Friday, 30 December 2016

Colin's Punk Rock World Playlist: December 2016

Here's what Dan, Emma, Omar, Pan, Robyn and myself have been listening to this December.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Pan of The Burnt Tapes' Top Ten Albums 2016

2016 eh? What a shit show of a year. Forget it, it’s almost over so let’s dive in and get moist with some of the best albums of the year.

10. Blink 182 - California

Maybe this choice is due to nostalgia - Enema of the State was the first punk album I ever heard and it was love at first sight (mostly due to the front cover). Then Blink 182 started getting progressively weirder until my once idol Tom Delonge totally flipped out and started chasing little green men and eventually left the band. Then Matt Skiba came along and they made this album. And hey, it’s cheesy, it’s overproduced and the autotune on the vocals is horrific but I’ll be damned if it isn’t catchy as hell. It’s nice to have them back.

Fun Fact: My esteemed colleague Phil once took the center photo from the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket booklet to his hairdresser so he could get the Tom Delonge fringe.

9. Pears - Green Star

Are these guys Hardcore? Punk? Thrash? Pop Punk? Who cares when they can flawlessly combine all those genres and make a 16 track, 100 mph, wild ride of an album? You know when you’ve been listening to too much Moose Blood and you start turning emo? This is kinda like the antidote to that - a shot of adrenaline straight to your cold, calloused heart . Snowflake is my jam but all the songs blast through like a hot dog in a hallway. They apparently put on a real humdinger of a show too, which is nice.

Fun Fact: Pears are one of my least favourite fruits ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

8. The Murderburgers - The 12 Habits Of Highly Defective People

Up until 2016 The Murderburgers were a band I’d heard highly of but never got down to listen to. I thought they were just another hype band but it turns out I was just being a judgemental asshole. This album is punk perfection, 12 songs that are so infectious you’d be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a new strain of avian flu. My Bones Are Full of Holes, The Waves and Lung Capacity are standout tracks but to be honest there’s not a bad song on here. Fast, polished and featuring members of Masked Intruder and Off With Their Heads this is by far the best thing these super nice dudes have put out. Stick it on and have a rammy.

Fun Fact: Rumour has it that their singer Fraser once ate his own puke.

7. Spanish Love Songs - Giant Sings The Blues

OK, so technically this was released in the US in 2015 but you know what, it was released in Europe this year so I win on a technicality. Spanish Love Songs may have the most un-Googlable band name I’ve come across but this album is a real gem. Imagine Menzingers, but like really depressed. Concrete, Mexico and Remainder are the standout tracks but all the songs are awesome. If you like punk which is honest, depressing and self deprecating then Spanish Love Songs are your new favourite band. Expect them to blow up soon, you heard it here first.

Fun Fact: They are on page 2 of a Google search for “Spanish Love Songs”.

6. The Hotelier - Goodness

If you can get past the spoken word introduction, interludes and THAT COVER then you’re in for a treat. These guys have been pushing the boundaries of “emo” since their first album and Goodness is a natural progression to the excellent Home, Like Noplace Is There. It’s a more muted, subtle album but somehow also manages to be more nostalgic. More optimistic but just as honest, Goodness is full of small pockets of hope - moments to help you realise that tomorrow might not be so bad. And that’s why it’s a beautiful album.

Fun Fact: I know a certain band that has blatantly copied the drums from end of the last song on this album.

5. Chris Farren - Can’t Die

Yeah baby, it’s Chris Farren! Internet celebrity, creator of pop culture t-shirts and owner of one of the most luscious manes in punk rock. When I first heard this album I was a little confused - what was this sugary pop I was listening to? Where are the guitars? Why are there so many synths in this? And then it hit me. It’s an album that deals with deeply personal issues built on a backbone of poppy melodies. Classic Chris Farren bait and switch. It’s such an interesting album due to this juxtaposition - dealing with anxiety, self doubt, loss and depression yet musically it’s glowing and upbeat. Celebrate your fuckedupness by listening to this album.

Fun Fact: Chris Farren, me and you all have something in common. We’re all going to die.

4. PUP - The Dream is Over

PUP’s previous album was pretty much my album of the year so it was always going to hard to beat. Initially I was slightly disappointed, it seemed like more of the same but with slightly less angsty energy. Guess what: I WAS WRONG. This album is self deprecation and self loathing done right - raw, honest and delivered in a package that almost celebrates how fucked up life can be. Musically it’s unconventional, interesting, inventive and furious. Their music videos are possibly the best I’ve ever seen and they tour like dogs, so buy this album and prepare to get weird at a show (Spoiler: They are disgustingly good live).

Fun Fact: “The Dream is Over” is a direct quote from the lead singer’s doctor after damaging his vocal chords (thanks Wikipedia).

3. Jeff Rosenstock - WORRY

A list featuring Chris Farren isn’t complete without an appearance from his brother from another mother Jeff Rosenstock. I loved “We Cool?” and I FUCKING LOVE WORRY. This album is split in two parts, the first part is traditionally structured featuring banger after banger. Then it kinda goes mad and packs 10 songs into one continuous mega track that shouldn’t work but ends up being perfect. Fuck you Jeff for being so talented. In a sense, this is one of the most punk albums I’ve ever heard given its musical diversity. Jeff sings off key at times, there are noisy guitars, fuzzy feedback and backing vocals that most artists would have cut out/autotuned. But it’s all there on purpose, it’s not perfect and it’s proud of it. The last line of the album is testament to this: “Perfect always takes so long because it don’t exist. It doesn’t exist.”

Fun Fact: If I could marry two dudes, it would be Jeff Rosenstock and Chris Farren and I’d totally be OK being the meat in that sandwich.

2. Tiny Moving Parts - Celebrate

What’s this? A perfect album from an insanely talented band of dudes? You bet it is. Not a bad song on this bad boy. I liked their previous album but felt it was a bit too “shouty” so imagine my mind-boner when I realised they had released an album that was more melodic, catchier and had more sick math rock guitar riffs than a middle aged algebra teacher in a Slint cover band. The drums are kinda wild and the guitar work is purely erotic yet the consistent level of great musicianship make this one of the best records I’ve heard in the past few years.

Fun Fact: After hearing this record I started taking guitar lessons - that lasted 2 months.

1. Touche Amore - Stage Four

This album man. I knew I’d love it from the first few notes on Flowers and You, before I even knew what the album was about. Obviously it’s about a guy mourning the loss of his mother to cancer but writing a near perfect album about that is an astonishing achievement. From the end of New Halloween which alludes to the his mother’s last ever voicemail played at the end of the album, to the audible pain and loss in the crescendo of Skyscraper - this shit is real. Musically it’s cleaner and more melodic than their previous work, but it’s perfectly balanced and respectful of the subject matter. Lyrically it just slays me. This is an important album for so many reasons and was an easy choice for #1. 

Fun fact: In the 3 months since its release, I’ve listened to this album 206 times.

Honourable mentions: Joyce Manor, “Cody”, Modern Baseball, “Holy Ghost”, Moose Blood, “Blush”, Pinegrove, “Cardinal”, Apologies I Have None, “Pharmacie”, Against Me, “Shape Shift With Me”, Dowsing, “Okay”, NOFX, “First Ditch Effort”, Direct Hit, “Wasted Mind”, MakeWar, “Developing A Theory Of Integrity”.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Colin's Top Twenty Live Sets 2016

This year has been full of amazing gigs and festivals. I couldn't possibly pick a top ten gigs so I've decided to pick a top twenty sets from the year.

20. Crazy Arm at The Junction, Plymouth 28/8/16
Emma and I had already made plans to go on holiday to Cornwall for a week before this show was announced. It was sceduled for the day before we were due to travel so we decided to leave for our holiday a day early and make a pit stop in Plymouth. This was a Crazy Arm hometown show, I believe their first for a little while so it was bound to be a special set. Of course it was. It was basically a best of set with at least one new song thrown in for good measure. This was the best I've ever seen Crazy Arm, and they've always been good. There was something special about seeing them play in a tiny pub in their hometown.

19. Iron Chic at DIY Space For London, London 4/5/16
DIY Space is the type of venue that is perfect for Iron Chic. It's a community space that was created to bring people together. Iron Chic are a band that brings people together. With DIY Space completely sold out Iron Chic were completely in their element. The low sitting stage really made it feel as if everyone was a part of the band as a room full of people sang along to some of the best songs written in the past decade. Iron Chic have an incredible ability to write a song that can really draw a live crowd in. If there was a throat that wasn't sore come the end of the night, you're doing Iron Chic wrong.

18. Jesse James at The Forum, London 17/7/16
Earlier this year Big Cheese Magazine published its final issue. To celebrate the people behind the magazine put on an all-dayer at The Forum in London. The line-up was stacked with some of the best bands from around the world but the real highlight for me was a Jesse James reunion. Jesse James were one of my favourite bands when I first began to listen to punk rock music so it's always an absolute pleasure to see them on the rare occasions they play shows these days. Sometimes it's great to feel a sense of nostalgia watching a band and Jesse James supply that feeling by the bucket load. Singing and dancing along to those songs always puts a big smile on my face. I imagine every year Jesse James get together for a reunion show they will end up on my end of year top gigs list.

17. Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man at Manchester Punk Festival 23/4/16
This definitely was one of the craziest sets I saw all year. After a long day at Manchester Punk Festival we headed to the after-party where Manchester punk legends Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man opened the show. After coming on to stage with Mr Blobby there was half an hour of complete joyous carnage. After hearing so much about ROTPM's live show finally seeing live was an eye opening experience. The band have a cult following and after a performance like the one I witnessed at MPF it's easy to see why. The band play hard and fast, barely relenting during their entire set. It was brilliant.

16. Elway at The Fest 15, Gainesville 28/10/16
Elway were so much fun at Fest. Knowing they were up against some big hitters in the form of Propaghandi and Red City Radio Elway were quite thankful to get quite a sizeable crowd for their set and decided to do a request set, asking the crowd what they should play. This was an incredibly fun set full of off the cuff moments. Elway songs are always full of a lot of heart an emotion and live they take on a whole new life. Front man Tim Browne remains one of my favourite frontmen in punk rock. He has a great voice and is a natural in front of a crowd. This was one of those special sets you just had to witness.

15. Faintest Idea at The Owl Sanctuary, Norwich 1/4/16
An album launch show is Faintest Ideas home county Norfolk was always going to be crazy. And crazy it was. The best ska punk band in the United Kingdom are always fantastic live but this special album to celebrate the release of their new album Increasing The Minimum Rage saw the band at the peak of their abilities. The new Owl Sanctuary (mine and Emma's first visit) felt like the perfect room for Faintest Idea as well, it's a reasonable sized room but when it's full it feels much smaller. When you get that room full of people skanking along to the band the room shrinks in size and adds to the whole feeling of craziness that happens throughout the set.

14. Sonic Boom Six at The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes 25/3/16
Sonic Boom Six warmed up for their appearance at The London International Ska Festival by playing a Good Friday gig at The Craufurd Arms. It was my first time seeing them in well over a year and was completely blown away by the band. I'd forgotten just what a top top top live band The Boom are. Even with a line up change with a new drummer being brought in to the gang Barney, Laila and co were as slick as ever. Getting the crowd dancing and singing along almost instantly it's hard not to get swept away with the bands energy and enthusiasm for what they do. Sonic Boom Six are one of the undergrounds best bands and have been for a long time now. Their set at the Big Cheese All-Dayer was also a great time.

13. Chas Palmer-Williams at The Monarch, London 3/3/16
When Chas Palmer-Williams was announced as support for Ducking Punches album release show I was beyond excited but I didn't expect him to upstage Ducking Punches. That's not saying that Ducking Punches weren't fantastic, they were extremely close to making this list but Chas took it to another level. His former band Lightyear were known for their fantastic live performances so we know that Chas has pedigree as a performer. Playing songs from his solo album American Smile British Teeth with his live band he wowed and entertained The Monarch crowd, many of which weren't not familiar with him or his previous work. Everyone soon was though with a hugely enjoyable, happy, joyous and funny set. Chas Palmer-Williams, what a guy!

12. ONSIND at DIY Space For London 23/9/16
When Angela of 176 Records & Shows announced that she would be stopping putting on shows the punks of London were sad. She had one last banger of a show in store for us though, putting on ONSIND one last time. The acoustic punk duo from Pity Me, Durham always put on a very special set. There is a sense of togetherness between the band and the crowd that can't be duplicated. ONSIND's socially and politically aware songs earn massive sing-a-longs from the crowd, with the crowd at times over powering the sound coming from the stage. ONSIND don't tour so much anymore due to Nathan and Daniel's success with Martha so when they do find the time for ONSIND it's always a must see show. Hearing Heterosexuality Is A Construct live is one of those magical live music moments you have to experience before you die.

11. Apologies, I Have None at Manchester Punk Festival 22/4/16
Playing a small space with a mass of bodies singing along to every word is where London's Apologies, I Have None are that their very best. Headlining the second night of The Manchester Punk Festival (after headlining the first MPF the year before) AIHN took to the stage to be greeted by an already warmed up crowd (more on that later) and continued the big punk rock party that had already started. Beginning to debut some of their new material along with their classic London songs this was my favourite time seeing the band (and I've seen them thirteen times now). I can't wait to see the band grow and grow and become the best punk band in the whole world.

10. Against Me! at The Electric Ballroom, London 8/12/16
Gosh I love Against Me! They are a band that are fantastic on record but really bring their songs to life when they are played live. Laura, James, Atom and Inge put on a fantastic show. Heavily supporting their new album Shape Shift With Me, an album I wasn't really a fan of until I heard some of the songs live. Rebecca in particular is ridiculously good live. Of course it was the old material that I loved the most. Run outs of Pints Of Guiness, TSR, Walking Is Still Honest and Cliche Guevara ruined my throat I sang so loud. Against Me! are one of the best live bands around.

9. Chixdiggit at The Fest, Gainesville 29/10/16
I don't remember ever smiling so much during a set as I did during Chixdiggit's set at The Fest. I never expected I'd see Chixdiggit so I was pretty excited before they even began their set but never expected it to be quite such an amazing moment. Playing a career spanning set, I was so thoroughly entertained the whole time. Not only were the songs brilliant but the onstage banter from front man KJ Jansen was hilarious. Chixdiggit are now veterans and legends of the pop punk world and from this evidence are still the best in the game. Emma and I were singing Miso Ramen and Spanish Fever for weeks after Fest.

8. Roughneck Riot at Manchester Punk Festival 22/4/16
I mentioned earlier about Apologies, I Have None's brilliant set at MPF this year. Well before them came Roughneck Riot. The Warrington based folk punks are adored in Manchester. This was Emma's first time seeing Roughneck live so she wanted to get close to the front for a good view. This meant I would spend half an hour or so being a protective wall from the chaos that was happening beside us. This would normally suck but I absolutely loved it! Watching the six piece really made me feel like I was at a proper old school style punk show. Bodies everywhere, fists in the air, songs sang very loudly.

7. Jeff Rosenstock at The Victoria, London 2/4/16
I can't remember how long I'd been waiting to see Jeff Rosenstock play live, whether it be with Bomb The Music Industry or as Jeff Rosenstock. When the moment finally presented itself I was stoked at the night did not disappoint. Jeff has a reputation for energetic, crazy and raw performances with all of how past bands and this was certainly the case here. Playing each song perfectly didn't matter. What did matter was putting everything the body possibly can into the performance. In years to come I honestly thing that future generations of punk fans will look at Jeff Rosenstock the same way as we look at The Ramones, The Clash or the Descendents. As a pioneer.

6. The Bennies at The Barfly, London 14/5/16
Since I first heard Rainbows In Space by The Bennies I've been dying to see them. A couple of years later they'd released a new EP and a new album that were both amazing. Then they announced a UK tour and I lost my stuff. Playing at The Barfly in Camden (one of my favourite venues RIP) I immediately booked the time off work. They only played a thirty minute set but what a thirty minutes it was! Filled with non-stop singing and dancing, The Bennies are the ultimate party band. You can't help but enjoy yourself whilst listening to them normally but live they are on another planet. Anything that might be troubling you is forgotten as you are transported away to one of the best parties you'll ever go to. The Bennies sing a lot about getting high. The Bennies give me that drug free high that can't really be explained.

5. Less Than Jake at The Fest, Gainesville 30/10/16
Seeing Less Than Jake playing a headline set at the best festival in the world in what also happens to be their hometown. Sounds perfect right? It was. Less Than Jake have been one of the greatest live bands in the world for over twenty years now and still put on unforgettable shows. Playing what was a best of set spanning their entire career everyone at Fest is left happy with the show. Unlike a lot of punk bands Less Than Jake like to incorporate props into their set including beach balls, toilet paper and confetti canons, this all adds to what always feels like a massive celebration whenever Less Than Jake play live. I can say I've see Less Than Jake play Gainesville Rock City in Gainesville. For me that means I've completed music.

4. Pkew Pkew Pkew at The Fest, Gainesville 29/10/16
This was one of the craziest sets at Fest. Taking place in Market Street Pub, the venue filled up quickly for the Canadian quartet known as Pkew Pkew Pkew. The Fest crowd were clearly extremely excited to see the band who in my opinion also put out the best album of 2016. Every song form that album was played and sung incredibly loudly by a mass of bodies that where flying all over the room and ended the set completely drenched in PBR. Despite being so far away from Canada this felt like a hometown show for Pkew Pkew Pkew. It's the natural environment for the band, a bunch of drunks who want to party and have a fantastic time.

3. Faintest Idea at Manchester Punk Festival 23/10/16
Manchester Punk Festival 2016 was full of great sets but none were better than Faintest Idea. Due to their history with TNSRecords this felt like another hometown show for Faintest Idea. As they traditionally do the Faintest Idea brass section started the set in the crowd for Back To The Asylum, from there the madness began. From what started as some fun skanking soon developed into a dance fuelled battle for survival. By the time the set finished I was completely exhausted. Faintest Idea are very very good at getting a crowd going. The energy and passion coming from the stage as well as the brass sections excellent synchronised dance moves make it impossible to take your eyes away from the stage and there's nothing but a smile and a look of exhaustion on your face by the time Faintest Idea have completed their set.

2. Not Half Bad at The Fest, Gainesville 29/10/16
Not Half Bad really stole the show at Fest for me. It was the set that really felt like a proper old school Fest set. There was only a small crowd gathered in Durty Nelly's bar but it was a dedicated group of Not Half Bad fans. The small low stage was perfect for fans to get right in the face of the band and sing every word of Not Half Bad's folk tinged punk rock back at the band. After all of the years I've spent watching YouTube videos of Fest this was the set that really made me feel like I was at Fest. The chaos, the feeling of community, the fun times - Not Half Bad had it all in this set. I'm longing to see them again as soon as possible. A UK tour has to be in the pipeline!

1. The Bouncing Souls at Camden Underworld 6/8/16
No set has had me coming away smiling bigger than The Bouncing Souls set at The Camden Underworld in August. I've always found that The Souls can be a little hit or miss live but this show was definitely a hit. Not just a hit. This was a knockout blow. Playing a twenty-four song set with all my favourite Bouncing Souls tracks played along with a whole host of new tracks from 2016's awesome Simplicity record I didn't stop singing throughout their entire set. This set not only made me fall in love with The Bouncing Souls all over again but there was also a massive feel of nostalgia the entire night. Every track that the band played it felt like I said "I love this song!" The Bouncing Souls have so many fantastic songs that it is hard to remember them all. Like I said earlier sometime the Souls aren't always at their best live but I have to say seeing them at a basement style venue like The Underworld really help the band excel. No barriers meant they could really be at one with the crowd who eagerly sang every word to every song. Hearing songs like True Believers and Manthem live really reaffirmed why I love punk rock music. It brings people together like nothing else. A collection of strangers who for that moment become best friends purely for a love of one thing - punk rock music. All of the rubbish in the world, and as we know in 2016 there was a lot of rubbish is forgotten for that moment where you forget everything and sing your heart out for something that you love. The verse in Manthem really sums up what how I feel about going to punk shows - "Another Night And We Got Somewhere To Go, Going Out And Meeting Up At The Punk Rock Show, Where The Air Is Hot And The Music Is Loud, My Kind Of Place This Is My Kind Of Crowd."

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Emma's Top Ten Albums 2016

I found putting this list together a little difficult because I feel like this year I have discovered more bands than ever before but they’ve not all necessarily had albums out this year. That said, there have been some excellent albums that were released in 2016 and so here is my top ten…

10. Developing a Theory of Integrity by MakeWar

I was slow to getting into MakeWar. Colin told me about them well over a year ago but it wasn’t until he put together a playlist for Fest 15 (and he somehow managed to put everything by MakeWar on the playlist multiple times so it always came up on shuffle – perhaps it was deliberate) that I properly listened to them. Developing A Theory Of Integrity wasn’t released until a few weeks before Fest so it was mostly the self-titled album that I had listened to. I didn’t end up even seeing MakeWar (full band) at Fest as I was watching another band but I did catch them in London a few weeks later. Since then I’ve been listening to the new album a lot – it is full of emotion and excellent melodies.

9. Shape Shift With Me by Against Me!

Shape Shift With Me is the follow up to 2014’s revolutionary Transgender Dysphoria Blues and Against Me!’s seventh (!) studio album. It didn’t hit me instantly in quite the same way that TDB did and it has certainly not beaten As The Eternal Cowboy to be my number one Against Me! album but it definitely has some brilliant songs on it. My favourite tracks include Boyfriend, Crash, Haunting Haunted Haunts and Rebecca – with the latter in particular being a love-at-first-hearing song for me. I can also vouch for the new songs as sounding great as part of an Against Me! live set.

8. The Cardiac Hotel by The Lion And The Wolf

Probably the quietest and saddest of the albums on my list, The Lion And The Wolf announced his signing to Xtra Mile Recordings earlier this year and released his second album The Cardiac Hotel in October. I reviewed it for this blog and so got to listen to the album a few weeks before its release. I remember lying on my bed and just listening at one point – rather than trying to write at the same time – and it was a very meditative experience. There are sad songs, atmospheric songs and melodic songs but all of them are beautiful. 

7. From Caplan To Belsize by Muncie Girls

I’ve always liked Muncie Girls but I was blown away by their (at long last) debut album, From Caplan To Belsize. With a combination of pounding drums and bass plus Muncie Girls’ classic catchy melodic indie punk guitar, the music is overlaid with a gorgeous voice and some brilliantly inspiring lyrics. Respect is without a doubt one of the standout tracks on the album and I would urge everyone to listen to it. As I said in my original review of the album, we need more songs, and albums, like this one in the world.

6. Painted Blue by Austeros

Two in a row for Specialist Subject! One of my favourite brand new discoveries of 2016 – and on one of my favourite record labels too, Specialist Subject Records – Austeros’ debut album, Painted Blue, was released in May. It’s a lively and fun pop punk album with some great guitar riffs and excellent lyrical content – which I suppose isn’t so common with poppier punk music. My absolute favourite song from Painted Blue is Superpowers but In Orbit, Shit Sticks and Don’t Wanna Know are also great tracks. I liked to think that they’ve helped to fill the void that Bangers’ break-up left in my life – not that Austeros are really at all like Bangers but Specialist Sub, y’know.

5. Another Life by Joe McMahon

Joe McMahon was one of my Fest 15 favourite artists but earlier in the year I didn’t actually know who he was. Sure I’d heard of Smoke Or Fire (his band) and listened to the odd song of theirs in the past but it was only when Colin told me he had an album for me to review – and one that he knew I would love – that I first listened to his solo material. From my first listen to Another Life and the first track, It All Went Black, I was in love with Joe McMahon. The album has a very Americana-style sound, although there’s also plenty of hardcore punk influence on Another Life as well. Canadian Graffiti is my favourite track but I’d also recommend listening to Neon Lights which was originally a Smoke Or Fire song (I much prefer Joe’s solo version).

4. Keep Bleeding by The Doublecross

My most recent discovery to make this list but definitely one of my absolute favourites of 2016 – fourth favourite you could say! I came across Keep Bleeding accidentally and decided to give it a listen based on the fact it was recommended for fans of Bruce Springsteen and The Gaslight Anthem. I’m not sure The Doublecross really sounds much like either of those but it made me want to listen and I’m glad I did. This Americana-tinged alternative rock is definitely my cup of tea. The Doublecross is the only artist from this list that I haven’t seen live this year but hopefully next year I will.

3. Fizzy Brain by Ducking Punches

I know that Fizzy Brain was technically first released in 2015 through a pledge campaign but I was late to the party and only heard it for the first time this year – when the album was released on Xtra Mile in March. For this reason I think I’m allowed to include it in my 2016 list. Ducking Punches have got to be one of my most played artists of 2016. Dan Allen is known for his lyrics about friendship, metal health, life and death and the songs on Fizzy Brain are no different. Some songs make me happy and some songs make me want to cry but the whole album is brilliant.

2. Self-Portrait by Andrew Cream

I can’t state enough just how good this album is. At only 8 songs long, Self-Portrait by Andrew Cream is the shortest album on my Top Ten Albums of 2016 but every one of those 8 songs is wonderful. Andrew has a way of writing incredibly down-to-earth and relatable songs with inspiring lyrics. I loved Self-Portrait on first listen, back in June, and it is still a much loved and much played album for me. I would definitely recommend listening to the album in full – there’s only 8 tracks after all – but, if I had to pick just a handful, I would say First World Problems, My New Goal and More Than A Dream are my go-to songs.

1. Increasing The Minimum Rage by Faintest Idea

Given the amount of acoustic or folk-based artists on my list, it may come as a surprise to some that I’ve picked a ska band for my number one spot. When I was a teenager in Milton Keynes, home of Capdown, I went to a fair few ska punk shows. When I met Colin last year he rekindled my love of ska punk and my favourite ‘new’ band that I’ve discovered within the genre is Faintest Idea. Increasing The Minimum Rage is definitely the one album of 2016 that has got me dancing like no other – and I really love dancing (and skanking) to ska music. Lyrically the album is politically charged and informative but musically it is one big party. The artwork, by Luke Johnson of Dismay Design, is also excellent.

Honorary mentions also go to Love And Other Crimes by Masked Intruder, Paper Thin by Paper Thin and Misery + Disaster by Shit Present. I was informed that I was only allowed full length albums and not EPs for this list! All-in-all, as crappy as 2016 has been in other aspects, it has been a great year for music and I can’t wait to see, or hear, what 2017 has in store for us.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Robyn's Top Ten Albums 2016

This year has had some dark moments, particularly with the global move to the conservative right, but we haven't been short of awesome music to help weather the crises. Beyond the obvious political blunders, these albums got me through a lot writing (three drafts of complicated philosophy and literary theory, and the longest literature review known to man) and a lot of Joburg driving. It was tougher than I expected to get down to ten, even tougher to try and put them in some sort of order, but here are the albums that I really enjoyed this year.

10. State Is Burning by Useless ID

Useless ID just keep churning out great albums. This record does feel somewhat different from what they've done before though - a little more energetic with faster melodies and gruffer vocals. Yotem's vocals are a huge part of the reason I like this band so much, and I enjoy how he moves from the rough and blunt verses to the soaring, slick choruses. Another solid album from a consistently awesome band.

9. A War Against You by Ignite

When Ignite dropped this in January it had been ten years since their last album, and I don't think it disappointed anyone. 2016 really needed Zoli's sociopolitical lyrics and impassioned vocals, although we didn't know it back in Jan. This band is actually a little outside of the type of vocals I usually like, veering towards metal, but it just works so well with the thick and gutteral guitars. This album makes me feel empowered no matter what it is that I'm doing. In fact, this is the album I was listening to when I registered for my PhD at the start of the year. It's 'epic' quality makes it the perfect accompaniment to major life events.

8. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere by Thrice

I'm one of the diehard fans that has stuck with Thrice since their punky beginnings, through their experimental Alchemy Index days, to their newer offerings. I haven't always loved everything they've put out and I've definitely missed the energy that their earlier stuff had, which is why I was so happily surprised by this album. This is probably the best album to come from Thrice since Vheissu. There are even songs on this record that could sit comfortably on The Artist In The Ambulance. I also like the album's political focus, with tracks like 'Blood on the Sand', 'Black Honey' and 'Death from Above' speaking out against war and U.S. foreign policy. Overall, the record is powerful, captivating and thought-provoking.

7. Hypercaffium Spazzinate by Descendents

This album is such a gift to the punk community. I don't think there's any major pressure on the Descendents to bring out new material, they just do it for a real love of writing and playing music. Hypercaffium Spazzinate is a joy from start to finish, but I particularly like 'No Fat Burger' (because we all like food, but we all have to think about what we eat once in a while) and 'Smile'.

6. The Lippies by The Lippies

The Lippies were a feminist pop-punk band fronted by Tonia Broucek. They shone so brightly and so briefly this year, releasing their self-titled album in March just before breaking up in April. Brett (my boyfriend) sold the band to me as The Ergs! meets Paramore (Riot! era), and we both immediately liked them. We later found out that Tonia was actually pulled on stage to sing 'Misery Business' at a Paramore show. There's definitely a Hayley Williams-esque quality to the vocals, but the songs are more gritty and the bass lines remind me of The Bouncing Souls. The album is quite dynamic, moving between catchy pop-punk songs like '302' and 'Hot Air Balloon' (probably my favourite track), and ukulele ballads 'Basic Boy' and 'It Boils'. I found this album fresh, yet familiar, and so catchy that I caught myself singing it everywhere. These guys had so much promise that I really wish they'd kept going, but I guess we've got to be happy with the songs we do have.

5. Shape Shift With Me by Against Me!

In many ways, Shape Shift With Me feels like a natural progression from Transgender Dysphoria Blues, with its continued focus on trans experience. I liked certain tracks on Transgender Dysphoria Blues but didn't really get into it as a whole. This record feels a little more open and fun, despite some darker moments. It's full of catchy melodies and there are some great changes in mood - like going from the poppy up-tempo song 'Crash' to the groovy angst of 'Delicate, Petite & Other Things I'll Never Be'. I found myself liking different songs at different times, but always listening to the album the whole way through.

4. Gather Up The Chaps - The Falcon

Ah man, how lucky were we to get another offering from punk supergroup The Falcon this year? Gather Up The Chaps is good, dirty, slightly cynical fun. I love the opening to 'Hasselhoff Cheeseburger' (a dark and humourous title, as you'd expect) with its oddly ska/punk/bluesy/rock mishmashed sound. 'If Dave Did It' is also the closest we've got to a new Loved Ones song in ages (and I'd be REALLY stoked on a new Loved Ones album).

3. Old Fires New Frontier by Caskitt

I discovered Caskitt this year while listening to a mix of Fest bands. They've been around for a while, releasing an E.P. in 2013 and a previous full-length in 2015, but this is the album that really captured my attention. These guys produce high-quality melodic punk that is intricate and carefully crafted. I was so impressed with their live show at Fest (hot damn they're good musicians), and I wouldn't be surprised if they're playing a bigger venue next year. This album also deals with important issues, like the media, rape culture, and immigration. 'Someone, Somewhere' and 'Old fires New Frontier' are stand-out tracks, but the "boys will be boys, will be boys, will be boys, don't believe that lie, it's just fucking noise" refrain in 'Short Shorts' is my favourite moment on the album. If I ever write the eco-feminist critique of Mad Max: Fury Road that I've been wanting to do I may just have to make that the title.

2. The Dream Is Over by Pup

I discovered Pup last year and revelled in their brash, raw melodies. There's also a spirit of togetherness in Pup that is uplifting. They seem to have drawn in many fans in a relatively short space of time. This album is essentially a massive middle finger to Stefan Babcock's doctor, who told him that his vocal chords were wrecked and his dream of singing in a punk rock band was 'over'. I like this central theme of confronting and overcoming challenges, and the album really is a triumph. The songs have the same aggression and raw energy that their self-titled did, but it feels more refined. The Dream Is Over also has some of the best gang vocals I've heard in a long time. Long may Pup continue!

1. Wasted Mind by Direct Hit!

Trying to decide between Pup and Direct Hit! for the top spot was like trying to choose between two different flavours of five-star cuisine. Wasted Mind won just because it's such a strong, melody-driven, bright, and edgy pop-punk record (and I loved it the most, obvs). I adored this album on first listen and proceeded to play it over and over again. Every song is a gem. I eventually had to stop listening to this album while working because it inevitably became a party for one (I dare anyone to listen to 'Paid in Brains' and not feel an urgent need to move your body). I'll be listening to this well into the new year.

Honourable mentions (courtesy of Brett, who inevitably fought me on this top 10): Pkew Pkew Pkew - S/T, Face To Face - Protection, Mute - Remember Death, Worship This - Mint.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Colin's Top Ten Albums 2016

I always struggle trying to do a top ten albums of the year list. Doing this blog I am constantly listening to new releases and feel like I definitely listen to more new albums than I do old favourites. Because of this I have a hell of a lot of choices for my best ten albums of 2016. A lot of very good music has been released this year. It makes me sad that only a small percentage of people will ever hear some of the quality music the punk scene has been pumping out this year. After much deliberation and stressing, I finally settled on my top ten. (There's every chance I will change my mind after this list is published.)

10. Nervous Tensions by Hot Mass

I only heard Nervous Tension by Hot Mass because I noticed it was cheap on All In Vinyl and figured I'd check it out. What a great decision that was! The Welsh quartet released Nervous Tensions in June. Nervous Tensions is a record full of powerful alternative punk rock music. If you like great vocals, they're here. If you like hooks and catchy lyrics, there is loads of them. Fantastic live, you bet it is!

9. Developing A Theory Of Integrity by MakeWar

New York's MakeWar managed to make my top ten albums of the year two years in a row! Most bands don't put out a new album two years in a row, so to do it and have two of such quality is a massive testament to how good a band MakeWar are. On Developing A Theory Of Integrity, their first release on Red Scare, Jose, Ed and Greg created an album of raw and emotional punk rock music that will get you singing along at the top of your lungs.

8. Wisdom Machine by The Bennies

When The Bennies released Wisdom Machine back in March I can't imagine they realised what a breakthrough album it would be for them. From being somewhat of a unknown to most of the world, they are now known and loved everywhere. Wisdom Machine is an album that mixes punk, ska and reggae to create one massive party. The Bennies have a reputation for being somewhat of a party band but are also known as one of the most creative, innovative and best live bands you'll ever see.

7. Fits Of Disorganised Boredom by Problem Daughter

Released on Dying Scene Records way back in February, Problem Daughter's second album, Fits Of Disorganised Boredom, blew me away. The thing that caught my attention from the start was lead singer and bassist Regan Ashton's distinctive vocals. Problem Daughter have taken melodic pop punk music and made it sound so fresh. If they can find their way over to the UK at some point soon I'd be very happy.

6. Increasing The Minimum Rage by Faintest Idea

Faintest Idea are the best ska punk band in the UK. When I first sat down to listen to the band's fourth album, Increasing The Minimum Rage, I was expecting big things but I wasn't expecting this. Faintest Idea have always written raucous street punk mixed with ska songs but on this album the band have expanded their sound. This created a much more varied album than they had previously released but none of the energy that accompanied their music in the past has gone.

5. Habitats by Foxtrot

Australian punk rock is slowly taking over the world. Bands such as The Bennies, The Smith Street Band, The Decline, Luca Brasi, Local Resident Failure and Camp Cope are all turning heads throughout the world of punk rock. One band that maybe isn't quite as well known but definitely just as good as those bands are Melbourne's Foxtrot. Their album Habitats was one of those wonderful clicking around aimlessly on Bandcamp discoveries for me and I haven't looked back since. It's a wonderful album of sing along punk rock tinged with folk music. In particular, Miner Bird is one of the best songs I've heard all year.

4. Pharmacie by Apologies, I Have None

Pharmacie was one of my most anticipated albums of the year. Previous album London is in my top five albums of all time so I was so excited and a little scared to hear this second album from Apologies, I Have None. Since London was released, AIHN have undergone a bit of a change in line-up and sound but are still as hard hitting with their lyrics as ever. There is such a big atmospheric sound on Pharmacie that you can't help but be moved by. An incredibly emotional piece of work.

3. Tens by Tens

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have people send me music to review. Sometimes I'm extremely lucky to receive my, soon to be, favourite band's new album. That was the case with Chicago's Tens self-titled album. They play an upbeat brand of mid-western punk rock that's guaranteed to put a smile on your face. There are so many great bands that play this style of punk music but none have captured my attention quite like Tens did on this album. It's honest, full of heart and jam packed with energy.

2. Fizzy Brain by Ducking Punches

I was in a bit of a conundrum about whether this album was actually eligible for this list because technically it was released to me and anyone else who pledged for it last November before it was given it's big release by Xtra Mile early in the year. Then I remembered that I didn't include it last year because it hadn't been released to the masses last year. Fizzy Brain is an incredible piece of music from start to finish. Ducking Punches' frontman, Dan Allen, is an incredible lyricist. Fizzy Brain is an album about dealing with loss, mental health and growing up. It's that album that when I'm not sure what I fancy listening to I put on.

1. Pkew Pkew Pkew by Pkew Pkew Pkew

I had a hard time picking this album as my album of the year. I'm thirty-one next month. Should I be picking an album that's about skateboarding, getting drunk and partying as the best album of 2016? Especially as it's not something I can even relate to - I can't skateboard and I don't drink. But after thinking that, I remembered why I love Pkew Pkew Pkew. It's the most fun I've had listening to music this entire year. When I first started listening to punk music I loved it because I thought the music was fun. It's loud, brash, in your face and simple. I don't have to think when I listen to it. There's a bit of escapism here. I put this on and shout along and forget about all of life's stresses and problems for twenty-one minutes. This is why I think anyone enjoys any type of music - it's a great distraction from the world. 2016 has been a year where the world has needed to be distracted. An album about skateboarding, getting drunk and partying seems like the perfect thing for it.

You might be thinking there are some glaring obvious releases missing from this list. Those being Hypercaffium Spazzinate by the Descendents, Worry by Jeff Rosenstock, Simplicity by The Bouncing Souls, First Ditch Effort by NOFX and Wasted Mind by Direct Hit. I loved all of those albums and are great additions to the respective back catalogues to the bands involved but I just didn't feel the need to go back and listen to them lots after deciding "yeah, these are great records." The Descendents put out their first record in twelve years and it was incredible. Both The Bouncing Souls and NOFX put out their best records in years but I just didn't get the urge to listen over and over again. I'm sure I will in future though. Who knows I may look at this list in a years time and decide all of those records deserve a place on my list.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Dan's Top Ten Albums 2016

Well it’s that time of year and the one thing we’re all desperate to do is remember a bunch of stuff that happened this year before we all go get wasted over new years and subsequently forget our mother's names. Despite two of the most dominant western powers trying to capsize their own ships and more people we remember from telly or albums 20+ years ago snuffing it than ever before, 2016 has been a great year if your passion lies in listening to incredible new music. I for one have been so deluged in great music that I haven’t even been able to keep up! Therefore you’ll even see some notable records here that haven’t been reviewed. Anyways, enough rambling and let’s get down to business…

10. RxR – Fallout 5

Yes, this is a shameless plug. This album took me over two years to finally finish and having it out in the world is one of the great crowning achievements in my life. From a pure volume standpoint I have listened to the songs in this album more than anything else this year. Also I think it’s quite good!!

9. The Wonder Beers – Geezers

The Wonder Beers are an enigma to me. It all sounds the same and it’s shouty and it’s all simple to the point of ridiclousness and it just WORKS SO WELL!!!!! I can sing along with every tune a minute into hearing one for the first time and it’s chunky and satisfying and hilarious without trying hard to be. There is just something so infectiously fun about everything to do with TWB and I can’t hear them without smiling my head off like an idiot!

8. Tiger Army – V

This one is a big nostalgia grab for me. I was big into pop psychobilly for a while and Tiger Army were the top of my list of awesome super cool bands I loved. I can’t say that it’s the greatest offering they’ve ever put out but an average day at the office for Tiger Army is better than most can achieve in a lifetime in my rose tinted opinion.

7. T//Alan

This album broke my head! I desperately wanted to review this when it came out but I just couldn’t (and still can’t) find a fitting way to describe what this album is about. This is something truly original and incredible and you’ll be doing yourself a grave disservice if you don’t put it on and give it a listen. Something caught between Capdown and Rage Against the Machine!

6. Guttermouth – Got It Made/New Car Smell

In true Guttermouth fashion they can’t do anything normally. Instead of releasing an album they release the Got It Made EP and then, after it was received well, dropped New Car Smell a matter of months later. It think it’s a good approach to making sure the music you’re releasing is consistently good (cough, cough, Blink 182) and other bands could do well to follow their example. Full of crude humour, fast licks and completely zero tolerance fuck giving policy these are two EPs cut from the same cloth and a great listen either if you’re in a stupid mood or if you’re feeling too serious and need to lighten up.

5. Babymetal – Metal Resistance

Out of everything else I take away from this year, the fact I found and fell in love with Babymetal will one of the most lasting. This album, up until today, gets played constantly. It’s a perfect blend of shredding metal, cutesey J-Pop and small dabs of about anything you care to think about. The mix of Japanese Idols and sometimes brutally heavy music is a fun enough gimmick to start you listening but the well crafted tunes and catchy hooks and incredible musicianship on constant display is what will win you over and keep you coming back for more. I don’t ever see this leaving my album rotation!

4. DROPTHIS – Culture to Criticise

I think it shows how incredible a year that something as blisteringly incredible as the true blue full length DROPTHIS experience only notched up number four on my list. Any normal year something as high quality as this would easily be top! Incredible new songs and re-mastered classics from the sadly now defunct Kent super band make this a pleasure to witness from start to finish. Also slightly prophetically one of the standout tracks in a stacked card is the irredeemable Nothing, co-starring Cat Goodman of Demon Smiles fame, which is where you can now find frontman Jordan.

3. Face to Face – Protection

When this hit I instantly thought “this is it, album of the year right here” and damn if it isn’t nigh on perfect. Face To Face took a little time off and then came back with what amounts to their best work yet. A blinding album from cover to cover - as beautifully created and executed as you could possibly hope for from a band that all the cool 90s punks you looked up to told you were one of the greatest to have played. Funnily enough though absolutely everything I’ve said here can also translate to my next pick…

2. Belvedere – Revenge of the Fifth

And then came Belvedere. Absolute legends of melodic hardcore and one of the blisteringly fast trinity (Satanic Surfers and Propaghandi the other two) that ingrained in me the deep love for a very specific genre of punk rock that I carry with me to this day. As mentioned before maybe the best album they’ve ever produced and with a back catalogue like theirs I’d say I could give higher praise for this. It’s not just a nostalgia pick, it’s genuine undeniable excellence.

1. Mute – Remember Death

Of course there’s always a winner and of course it’s MUTE. To say I love this album is to insult it with grave understatement. This is an album that all other albums throughout history wish they could be. Mute are a band that have honed tightened an already winning formula over the last 10 years and this album is the utter pinnacle of all that’s come before. This is my taste in music. This is what I think all music should sound like forevermore. When I die, build speakers into my coffin and have this album play on repeat for all eternity. I feel sorry for music now because I can’t ever see it getting better than this. I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say that nothing else has hit my stereo since it came out and I can’t imagine what could come along to make me take it off.