It was a good year for punk rock. Some great shows came through town, including a fantastic Bolth/Suicide Machines show at the Earth House, Moneybrother at the Murat Theatre, a killer (and sadly, probably the last) Dude Fest at The Hoosier Dome and The Dopamine at the Dojo. On a bigger level, the international punk scene produced some top-notch records this year. I compiled some of the best punk songs of the year in a tracklist so you can create a 2011 Punk Rock Mixtape.
Star Fucking Hipsters — “Drowning Out Another Year”: SFH’s latest record, From The Dumpster To The Grave, wasn’t perfect by any means, but it has its moments. Frontman Stza, also of Choking Victim and Leftover Crack fame, knows how to craft perfectly crusty pop-punk gems. “Drowning Out Another Year” takes their Crack Rock sound to new levels of melodicism and intensity. It's perfect start to a punk rock mixtape.
Frank Turner — “I Am Disappeared”: Frank Turner has made a name for himself as a folk-punk bard. On his fourth album, England Keep My Bones, Turner cranks up the carpe diem vibe of previous records to make a self-assured English record. We Yanks might not get all the references to Exeter or Rufus The Red, but EKMB is proof that Turner has perfected his art.
Sharks — “Trains”: On the cusp of being huge, England’s Sharks has created a sound that is refreshingly new but comfortingly familiar. On “Trains,” one can hear the transcendent passion of The Clash, the reckless remorse of The Replacements and the gritty grind of Hot Water Music. Keep your eyes on these guys because I’m expecting great things in the future.
Algernon Cadwallader — “Sad”: Even though their name can be a mouthful, Algernon Cadwallader are the leaders in the current emo revival. The Philly four-piece harkens back to the glory days of emo before the name became bastardized into a Hot Topic fashion trend. Driving melodies and wiggly guitars propells their 2nd record, Parrot Flies, to greatness. “Sad” is just one of the many highlights.
Grown Ups — “Wigwam”: Even though they were riding high following the release of their Handholder EP, Grown Ups decided to call it quits this fall. The Northwest Indiana emo band had created quite a bit of buzz with their fantastic songwriting and insane musicianship. Handholder showed the band moving into new, exciting territory, too bad they’ll never record a new record.
Bomb The Music Industry! — “Sick, Later”: BTMI has taken the “DIY” tag to new heights. Six albums into their career, the celebrated punk/folk/electro/ska band still manages to give their music away for free. On their latest offering, Vacation, the band presents their most well-rounded sound to date. “Sick, Later” combines the best of 90’s pop-punk and 90’s alt-rock into one perfect package.
Wooden Satellites — “When Fast At Home”: When I first heard this song my mind was blown. When I found out that these indie punks hailed from Fort Wayne, my mind was blown all over again. Their mixture of sophisticated indie rock with just the slightest touch of hardcore energy makes for a instantly likable sound. “When Fast At Home” packs the perfect punch. I hope they venture down to Indianapolis soon.
Alkaline Trio — “The American Scream”: Alkaline Trio aren’t at the top of their game anymore but their latest album of reworked “classics” contained some nice surprises. One of the real treats was a re-recording of “The American Scream” from their 2010 album This Addiction. While the original didn’t do much for me, the new version reimagined the song as a brooding, keyboard-driven ballad that would make Robert Smith smile.
Banner Pilot — “Western Terminal”: Banner Pilot vocalist Nick Johnson has a voice like Crisco sandpaper; it’s simultaneously greasy and gritty. On Heart Beats Pacific, he uses his pipes to great effect, paying homage to both Jawbreaker and Dillinger Four. To be honest, most of Heart Beats Pacific sounds the same, but it all sounds good.
The Strokes — “Under Cover Of Darkness”: Say what you will about The Strokes but there is no denying their mastery of the craft. Angles, the band’s first album in five years, is fairly spotty but it has plenty of pleasant surprises. “Under Cover of Darkness” contains some of the most entertaining guitar work I’ve heard in long time. I dare you not to like this song.
Against Me! — “Lost And Searching In America”: Against Me! released an impressive 7” of new material this year but it was the release of demos from 2005’s Searching For A Former Clarity that really stuck with me. Not only did the songs sound better as raw demos, Total Clarity contained three unreleased songs. “Lost and Searching in America” is a reminder of why AM! was the most important punk band of the 2000’s.
Dead To Me — “The Monarch Hotel”: Every Dead To Me record is a different experience. While 2009’s African Elephants had some missteps, Moscow Penny Ante is a confident stride in the right direction. Some songs are better than others, but frontman “Tyson” Annicharico has a very distinct style that shines on tracks like “The Monarch Hotel.”