Features
Kids of the Black Hole #3: Best of 2007 (part two)
by Mike Riley
Kids of the Black Hole #3: Best of 2007 (part two)
Here's the second half of my best records of 2007 list...

Off With Their Heads - All Things Move Toward Their End (No Idea)
I first fell in love with OWTH when my friend Andy from Minneapolis insisted I pick up their "Hi Five For the Rapture" 7" and "Hospitals" 12". I put the 7" on first and was immediately excited by their Dillinger Four-style raw melodic punk. Then I played the 12" and was hooked by their swaying verses, anthemic choruses, and bitter, self-loathing (almost to the point of irony) lyrics. I immediately started seeking out all of their EPs, singles, and splits, and I'm pretty sure I've got it all now. Thankfully for those of you arriving late to the game No Idea Records has collected most of that stuff here so you don't have to do much searching. This compilation compiles everything except for the "Hospitals" record (which was re-released by Recess Records), the covers they recorded, a couple songs they'd rather forget, and at least one song they literally forgot to include. Highly recommended if you dig the sounds of bands like Dillinger Four, the Arrivals, or Chinese Telephones.

Chuck Ragan - Loz Feliz (Side One Dummy / No Idea)
As good as "Feast or Famine", Chuck's first solo full-length, was, the song selection and spirit of this live record can not be beat. Along with some of his best solo stuff are a couple great covers as well as a favorite Hot Water Music tune. When it comes to this sort of "man and his guitar" music, Chuck's voice is one of the best: raw, poignant, and booming. Very few live recordings are able to truly capture the intensity of a good show, but this record wraps it up quite nicely.

Ringers - Detention Halls (1-2-3-4 Go!)
Boston's Ringers have managed to top a pretty solid debut with their second album, "Detention Halls". Mixing elements of the Clash, Sham 69, and Slaughter and the Dogs, among others, this four-piece play some of the most fun punk songs heard in quite some time. This is the kind of punk best suited for cramped basements or tiny corner bars, packed full of your best friends. Heartfelt, passionate, endearing, and sincere, all spit out with a "fuck 'em all, we're all we need" kind of attitude. This is about as solid of a traditional punk rock album I've heard in quite some time.

Ruiner - Prepare To Be Let Down (Bridge 9)
Baltimore's modern hardcore champs tackle their first full-length with class. Starting with a sparse intro that leads into a 30-second frustration-soaked blast and then into "The Lives We Fear", with it's more rousing intro/build up, the album ceases to let up for the rest of the ride. In only a couple short years Ruiner have managed to take a sound that for many has grown stale and trite and infused it with a rage and ingenuity that few could match. While obviously influenced by newer hardcore bands like Modern Life Is War and Bane, impassioned, desperate vocals over quick-clipped guitar riffs, and tastefully scarce moshy breakdowns help separate these guys from the pack.

Sick Fix - s/t 7" (Third Party)
While powerviolence has seemed to become the genre du jour for much of the modern hardcore scene, few bands truly know what it means to be able to claim that brand. Most are happy to pick up a couple of Crossed Out and Infest records and think they've got it all figured out. Thankfully this is not the case with DC/Baltimore-based Sick Fix as these four have soaked themselves in old and current grind, powerviolence, metal, and hardcore for just about as long as they've been playing their instruments. Few vocalists can match frontwoman Michelle's disgust-ridden insights on our modern world, and you're going to have a really difficult time finding a drummer that can match the pummeling Chris unleashes upon his kit (also see Magrudergrind and Coke Bust for further examples). Amp nerd and guitarist Pat Vogel has spent years modeling the most crushing riffs in bands like Crispus Attucks and FVKDC, and he brings his best to the table on this 7". Though if you pick this record up and you're still not completely convinced, just go see them live. I promise you'll leave floored.

Sick Sick Birds - Chemical Trains (Toxic Pop)
This is your last chance to call me out on a conflict of interest. OK, too late. Yes, I put out this 7", and no, I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think that SSB wrote some of the best indie/punk songs I've heard in years. Though how could you have any doubt with a line-up consisting of Mike and Bobby of the Thumbs, Melissa from the High School Hellcats, and Matt from the Gamma Rays. While many reviewers have made allusions to the Pixies, I feel like Superchunk may be a bit more accurate. Either way, these four tunes pick you up and take you along for a ride of dirty Baltimore streets and dilapidated formstone rowhouses. Far from condescending, these songs are honest and ugly in the sweetest way possible.

the Steinways - Rocket Surgery (Don Giovanni)
Holy shit! Not counting the Ergs, I defy you to show me a better pop-punk record from the last five years. This is everything I love about the genre: short, sweet songs (some super short, as in less than 15 seconds) about everything from girls to crazy cat ladies to regrettable drug binges to motherfucking Ice-T; male and female vocals that walk that line between whiney, pathetic, and endearing; witty, sarcastic, and self-deprecating lyrics; and peppy and poppy (duh) surf, rock, and doo-wop influenced punk songs that are catchier than the flu. Oh yeah, and it's on the perfect format, the 7". Couldn't recommend this highly enough.

Tranzmitors - s/t (Deranged)
This LP is full of some of the best powerpop I've heard in quite some time, and most of the songs aren't even quite as good as some of their singles. Still, this one's a keeper. Total Undertones and Pointed Sticks worship. I love it. "Beating Up My Heart" is one of my favorite songs of the year. Super clean, but not over-produced. Super catchy and fun. Super duper. I love it.

the Vicious - Alienated (Feral Ward)
The first time I heard this band was on a podcast and I swore it was some late 70s forgotten treasure that had recently been dug up and I had to know more. I contacted the guy that put it together and he tells me it's a new band from Sweden featuring members of ExTxAx, DS-13, and the International Noise Conspiracy. I couldn't believe it. This is some seriously dark and gloomy punk, but not in the way that the Misfits of 45 Grave are. It totally sounds like where it came from: cold, dark, damp, dank, and bitter. One my favorite current bands.

108 - A New Beat From a Dead Heart (Deathwish)
Here's another reformed band from the 90s hardcore scene back with a brand new full-length. I had my reservations with this one as I wasn't sure how these guys would top the stuff off of Three Fold Misery and my favorites from their Equal Vision releases, but this album is full of that dissonant and erratic guitar mania with vocals seething with disgust that only 108 can create. It's so heavy but not in a traditional E-chord, chugga chugga way. The riffs just pummel you and throw you around like a rag doll. This is the kind of record that makes you want to smash things while you listen to it. Sick.

So there you have it. My favorite releases of 2007. Can't wait to see what 2008 has in store.
Posted by: Mike Riley

Features (January 30th, 2008)