People who know me will know that the following albums are going to be punk rock or variations on that theme. So, if you’re going to mope that I haven’t included XYZ Indie Rock Band or ABC Hip Hip record then turn back now, or go read something on Vice. Each to their own, as they say.
2013 was a good year for new records. A lot of scene stalwarts dropped return-to-form albums, and a stack of really strong new entrants and sophomore releases filled out the calendar. Bad Religion’s True North, Off With Their Head’s Home, The Bronx IV and Direct Hit’s Brainless God are all worthy albums that didn’t make my top 5. Also, the Tony Sly Tribute record is as amazing as he deserves. Below, however, are my personal favorites from the year that was 2013.
5. The Flatliners – Dead Language
The Flatliners take their sweet time with new records. It’s been three years since 2010’s Cavalcade and six since their Fat Wreck break out, The Great Awake. Because of the space between you get a lot of changes from the band from album to album. The Great Awake is a fucking dark dense album. Cavalcade is less relentless but with stronger song writing overall, a more cohesive record. With Dead Language The Flatliners are again stronger. Thirteen sing-along punk rock songs with all the passion and more variation compared to prior records. Chris’ best vocal performance to date brings it up another notch. Stand Out Tracks – Sew My Mouth Shut, Young Professionals.
4. Sundowner – Neon Fiction
Sundowner is Chris McCaughan of the The Lawrence Arms side project. Neon Fiction is ten tracks that function on solid song writing. It’s Chris’ first Sundowner record in a while and though, I felt, there are a couple of filler tracks in there, it’s a great listen. Certainly a better effort than a lot of punk rock acoustic projects out there and safe in my top 5 for the year. I catch myself singing these songs in the strangest places. Stand Out Tracks – Cemetery West, Life in the Embers.
3. Alkaline Trio – My Shame is True
This record is not going to convert any Alk3 haters, but for existing fans it’s easily their best work since 2003’s Good Mourning. A collection of solid straight ahead punk rock with that dark twist fans love. The Broken Wing EP which comes with the deluxe issue of the record has another four really great tracks mainly fronted by Dan. Good to see them back. Stand Out Tracks – I’m Only Here to Disappoint, I, Pessimist, I Wanna Be a Warhol (Broken Wing EP – Balanced on a Shelf, Sunburn).
2. Iron Chic – The Constant One
Iron Chic are rad. Smart, energetic, fun, punk rock with intelligent lyrics and a penchant for the abstract. This album is their most cohesive work so far and builds their momentum nicely. There is a real DIY sound to this recording that means the songs have to stand on their own without any slick production or digital trickery – and they do. Depressing everyday life has never sounded so good. Stand Out Tracks (they’re all pretty damn good) – Wolf Dix Rd., Bogus Journey, True Miserable Experience.
1. Red City Radio – Titles
This album is a ball tearer. The end. Ok, not really the end. Oklahoma’s Red City Radio are all about big husky voices, heart on your sleeve lyrics and thumping four-on-the-floor rhythms. Titles sees them slightly change their sound to give it a rougher edge and lose a bit of that compressed-punk-in-a-can sound they had on The Dangers of Standing Still. They shy away from formulaic song structures but still know how to dish out a massive chorus when required. There is even some pretty nice guitar work used sparingly. A super gritty reflection of a tough life in the South West laced with the positive conviction that tomorrow will be better. I’m still frothing on this album after it’s been spinning in my car for months. A worthy Album of the year. Stand Out Tracks – Show Me on the Doll Where the Music Touched You, Don’t be a Hero, Be a Friend, I’ll Take a Mile, The Silence between.
There you have it, my top 5.
A couple of disappointments for me this year too. The Wonder Years have been my pop-punk guilty pleasure for a while now but The Greatest Generation didn’t live up to my expectations for a follow up to Suburbia, I’ve Given You Everything. City & Colour’s The Hurry and The Harm was totally lost on me. Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart had moments of greatness but was a little underwhelming.
There are a few things to look forward to in Early 2014. The Lawrence Arms releasing Metropole later this month through Epitaph. Poison City released a killer teaser track from Luca Brasi’s album By a Thread slated for release in March. I’m sure there are more I can’t think of right now. Hopefully Aus will be on the itinerary for a few good tours this year.
Was there one I missed? Don’t keep a good album a secret, let me know below.