by Mike Riley
1. Dead Mechanical - OK Night (Toxic Pop)
Yes, I put this out. Conflict of interest? I wouldn't have put it out if I didn't love it. This band could be really big if they were able to tour a lot. Instead, we get to keep them mostly to ourselves here in Baltimore. You should respect that privilege and see them live every chance you get.
2. Rough Kids - The State I'm In (Sorry State)
I really dug their first 7" EP. Played it a lot. Their follow-up single was good but didn't grab me like the first record. Then they went through some line-up changes and put out this LP. It's freakin' fantastic. Late 70s LA punk with a garage rock flair. I've listened to it a ton this year and still get excited to play it.
3. Roomrunner - Ideal Cities (Fan Death)
Yeah, yeah, Nirvana. Yeah, yeah, Big Black. Yeah, yeah grunge/noise-rock revival. Whatever. Tight, pounding, and loud with some big hooks. I love it and am thrilled they are from Baltimore so I can see them on a somewhat regular basis.
4. Night Birds - Born To Die in Suburbia (Grave Mistake)
Easily the best hc/punk band playing today. If you're into punk and you're unaware of this band you're not doing it right. It's not an easy task for short/fast/loud bands to put out a great LP. This band has done it twice.
5. Iron Chic - The Constant One (Bridge 9)
Their first LP, "Not Like This", is probably on my list of top 25 all-time favorite LPs. I had already expected to be a bit disappointed with this considering how much I loved that record, and while it doesn't hit me quite as hard I still think it's pretty great. Some quality hooks and lyrics here. Considering I only got this record a week ago, I'd say this is a pretty high spot for a brand new record. It's that good.
6. Off With Their Heads - Home (Epitaph)
These guys have mastered writing simple songs with bitter lyrics that I can just sink my teeth into. They're not reinventing any wheels but they do simple midwest-style melodic punk with big anthemic hooks better than most. Ryan's got more of an actual "singy" voice on some of these songs, rather than the usual melodic gruff, and it's pretty successful.
7. Power Trip - Manifest Decimation (Southern Lord)
When it comes to metal, I tend to go for bands that have some roots in hardcore. It's where my roots are so it makes sense. I'm not trying to say this is the best metal record of the year, but it's the one I listened to the most. I'm not qualified to make accurate comparisons (Slayer meets Leeway?) but the riffs rip and the vocals don't make me roll my eyes.
8. Sinclair - s/t (self)
This is a new-ish Baltimore band. I only heard about them a couple months ago when they were recording this LP with Kevin Bernsten. He texted me asking if I'd heard of them and that he thinks I'd like them. He sent me some roughs of their recording. He was absolutely right. The tease got me excited, but when they finished up and put the recording on Bandcamp is when I really got hooked. There was a band from NJ in the late 90s called Lanemeyer and lot of these songs remind me of that band. Maybe a little Get Up Kids, too. Fast, catchy pop-punk but with deeper influences than you're average Screaching Weasel or Ramones rip-off.
9. Radioactivity - s/t (Dirtnap)
Marked Men side-projects are always going to rank highly for me. Those guys are masters of buzzsaw melodies. No, I don't think it would rank as high for me as any MM LP, but it's still damn good.
10. Vacation - Candy Waves (Don Giovanni)
Not a band that's easily categorized. It's catchy punk with some good hooks that's all gritty and fuzzed out. You could make equal connections to Husker Du, The Ramones, and the Spits. They don't sound like Tenement, but if you appreciate the way they bury brilliant melodies beneath loud, distorted feedback, you'll probably find something you appreciate in Vacation.
11. Steve Adamyk Band - Third (Dirtnap)
Canada has a real knack for producing some of the best power-pop in the world. Need some examples? Pointed Sticks, Tranzmitors, the Sedatives, and the Steve Adamyk Band are great places to start. This band is adding a punk element to sound with some real fast-paced songs and just the right amount of distortion. Everything this band puts out is gold.
12. The Slow Death - No Heaven (ADD)
While I can't say I liked this as much as "Born Ugly, Got Worse", there's some really great songs on here. If you're not familiar with the band you could put them in the same category as bands like Dillinger Four, Off With Their Heads, and the Brokedowns. Gritty midwestern melodic punk rock with bitter lyrics. They make their sound unique with a slight country cadence.
13. Sickoids - No Home (Grave Mistake)
This is the only non-full length I allowed on this list, but for good reason. There was no other straight-up hardcore record I liked this much this year. The underlying melodies that poked their way through on their debut are absent here and what you're left with is pure blistering hardcore done the way bands like Poison Idea, Negative Approach, and Discharge did it.
14. Full of Hell - Rudiments of Mutilation (A389)
I don't know who to compare Full of Hell to so I can't help you there if you've never heard them, I just know that they make harsh metal that keeps me coming back. Elements of power-violence, thrash, noise, and hardcore come together to absolutely destroy everything between my ears.
15. Superchunk - I Hate Music (Merge)
This one falls into the "not-nearly-my-favorite-record-of-theirs-but-still-pretty-good" category. "Majesty Shredding" was such a great comeback album and this doesn't come close in my opinion, but it's still Superchunk so it's better than most music being recorded these days.