “Comme Si About Me”, alongside the stranger, more experimental, folk-ier tracks (“Waiting Out The Winter”, “Scenic Turnout”). But The Ergs! was always a collective and this is the first time that we hear Mikey carve out an album purely as he wants.  So, no, this is not an exercise in nostalgia: Mikey is re-inventing, not merely reviving. The 2016 version of Mikey is now more cynical and self-aware, while still searching for that new ‘Amanda’: on “Comme Si About Me”, he spits out an epilogue to all of his love-lorn past ditties: “I wish you loved me and blah blah blah/ and I wasn’t lonely and blah blah blah”. Welcome back, Mikey, pop-punk has missed you.

Listen here: https://mikeyerg.bandcamp.com/album/tentative-decisions

  1. Apologies, I Have None- Pharmacie (Holy Roar/ Animal Style)

Apologies, I Have None are one of the most creative and consistently fascinating punk rock bands around and their second LP Pharmacie pushes the boundaries of what you thought the band were once again. I say ‘punk rock band’ in a loose sense and in the sense of their core, underlying ethos, but musically, while there are certainly punk elements to their sound and Apologies straddle multiple genres, this feels largely like an angst-y, emo record. Pharmacie is the next natural step in Apologies’ evolution from London through to the ‘Black Everything’: they have essentially built upon the anger and frustration evident in “The 26” to now totally embrace the darkness within. With notable exceptions (like the more standard Apologies’ hit “Love and Medication”), the songs on Pharmacie are slow-burning and revelatory, bursting in with occasional faster, heavier, gut-punch moments, as can be best seen on album highlight “Everybody Wants to Talk About Mental Health”. This is not an easy listen at times, but it is definitely a worthwhile one; a proper album, where everything is inter-connected; a Pharmacie to live by.

Listen here: https://apologiesihavenone.bandcamp.com/album/pharmacie

  1. The Hotelier- Goodness (Tiny Engines)

Define Goodness how you want: emo, indie, post-rock, pop-punk. It doesn’t really matter: it’s just good. The Hotelier have built immeasurably on the more straight-forward emo evident on their last record, Home, Like No Place is There. The new one is essentially their experimental art-y record, where they laid a marker down and really carved an identity of their own. The vocals remain nasal, but otherwise, musically and lyrically, Goodness moved things up several notches. The sound of the modern Hotelier is slow-paced and more restrained, but still passionate, with lyrics that are much more down to earth and feel real. The album is fascinating and only unravels with time; it is about seeing life, “in exploding colour”, in all its complexity, in all its heart-breaking, fucking tragedy. And then there’s that album cover…

Listen here: https://thehotelier.bandcamp.com/album/goodness

  1. Big Eyes- Stake My Claim (Don Giovanni)

Stake My Claim is a proper hook-fest. Here, Big Eyes embrace the melodies and ditch some of the ‘rawk’ aspects of their sound that defined their previous records. Stake My Claim flits between multiple genres (pop-punk, power-pop, rock ‘n’ roll, indie); pleasingly, it is hard to pin down Big Eyes. There are proper guitar solos present, but there also pop-punk-y melodies in abundance. The album kind of moves between the snotty, melodic punk brilliance of “Leave This Town” and “Giving It Up For Good”, and the sunny, laidback power-pop of “Behind Your Eyes” and “Just Not Right”, at times Best Coast-ish. There is always too much Runaways-esque spikiness and spunk for the sound to be that kind of power-pop though. However, the harmonies are every bit as fucking good: listen to “Leave This Town” and tell me any different; “TV and cell phones are a modern curse”, now that is an earworm. So, sound-wise, I would say, imagine if Lipstick Homicide were way into power-pop and had thousand times better production, and that is probably close to what is on Stake My Claim.

Listen here: https://bigeyes.bandcamp.com/album/stake-my-claim

  1. Muncie Girls- From Caplan to Belsize (Specialist Subject)

After a string of 7”s and 12”s (including their split with Great Cynics), debut LP From Caplan to Belsize was where Muncie Girls really made their mark. While I found their previous stuff hit and miss, this is very, very good indeed from first to last minute. With the intelligence and sincerity of the lyrics, alongside the soaring melodies and catchy, female-led vocals, The Muncie Girls kind of remind me of New Jersey’s The Measure (SA), a band whom I have always felt were dearly underrated. The band cleverly and personally engages with a number of socio-political issues in a positive, but not condescending manner: criticising the educational system and talk of “the lucky fucking few” on “Learn in School” sets the tone for the rest of From Caplan to Belsize. Album highlights include the Joy Division-esque “Social Side” and the spiky, pop-punk-y middle finger to misogyny “Respect”.

Listen here: https://munciegirls.bandcamp.com/album/from-caplan-to-belsize

 

 

 

      9. Against Me!- Shape Shift With Me (Total Treble Music/ Xtra Mile)

Shape Shift With Me is a more restrained, comparatively calmer affair after the angry cathartic bursts of energy on Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It loses some of the raw power behind its predecessor as a result, but, here, Against Me! focus on just churning out punk hits. It may result in less of a cohesive, album feel to it, but to an extent, I don’t care much if the hits are as good as “Boyfriend” (with one of my favourite choruses ever: “Treated me like a boyfriend/ like just some fucking boyfriend) or “333” or “Rebecca”. Sonically, Against Me! tread the line between the raw intimacy of TDB and the stadium punk rock of White Crosses. It is not the perfect degree by any measure, but Shape Shift With Me captivates at times and will reel you in for repeated listens with its punk rock sing-a-longs

      10. Tacocat- Lost Time (Hardly Art)

I guess Tacocat can be best explained in elevator pitch style by saying: think Bikini Kill if they were brought up on Beach Boys instead of Sex Pistols. This is super-simplistic, but it hits the major points: that the band evoke some of the better elements of the riot grrl movement, while prioritising melodies and hooks above all else, as any power-pop band might. At the same time, while Tacocat do engage in feminist and political discussion, on songs such as “Men Explain Things to Me” and “Horse Grrls”, they are also not averse to bringing to light the everyday (“I Hate The Weekend”, a song that all service workers can relate to on some level) and fun (“Dana Katherine Scully”, an X-files themed song!). Although not quite hitting the high levels set by predecessor NVM, Lost Time has some of the best hooks of 2016, mostly at the latter half of the record, with “Leisure Bees” and “Nightswimming”.

Listen here: https://tacocat.bandcamp.com/album/lost-time-3

Almost, but not quite

AJJ- The Bible 2

Jeff Rosenstock- Worry

Wonk Unit- Mr. Splashy

MTX- King Dork Approximately

7”s, EPs and other stuff I enjoyed this year

Shit Present- ‘Misery and Disaster’ EP

Bangers- Last Songs 7”

Radio Hearts- ‘Tell You’ EP

Delinquents- Next Generation (Single)

The Menzingers- Lookers (Single)

Katie Ellen- Demo

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Read Hard’s Top Ten of 2016

Image result for mr t experience king dork approximately

  1. The Mr. T Experience-King Dork Approximately

I got the pleasure of reviewing this album this year- and it’s by far the best album that was released this year. If you can say that it was released this year. The official release date isn’t until 2017. I think I’ve already said all there is to say about this wonderful record. What I love about songs that actually originally belong to certain story (here: the King Dork books), and how they can have entirely different meanings as separate songs, “Thinking of Suicide?” for example. Sure, about half of these songs are old as shit, but they sure don’t sound like shit! This shit is pure gold!

  1. Blink-182-California (BMG)

In 2001, the album Enema of the State was on the top of my Christmas list (and that album is on my list 15 years later actually). I was a twelve-year-old little jerk then, 27, now a bigger jerk. Now, in 2016, Blink-182 is back with a new album, Matt Skiba has replaced Tom Delonge and Goldfinger’s John Feldman has produced and co-written the album. California is trying to show the Golden State from all sides, from the raw to the phony plastic wrapping of Hollywood. Musically, I’m sad to say that the plastic wrapping is also very present on this album. This album sounds more plastic than Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” and my family’s Christmas tree put together. Maybe that’s taking it a bit too far. But this is certainly a slap in the face of those who thought Enema was a bit overproduced. On California, some of the songs are gold. “Teenage Satellites” is a great song that looks back on youth fondly and “San Diego” that highlights people’s ambivalence toward their hometown (San Diego is Blink’s hometown, even if none of their current members are from there.) Home is also a theme in “Home Is Such a Lonely Place”, one of the album’s ballads. I have loved this band since I was 12 and there have been times when doing so has been frowned upon, but putting this album on the second place on my list is embarrassing the hell out of me. Not because I think it’s embarrassing to like Blink, but that the album’s production is cringeworthy and most of the songs are as well, and it’s by far their worst effort. And I still enjoy it more than most other albums this year. That just shows that either this has been a slow year for music this year or that nostalgia really is the opium of the age.

  1. Death by Unga Bunga- Pineapple Pizza (Jansen Plateproduksjon)

Blink isn’t the only thing that is frowned upon to like. Putting pineapple on a pizza is something a lot of people think is a crime against humanity. But to me, it’s a perfect match. Sweet pineapple bits together with tomato sauce and melted cheese. My lips are moist just imagining it. How can anyone be against that? I’m at least happy that this Norwegian garage/power pop band is giving their support to this delicious culinary experience. The album is pretty awesome as well. I’ve always loved this band and they’ve always put on a good show. I’ve actually found out lately that their earlier albums are even better than Pineapple Pizza, but PP is a sweet album. “Make Up Your Mind” and “Lady Fondue” are some of the greatest songs of the year and the sound of the album sounds way better than the Blink album and if I weren’t so tremendously shattered by nostalgia, this album would probably be nr. 2 on this list. It’s like if you took the Byrds and stuff like the Exploding Hearts and the Manikins and they are from the Yum Yum’s hometown, Moss.

  1. NOFX-First Ditch Effort (Fat Wreck)

NOFX is another band I was sickingly fixated with at some point. They’ve also started recording worse and worse albums, and this album shows they are still on a pretty big downer, both when it comes to quality of their music and their depressing lyrics. Like the MTX album, First Ditch Effort is also based on literature. NOFX wrote a book with former Dead Kennedys singer Jeff Penalty (brilliant name) called the Hepatitis Bathtub and the album reflects the songs on the album. The book is a lot better, however, and the songs don’t get out the same emotions as the book did. The best songs on the album are to me “Bye Bye Biopsy Girl” and “California Drought”. Fat Mike’s honest song about cross-dressing, “I’m a Transvest-lite” tells how Dr. Frankenfurter fom The Rocky Horror Picture Show inspired him to don’t dream it, be it and wear “women’s clothing”.

Listen here: https://nofx.bandcamp.com/album/first-ditch-effort

  1. Tacocat-Lost Time (Hardly Art)

A big letdown of this year was Tacocat’s Lost Time. Mostly because NVM was such a great album and I really wanted them to follow it up with something equally good, but that didn’t happen. It’s still actually a pretty good album. The album, like its predecessor, takes up feminist themes in a humoristic way. They take up mansplaining and the internet. There’s also a tribute song to Scully from X-Files!

Listen here: https://tacocat.bandcamp.com/album/lost-time-3

  1. Descendents-Hypercaffium Spazzinate (Epitaph)

Another letdown was Descendents first album in 12 year. At 14, Cool to Be You was my favorite album and is basically still an album full of hits. I feel like the newest album tried to be more like 1996’s Everything Sucks, that I honestly never was that into. I found this album to be quite a disappointment and after not putting out something for 12 years, I’d expect a better output. The album still gets the sixth spot on the list, because the songs “Without Love”, “Smile” and “On Paper” are still some of the songs of the year and if it were just an EP it’d be a damn good EP.

  1. Sløtface-Empire Records (EP, Propeller)

Speaking of damn good EP’s, I always try to fill a quote of Norwegian bands and I always add some EP’s as well. I usually see Sløtface a couple of times a year and “Empire Records” has always been my favorite song to hear live because I love the movie with the same name. To hear it on record was kind of weird, but it’s a great song still. The entire EP is pretty great and if it were an album that were this good in its entirety, it would probably be way higher on the list. The band used to be known as Slutface, but changed their name around the 1st of April this year. I was sure it was an April fool’s joke, but turns out I was wrong!

Listen herehttps://soundcloud.com/slotfaceofficial-1

  1. Nerf Herder-Rockingham (Golfshirt)

These Nerdcore guys decided to crowdfund their newest album like Screeching Weasel did with Baby Fat. I almost forgot about the album until the end of the year. It’s as good as or even better than their fourth album IV. “Ghostbusters 3” is the saddest broken hearted love song of the year.

  1. Against Me!-Shape Shift with Me (Total Treble Music/ Xtra Mile)

I didn’t listen to this album until the very end of the year, since I’m not really a big Against Me! fan, but I really enjoy this album and I think it’s their best album. It’s a really diverse album and the sound is great. I think the Blink album should’ve sounded like this.

  1. Mikey Erg!-Tentative Decisions (Don Giovanni)

There were lots of albums this year I could’ve put on the list. The Norwegian band Sweden put out a pretty good album, and actual swedes Västerbron did as well. Green day had like one good song on their album Revolution Radio called “Still Breathing”, and that’s it, I guess. I was really excited when I heard Mikey Erg’s new album, especially after his split with Warren Franklin. I don’t think the album is as good as that split, but there are some really good songs on here, like “1001 Smashed Motel Rooms” and “Song for New Britain”. The Ergs! are also reunited, so some good things came out of 2016.

Listen here: https://mikeyerg.bandcamp.com/album/tentative-decisions

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