Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Colin's Top Ten EPs and Top Ten Albums of 2018

I always find doing end of year lists to be equal parts terrifying and exciting. It's exciting because I enjoy going back and revisiting some of my favourite music of the year and falling in love all over again. It's terrifying because every single year it seems that more and more bands are putting out incredible releases and trying to pick just ten of the best is so, so difficult. It being difficult is really a good thing because it means that the punk scene is continuing to grow and improve and be the best musical genre. This post is going to be my personal top ten EPs and top ten albums. Because I see these lists as a celebration of punk rock throughout the entire year, I'm also going to mention some of my favourite gigs, festivals and performances of the year. There really have been too many incredible live performances this year to even try and do a top ten and pick a sole favourite but I feel like live music is too important not to mention on a roundup of 2018, so I'm throwing them in. Pre-warning: This is likely to be a long post but I hope you do make it to the end, that it gives you a smile, potentially exposes you to some new music or encourages you to revisit some music you may have overlooked.

Top Ten EPs 2018

10. All Talk by Our Lives In Cinema

I'm not sure that there is anyone in the UK scene with as much passion and enthusiasm for the UK punk rock scene than Our Lives In Cinema's lead singer Mark Bartlett. He, along with the rest of his band, can also write some wonderful pop punk tunes. I first became aware of the band last year, after the release of their self-titled EP. All Talk was released in March on Umlaut Records and I was really taken aback by how much the songwriting has come along. These are three wonderfully earwormy tracks that also get you thinking. They also put on one my most memorable live performances of the year, definitely a band you need to keep an eye on in 2019.

9. Peace Of Mind by Triple Sundae

Umlaut Records were on extra top form in the Spring of 2018, also releasing Peace Of Mind by Triple Sundae. If you regularly attend gigs around London then you've probably seen Triple Sundae already and know what a good band they are but Peace Of Mind seemed to open a few doors for them to start gigging more around the UK. This EP shows such a massive improvement for Triple Sundae, I mean their previous material is good but Peace Of Mind really took the band to another level. Here we have three fantastic melodic punk tunes that speak about living with mental health problems. This is one of those great EPs where it's so hard to actually pick a favourite song as they're all so good. I've also been lucky enough to hear a few new tunes lately at a live show and am so excited for the next release – it's going to be something very special.

8. Innocent Until Proven Filthy by Filthy Militia

When I received a message from Filthy Militia frontman at the beginning of the year I was excited. He was asking me to review the debut EP for a ska band - I rarely get sent ska! Of course, I fell in love with it immediately! Combining ska, two-tone and reggae with some lovely punk rock and sounding like a breath of fresh air in the process. Innocent Until Proven Filthy contains four fantastic songs that will get you dancing and singing in equal measure, with the horn lines in particular doing such a good job of driving the songs forward whilst getting your feet moving. I really wish I'd managed to catch them a few more times this year, their opening stint at Level Up Festival was superb.

7. Good Friends, Bad Luck by The Run Up

It's no secret that we're big fans of The Run Up here at CPRW. Not only are they a great band but are also lovely people. They've had a year of ups and downs with some incredible tours with Pkew Pkew Pkew, Quitters and Junior Battles but also some horrendous luck with vans. On a recent three week tour with Junior Battles they managed to go through four of them! Throughout all of the stress that must come with this, they've continued on with a positive mindset knowing that even though they have bad luck they've always got their good friends with them for support. That's what Good Friends, Bad Luck is about – getting through the bad times with your pals. This is an EP brimming with positivity and it really shows a band that are going from strength to strength with every release.

6. Mean Caesar by Mean Caesar

When a new band features former and current members of bands such as Pure Graft, Great Cynics, Myelin, The Murderburgers and Spoilers then you know that that band have some pedigree. Mean Caesar formed in 2017 but didn't start gigging until the spring of 2018, working hard to perfect a sound and style before unleashing it to the masses. We first saw them live in April supporting The Copyrights and from that moment I knew I had a new band that I was very excited by. We saw them a couple more times before the eventual release of their self-titled debut in October. Hearing those songs that I'd enjoyed so much live on record for the first time just increased my love of this band. It's wonderful heartfelt gruff punk that speaks of the trials and tribulations of life in your thirties and continuing to find yourself. South London Summer is a real stand out, I'm constantly singing the chorus to myself when I'm out and about. It's a tune.

5. As Long As You're Here by The Hope Hereafter

There's every chance you've never heard of The Hope Hereafter before. According to the Facebook they've only got 28 "likes" so you assume from that that they're pretty small. I randomly discovered them on the Bandcamp whilst I was just randomly checking out the new punk section. I came across this EP with some interesting looking artwork, clicked play and instantly got so very excited. I quickly messaged Emma, who was out at the time, and told her in what I imagine was quite a hyperactive text how I had found something incredible. That was of course the four track As Long As You're Here by The Hope Hereafter who are from Indiana. I actually struggle a bit to summarise what exactly it is about these four songs that have me so excited. There's a great rawness to it that really adds to its charm and I just get pumped up every time I listen. It's punk, it's folk, it's indie. It's so good.

4. Shut Up by Millie Manders & The Shut UP

2018 has been the most incredible year for UK ska punk with so many bands really stepping up and releasing their best material yet. I was expecting big things from Millie Manders and her band, The Shut Up, but I wasn't expecting to be blown away quite as much as I was by the latest EP, Shut Up. More so than any other Millie Manders release, this really feels like a full band effort and just feels like a more rounded sound. You probably know by now that Millie herself has the very best vocal in punk rock music and it is, of course, sounding perfect here. All four songs differ in their own way but are all packed with such a fantastic energy that you get swept away with the songs every time you listen. If Millie Manders & The Shut Up aren't on your musical radar yet then I highly suggest that you adjust that.

3. The Extra Mile by Dorkatron

I love me some Ramonescore pop punk music. Austria's Dorkatron put out the best release in the genre in 2018 with their The Extra Mile EP, on Monster Zero Records. At a time when most pop punk is over-produced and terrible, I love hearing any band that remains true to the original sound. Dorkatron are a band that don't take themselves too seriously with song topics that deal with being a bit of "dork." What I really loved about this EP is that, despite it being a Ramonescore style release, it's really varied. It's not all blisteringly fast pop punk, there's plenty of melody throughout and it won't be long until you're singing along. When it comes to singing along to The Extra Mile, there are so many moments where you won't be able to resist. This is exactly how pop punk should be.

2. Reasons To Breathe by Uniforms

This is a spoiler for something later on in this post but Uniforms played my absolute favourite set of 2018 when they closed Manchester Punk Festival. During their gloriously raucous set they mentioned how they'd be releasing a brand new EP via Make-That-A-Take and TNSrecords later in the year and oh boy gosh golly was I excited for this. When it was released in August it did not disappoint. It was never going to. Titled Reasons To Breathe, Uniforms have written three of their best ever songs for this release. This is gruff punk done perfectly – the rawness of the vocals, the big choruses, the fist-in-the-air moments and the positive outlook of the songs. There is this incredibly infectious energy about every one of these songs that really grabs you and pulls you along for the ride. It's impossible to ignore, not that anyone ever should. What makes this EP extra special is that it's an EP I perhaps thought we would never get, as Uniforms had previously split up – what a comeback this was.

1. Misery Punk Ruined My Life by Goodbye Blue Monday

It's a first and second placed finish for Make-That-A-Take Records on my to ten EPs list. If I've spoken to you previously about my favourite releases of 2018, I'm sure you could have easily guessed what would be my favourite of the year. Misery Punk Ruined My Life by Goodbye Blue Monday is so unbelievably good. Like seriously, wow. I'm listening now for what is probably the 500th time and I still get so pumped up by these three songs. This is powerful sing-along pop punk music that is so cathartic and puts you in such a smashing mood. This is all the more remarkable given that the subject matter is pretty bleak – talking about topics such as not being able to be happy, feeling terrible in the morning and how marriage is an archaic institution. I've been known to sing along very keenly to the song Love Is A Noose For Two and the chorus "Get a job, Get married, Get a House, Reminisce. Have kids, Get buried, There must be more to life than this." Goodbye Blue Monday have had an amazing year in 2018 and this looks set to continue in 2019 with appearances at Groezrock and Punk Rock Holiday already announced.

As incredible as all of the music that's been released in 2018 has been, the real highlights are always the gigs. There have been so many incredible moments at punk gigs this year I really must mention some of my favourites.

Manchester Punk Festival will forever be the highlight of any year. This year the entire UK punk community, and plenty of people from overseas, seemed to descend on Manchester for the three day festival that got nicknamed Manchester Pals Fest. We're already really excited to make the journey back to Manchester for next year's festival. A special mention also has to go Level Up Festival at the New Cross Inn. This three day ska festival was an absolute triumph again.

If you've been a regular reader of Colin's Punk Rock World over the past couple of years, you'll know about the love we have for Be Sharp Promotions and New Cross Inn. This year has been absolutely incredible in South London with so many fantastic gigs. For me the gig of the year was Pkew Pkew Pkew making their first London appearance along with The Run Up, Our Lives In Cinema and The Burnt Tapes. This was a night of massive sing-alongs and even bigger smiles. There have also been some pretty legendary sets from bands such as Rehasher, The Penske File, Eat Defeat, Call Me Malcolm, Random Hand, Lightyear, Uniforms, Red City Radio, Fandangle, [Spunge] and, of course, Goldfinger – I still can't believe that happened. If there was an award for promoter of the year ,Be Sharp would comfortably win it in my eyes. CPRW 4 Be Sharp forever.

There's been some very special sets this year away from the New Cross Inn, as well. Like I mentioned earlier, Uniforms’ set at MPF was the best. It was just the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend. That whole after party was a big highlight of MPF with Beat The Red Light, Chewing On Tinfoil and Minor Discomfort Band really ensuring the weekend finished in some style. Back in January we made a trip to The Exchange in Bristol to see Quitters and The Run Up play a fantastic set each that put big smiles on our faces. The New Town Kings played a superb set at Esquires in Bedford with the always fantastic Easydread. Spanish Love Songs have been over to the UK for the first time and have been playing special set after special set everywhere they've turned up. I made it to the London show and was completely blown away. The whole room of people were so passionately singing along to these wonderful songs and it was a special moment to be part of it.

2018 has been great for gigs, I can't wait to see what happens in 2019.

Before I get on to my top ten albums of 2018, I want to give a little shout out to my favourite new band of 2018. Fintan Stack are a band that have really got a lot of love from me. From when guitarist Chris sent me their two singles at the beginning of the year and seeing all three of their shows, I've just been in love with their harmony filled pop punk and I can't wait to see how this incredible five piece progress in 2019.

Aaannnnddd before we get on with my top ten albums I want to give honourable mentions to the following bands – Abraskadabra, Authority Zero, Dead End Drive-In, Fastfade, The Filaments, The Hempsteadys, The Interrupters, Kid You Not, Krang, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Nerdlinger, New Junk City, Odd Robot, The Pissups, Rock 'N' Roll Television and Throw – who all released music that made comprising a top ten incredibly hard.

Right... LET'S DO IT!

Top Ten Albums 2018

10. Always The Bridesmaid by Flangipanis

Since The Smith Street Band and The Bennies have started coming over to the UK, I've found myself keeping a eye on the Australian punk scene and discovering so many amazing bands from down under. Flangipanis are a four piece pop/skate punk band from Brisbane whose 2018 Always The Bridesmaid was a breath of fresh air for me. A lot of modern day skate punk bands seem to go down the more shredding guitars road and use many social and political themes is their music. Flangipanis however keep it fun and bouncy with songs about partying and drinking. It's kind of old school but it also feels new and fresh. Punk rock doesn't always need a message, it also can be a lot of fun and that's why Always The Bridesmaid earned its place on this list.

9. Death From Below by The Palatines

As mentioned in the Dorkatron entry in my top ten EPs, I love Ramonescore pop punk. I also have a big love for the fast buzzsaw style like Teenage Bottlerocket and The Copyrights. In 2018 I stumbled upon The Palatines who, in my opinion, released the best album in the genre this year. Death From Below came out back in February and found a near permanent place in my listening habits for the rest of the year. Something I can be a little critical of when it comes to buzzsaw pop punk is that it can be a little samey, I never found that with Death From Below. Something I really enjoyed about this album was that on a few songs the vocals really have me imagining of Trevor Keith from Face To Face fronting The Copyrights – that can't be a bad thing. There's also a fun cameo appearance from Alex Wonk of legendary UK punk rockers Wonk Unit on the album. If he likes it, it must be half decent at least. It's not just half decent, it's fantastic.

8. Let Me Turn You Up by The Sensations

I'm a huge believer in punk rock changing the world not just with its message but by putting massive smiles on people's faces. That's exactly what Let Me Turn You Up by Japan's The Sensations does to me. Described to me as a cross between Potshot and Bomb The Music Industry and combining punk, ska and 60s rock 'n' roll, Let Me Turn You Up is ten tracks of unstoppable energy that will get you dancing, singing and laughing like a complete idiot. You will look silly dancing to this but it doesn't matter because it will make you the happiest person around. In a world where there seems to be misery and despair around every corner we need albums like this to help us get through the day sometimes. Word on the street is that they are incredible live as well so I really hope they find their way to the UK next year.

7. Salvation by The Penske File

We've been big fans of Canadian three piece The Penske File for a while now and when I was fortunate enough to get an early listen to their new album, Salvation, I knew this was going to lead to some big things for the band. I like to think I was spot on with my prediction, with some big tours around the USA and Canada, another trip to Europe and a first ever tour in the UK as well as getting chosen to be the very last band to play at this year's Fest in Gainesville and playing to a packed out room in the process. Taking their sing-along pop punk sound from previous effort Burn Into The Earth but adding some maturity to their sound, it feels like with Salvation the band have grown as people and as musicians and it really comes across on the album. In my review I said that Salvation could be a breakthrough album like The ’59 Sound was for The Gaslight Anthem or On The Impossible Past was for The Menzingers, I stand by that statement.

6. This Will Haunt Me by Dollar Signs

On This Will Haunt Me, Dollar Signs do that thing of writing a really sad album lyrically but also sounding completely joyous in its delivery. This is obviously fantastic because it allows the listener to realise that it's okay to be sad and that they’re not alone. It's an emotional album but it's a fun one. I feel like people can take so many different things away from This Will Haunt Me, whether it's the relatable and often helpful messages or the many, many opportunities to shout along with Dollar Signs. There is a sense of chaos in the music that gives it a huge amount of energy and leaves you thinking what on earth is going to happen next. It's very easy to compare the Dollar Signs sound to Jeff Rosenstock but, in my honest opinion, I believe that this album is better than anything Jeff has released in a long time, which is some high praise. Like The Sensations, I really hope Dollar Signs can find their way to the UK soon as I can only imagine that it will be a very fun time to see them live.

5. Paid In Change by Dinner Club

Things that aren't a secret on CPRW – I love Canadian punk rock. I'm forever finding new favourite bands from Canada and 2018 has been no different. My favourite was Dinner Club who are a four piece from Winnipeg and released their debut album Paid In Change in September. I actually find it hard to put my finger on why I loved this album so much. I think it's because it is so varied. Whilst compiling this top ten I put all of the bands in the running in a playlist, hit shuffle and listened for what stood out amongst all the awesome music of 2018. Whenever a Dinner Club song would come on my reaction was always "oooh, what's this?" and discover it was Dinner Club. No two songs on Paid In Change sound the same which was really refreshing. Despite their newness it's clear that the band aren't afraid to experiment, often adding a trumpet to their punk sound and combining the wonderful vocals of Josh and Kiah Verinder really adds something special to their music.

4. Lanterns by Moonraker

You know when you listen to an album for the very first time and you're only a few songs in and you think this is incredible? That was my thoughts when first listening to Lanterns by Moonraker. Well, as I continued to listen it just seemed to get better and better. This album had me seriously excited about punk rock for days after hearing it. I recommended it to anyone and everyone before I'd even published my review – something I rarely do. The Californian three piece have this infectious energy that really does things to me. It's just captivating. It cements my belief that punk is the very best genre of music, I can't believe that any other musical genre can give you the same feelings that punk rock does. What gives Moonraker this great infectious energy you ask? For me it's the brilliant dual vocals, whether they're trading lines, singing together or providing harmonies it's amazing. Moonraker kind of remind me of The Lawrence Arms except I've never quite got the insane amount of love they get, but I do have an insane amount of love for Moonraker and, in particular, Lanterns. Lyrically Lanterns is also superb, wonderfully insightful and relatable and it is delivered in such unique and catchy ways. There's not a single thing I dislike about this album. It's the best American punk record of the year.

3. Reach Out by New Town Kings

I have to admit I was extremely surprised by how much I loved Reach Out by Colchester ska heroes the New Town Kings. I expected it to be good, with the level of musicianship in this eight piece it's almost impossible for it not to be, but wow oh wow was I taken aback by Reach Out's epicness. The first time we heard these songs was actually at the Reach Out album launch show at Colchester Arts Centre in the summer. This got me so excited to hear the actual album and I honestly don't think I've had more fun reviewing an album this year. All the songs on Reach Out are earworms, even instrumental track The Hawk which has replaced New Town Hop as the band's opening song when you see them live. I've often thought that you know a guitar or horn line is great if you can sing along to it like you would lyrics. Reach Out covers a broad range of topics such as politics, friendship, relationships, music and escapism. Without a doubt the least "punk" album on this list but it gives me so much joy. I like things that give me joy. Things that give me joy are great.

2. I Think We'll Be OK by Eat Defeat

I've been following Eat Defeat's career for years now, since hearing their debut album Challenges in 2012. Since then they've released a handful of very well received EPs and singles before releasing for their long awaited second full length, I Think We'll Be OK, in August. Eat Defeat are one of those bands who I've had the pleasure of seeing grow in the timeframe that CPRW has existed and I have to say I'm so proud of what Summers, Jimmy, Stephen and Richard have achieved. On I Think We'll Be OK, Eat Defeat have done something that not many bands try – they've been optimistic. As the album title obviously suggests, this is an album about finding the good in bad situations and believing that despite things seeming terrible currently they will get better. This message is put across through ten upbeat melodic pop punk songs that are so unbelievably catchy that you can't help but sing-along and it will genuinely make you feel better. I Think We'll Be OK is second on my albums of the year list but my goodness it was very close to being number one. If it had been released any other year it probably would have been my number one but a certain ska punk band from London went and released a genre defining album in 2018.

1. I Was Broken When You Got Here by Call Me Malcolm

How could an album that redefined a genre and forced all of their friends and peers to really step it up not be my album of the year? I Was Broken When You Got Here by Call Me Malcolm is an absolute triumph. I was lucky enough to be sent it about a month before it was released in April and before I'd even found the time to listen to it, Sarah from Shout Louder, Makky from Broken Arrow, Steve from Easydread and Paul from Be Sharp Promotions told me just how good it was. So when I found time to give it a listen I was expecting big things but my word was I in for a shock. This is the best ska punk album released in about fifteen years, not just in the UK but anywhere in the world. I can't remember the last time a ska punk album had this much positive press behind it and it's pushed the band and the entire UK ska scene to a new level. It seems that people are excited about ska again and that can only be a good thing. So what's so good about this album? Everything, obviously. Call Me Malcolm playing upbeat ska punk songs complete with a first class horn section and a brilliant three part harmony. Originally taking influence from 90s third wave ska and adding a slightly crunchier edge, Call Me Malcolm play a style that will get a crowd skanking, moshing and singing along like it's the most important thing in their lives. And, to be honest, when you see them live it is the only thing in the world that actually matters – it's pure escapism, it makes you feel amazing, it's why I love punk music. What really makes I Was Broken When You Got Here is its subject matter. The band have had some tough times in their personal lives in recent years and this album addresses that with songs about dealing with mental health and helping you realise that it's perfectly fine to talk to people when you need to and that you're not alone in the world. I don't think a track sums up the importance of having people you love in your life better than All My Nameless Friends. It's a song that on the surface is a love letter to the Be Sharp/New Cross Inn scene that is such an important part of so many people's lives, myself included, but it's also about having friends who will always pick you up when you're down. I Was Broken When You Got Here is a self-help album and is so important in 2018 as the stigma attached to mental health continues to be fought against. If you still don't believe me when I try to articulate just what a amazing album this is, then please just go and check it out for yourself. It's not often that I'd say this about an album but I think it's as close to perfect as an album can be. Congratulations and thank you, Call Me Malcolm.

You may have noticed a theme with the majority of my picks. Trying to look after yourself, being positive and having fun is an extremely important part of life, particularly in the complete mess that is the world in 2018. Hopefully you enjoy these albums and they put as big a smile on your face as they have mine.

What an incredible year 2018 has been! Thanks for reading. Well done if you got all the way to the end.

This end of year essay was written by Colin Clark.

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