American Steel - Destroy Their Future (Fat Wreck Chords)
OK, so this definitely crept into my top 3 for the year and very well may be my album of the year, so you might guess that I think this is a great record and you'd be right. This is an album full of what I love most about punk, soaring anthemic choruses, catchy mid-tempo verses, lyrics that are both socially conscious and bitterly self-loathing yet tongue-in-cheek, and mature but not over-indulgent song writing. They blew away most of the bands they shared a stage with this year and here's to hoping they do a lot more touring in 2008.
Bitter End - Climate of Fear (Malfunction)
This TX hardcore band have definitely kicked up the intensity a few notches since their "Mind In Chains" EP that really didn't impress me. I caught them live a few times before the release of "Climate of Fear" and I was blown away every time so I was eager to hear the release. While not the most mind-blowing hardcore release of the year, its a solid record of heavy Killing Time-style NYHC influenced songwriting with nods to Megadeth both musically and lyrically.
Blacklisted - Peace On Earth, War On Stage (Deathwish Inc.)
After a decent album of mosh-heavy hardcore and introspective lyrics, Blacklisted take a step forward and provide evidence of evolution with this 4 song EP. While many modern hardcore bands are taking influence from (or directly ripping off) bands like Life of Agony and Soundgarden, Blacklisted simply add their own twists on those influences to their songwriting. They haven't forgotten that they're a hardcore band first and foremost, and while George sings as much as he screams here, unlike a lot of other bands attempting this sound, he knows the limits of his range and doesn't try to hit notes he can't hit. Most importantly, the rage is here in full force. This is a great example of a hardcore band pushing its limits while keeping its roots firmly planted.
Carbonas - Carbonas (Goner)
Carbonas are one of the premier bands in a subscene attempting to fuse 60s garage rock with late 70s powerpop all wrapped up in punk speed and attitude. Snotty vocals, catchy melodies, roaring guitar riffs, and slightly blown-out production are all elements of this band's sound, and they are equalled by few (actually, just Beat Beat Beat, who they share members with). This is their 3rd full length and while not much has changed, it hasn't gotten old yet.
Career Suicide - Attempted Suicide (Deranged)
Since there was a limited vinyl release of this record available on their northeast US tour in late 2006, some people may cry foul here, but since it wasn't officially released until 2007, I'm including it here. This band continues to amaze while rarely straying from their formula of solid fast catchy early 80s style punk rock. Most often compared to Gang Green and the FUs, Career Suicide are continually listed as the premier punk band doing this sound today (with Government Warning also usually sharing that title). Its hard to believe that a punk band can continually release so many outstanding records, but these guys continue to do it. Highly recommended.
Chinese Telephones - Chinese Telephones (It's Alive)
While none of their contributions to the couple of split 7"s I have with them managed to really impress me, I'd say it's safe to say that they were saving their best songs for this full-length. This is some really solid raw yet melodic pop-punk. Catchy, punchy songs about girls and other relationships, and some solid nods to their obvious favorite band, the Marked Men (with one song written by Jeff Burke himself). It was even recorded by Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan of the Marked Men. If you're hip to that whole No Idea Records/Dillinger Four/blown-out pop-punk thing you'll probably find some pleasure in this record.
Cloak/Dagger - We Are... (Jade Tree)
Upon first listen I was a little worried that I was going to end up being disappointed with this record, but as it progressed my fears quickly deserved and by the end I knew that this would be a favorite for the year for me. It seems like they kept the strongest songs for the second half of the album, which is fairly atypical, but then so is this band's blend of Hot Snakes guitar jangle and Greg Ginn loose-yet-brilliant riffage. The mix also seems to change as the songs progress, going from kinda of lo-fi and muffled to quite a bit clearer but not overproduced. The stand out track here is "Walk the Block" with the band's catchiest vocals yet and a fist-pumpingly fun verse and chorus. The band really seems more comfortable in their sound here and I really think they could end up influencing a whole new crop of young punks.
Dead Mechanical - Medium Noise (Sex Cells)
Yet another attempt for those watching closely to call foul as I will be releasing the vinyl version of this album on Toxic Pop Records in a few months, but I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't love the record. While the comparisons to Jawbreaker are fair, I really feel that DM are doing their own thing with the formula. Catchy jangly guitars with punch, great lyrics of both personal and political nature, some of the best drumming in the biz, and two voices singing with passion and sincerity. "Dear Marketing Department" and "Information In" are the stand-out tracks for me, as well as "Shitty Wedding" which I defy you to not love.
the Ergs - Upstairs/Downstairs (Dirtnap)
Of course my favorite current band is going to make my "best of" list for the year. Another band proving the existence of evolution and taking a step forward with their sound while not fully letting go of the past. While not the straight forward pop-punk record that "Dorkrockcorkrod" was, the Ergs showcase their songwriting abilities with some catchy non-traditional poppy punk, some of Jeff's best Husker Du-ish tunes yet, a sweet country tune, and a mostly a cappella number with a great payoff at the end. Fear not though, as the straight up pop-punk is still strong here in songs like "2nd Foundation", "The Clocks, The Clocks", and "Trouble In River City". Still, even the most die-hard pop-punk fan will have a hard time denying the greatness in "Boston, Mass", "See Him Again", or "Books About Miles Davis". The Ergs are the band to not sleep on if you are currently doing so.
Lifetime - Lifetime (Decaydance)
So few bands can come back from ten-plus years apart and write a decent record, never mind anything as good as their last great release. Lifetime have done just that with this self-titled album and I can't get enough of it. The only real change is the lack of any straight-up fast hardcore songs along the lines of "Bringin' It Backwards" but the fast and catchy is still there and balanced out by some more straight up poppy tunes. Ari's vocals are a bit clearer now which helps those out who wish to pack it in up front and sing along to every word. Doubters be damned, Lifetime are still as great as they ever were, and I can't wait for what's next.
In the interest of not making this too long, the second half of my favorites of 2007 list will be continued next time.