2010 has been a great year for music. It has also been a great year for punk music in particular. It’s nice to know that for every piece of crap record that has stolen the spotlight (hello Kanye!), there is some unsung masterpiece energizing the underground (hello Dopamines!). Here is a list of the top ten records that dominated my iPod and turntable this year.
10. The Arrivals — Volatile Molotov: I have talked about the virtues of good pop punk all year, but The Arrivals take pop-punk to a new level. I use pop-punk to describe this Chicago four-piece, but this is unlike any pop-punk that you’ve ever heard. The Arrivals blend Chicago’s influential punk rock sounds into one perfect stew, to which they set their intelligent, challenging and, at times, humorous working-class poetry. The album closer, “Simple Pleasures In America”, could be the blue-collar anthem of the century. If you’re looking for a fist-pounding, toe-tapper, then look no further than Volatile Molotov.
9. Matt & Kim — Sidewalks: The fact that they are a married couple may have turned heads at the beginning of their career, but now, three albums in, Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim are turning heads based on their music alone. On Sidewalks, the band ups the dance factor of previous efforts and trades some rock beats for bouncy club beats. With only keyboard and drums, their formula would be an easy one to exhaust but thankfully, M&K have reinvented themselves with each release. If the opening track, “Block after Block”, doesn’t get your party dancing, then something is seriously wrong.
8. None More Black - Icons: For the most part,
comeback albums are pieces of crap. Thankfully, NMB seems to have reunited not just for money, but
because they weren't done writing songs together. Icons comes four years after their phenomenal This is Satire and the band doesn't seem to have missed a single beat. Mastermind Jason Schevchuk brought NMB back swinging furiously with hardcore energy backing soaring melodies and some of the best uses of the “woah-oh-oh” in recent memory. Songs like “The Day Mickey Died” are testament to Shevchuk’s songwriting superiority.
7. Prizzy Prizzy Please - Chroma Cannon: The heart and soul of the Bloomington music scene during the last decade was Prizzy Prizzy Please. Sure, they were all incredible musicians and creative song writers, but what really mattered was that they knew how to blur the line between “music” and “party”. On their second full-length, the four-piece took their songwriting process into overdrive. Their silly Discovery Channel-based subject matter stayed the same, but the songs surrounding them evolved into a super fusion of R’n’B, funk, indie rock and party punk. Songs like “Large Hadron Collider” and “Pacific Garbage Patch” may warn of the destruction of planet Earth, but at least we’ll all go down dancing.
6. Gaslight Anthem - American Slang: Gaslight Anthem might just be the biggest success story in modern American punk. They won over the fickle underground with two incredible albums (2007’s Sink or Swim and 2008’s The ’59 Sound) and then they did the impossible: they stormed the mainstream AND retained their hard-earned underground fanbase with American Slang. The band turned down the punk levels a bit for Slang but carefully cranked up the blues and rock. What mattered most, however, was not their sound, but the caliber of the songs. Jams like “Boxer” will still sound good for years to come.
Stay tuned for the stunning conclusion of my list tomorrow!