Back to 2015 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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2015 was the final full year of AbsolutePunk. Looking back at the staff list from this year, I’m filled with many conflicting feelings. On the one hand, there’s a whole lot of outstanding music from this year that I hold fondly in my memory. That Sufjan Stevens album, Kendrick Lamar, Foxing, Noah Gundersen, Carly Rae Jepsen, Fall Out Boy, and many others continue to get regular spin in my rotation. But at the same time, 2015 was the year I knew, beyond any doubt, that I needed to change something in my life.

Beyond the abject chaos of working for a large corporation spending money in the weirdest ways and having shakeups in management seemingly every week, this was a year where the music scene itself, and AbsolutePunk in particular, became a nightmare I dreaded being a part of. This is the year where the tour manager for The Wonder Years lies to me to cover up sexual assault from some dude in some crappy band on Pure Noise Records. This is the year where Front Porch Step is allowed to play Warped Tour after allegations of misconduct. The year where I’m getting in public and private spats with bands that are doing gross shit. I’m getting messages from record labels that don’t want me to write about any of this and want to cover for it as “boys will be boys.” And there was even that whole thing with Kevin Lyman himself wanting me to come out to some Warped Tour date, and when I suggested multiple women he should be talking to instead, he just said “no.”1

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  1. And, for the record, as all the stories that have come out since detail: we were absolutely right in describing the toxic environment of that tour.

Back to 2014 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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This week has us traveling back to 2014. Only one more week left after this, and we will be caught up with when Chorus launched in 2016. These last few weeks have an interesting feel to them, they’re far enough away where there’s a distance, but six years is still close enough where it doesn’t feel as much like the past as the previous dives.

Looking at AbsolutePunk’s 2014 list fills me with a wide range of emotions. The year itself, for music, is one that I’ll always hold dear. I loved that Noah Gundersen record. Taylor Swift released 1989 and was starting to cement herself as the artist of a generation. Bleachers released their debut. Copeland were back. Against Me! dropped an all-time classic. The Gaslight Anthem were polarizing. And a new group of bands were starting to make waves. From Joyce Manor, to PUP, to Modern Baseball, to The Hotelier cementing themselves as one of the ‘next great bands in our scene.’ And I’m also thinking back to 2014 and all the turmoil that was taking place not just in the scene but also in the AbsolutePunk offices. Drew Beringer had a fun little rant in the forums last week about being hired at the Spin office and the cluster fuck of mismanagement and organizational failures. This was, for lack of a more colorful phrase, the beginning of the end. I had an entire new version of the website designed, built, and coded, and I couldn’t get it launched. It was then that I gave up fighting the battles. I couldn’t even keep track of who was in charge anymore, or who was running what, so I went into “put the head down, do the work” mode. And the joy of something I had been doing since I was a teenager was sucked completely out of each day of work. I went through the motions and started daydreaming about what my next steps were going to be.

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Back to 2013 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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The early versions of these “back to” articles felt like I was looking at a distant past, a version of myself that was so far removed from who I am today, a version doing things I can only remember around the edges. More the shape of memory, less defined lines. This year we get to 2013, only a couple years from the end of this iteration of this project.1 I look at the staff’s 2013 best of list and the memories around these albums feel fresh in my mind. I remember the buzz around The National. I remember The Wonder Years destroying our web server with the most-streamed song premiere we ever did. To date, that song’s been streamed over a half a million times on Soundcloud. I remember the return of Fall Out Boy, the legal drama of A Day to Remember, the My Chemical Romance hiatus, and my utter obsession with this new band called The 1975.

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  1. I have an idea of what I am going to do once we get to 2015.

Back to 2012 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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2012, only eight years ago, but it feels so much further away. It was the year the world was supposed to end, and yet the current state of things feels far more apocalyptic than almost anything from 2012.

Looking at the AbsolutePunk list from this year throws me in two different directions. First, it’s a year with a lot of really great rock albums. From The Menzingers, The Gaslight Anthem, Japandroids, Every Time I Die, and many others. And second, it’s the year of Fun.’s Some Nights. For whatever reason, I forgot that all of this was happening at the same time. In my head, I never associated The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten happening while Fun. was blowing up across the country. It’s weird how time can play tricks on your brain like that.

At a high level, this staff complied list feels pretty representative of where the music scene was in 2012 and where we, as a publication, were starting to try and branch out a little more with our musical tastes. You see Taylor Swift’s Red on this list, an album that would do very well in our best of the decade list. And you also will find Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar making appearances.1 And then it’s also a year where a lot of heavier music and scene staples were putting out releases. Every Time I Die released Ex Lives, Code Orange Kids released Love is Love / Return to Dust, and Yellowcard put out Southern Air next to Anberlin’s Vital. Whereas last week had me coming to the realization that a lot of the albums in 2011 were great albums that often ended up becoming my least favorite of the bands’ respective catalog, looking at my list from this year is virtually the opposite. This is the year of albums that would, in time, make a run as being my favorite release from some of the bands that feature. It’s my favorite Japandroids record, I think I’ve come to conclude it’s my favorite Yellowcard record, it’s my favorite Every Time I Die record, it’s my favorite All-American Rejects record, and mewithoutYou, Now, Now, Stars, and The Menzingers all make a case as well. I don’t think it’s my favorite The Gaslight Anthem record, but there are times where I think it’s the best Gaslight Anthem record. When I think about the run The Gaslight Anthem had, and include Brian’s work with The Horrible Crowes, it feels like everything was leading to that record. And along with with Fun.’s Some Nights, it is probably what I most associate the year with in my head.

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  1. And it was the year of that one Mackelmore album everyone kind of liked for a while.

Back to 2011 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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I used to think about the idea of ‘re-living’ a year. The mental game of knowing what you know now, and seeing what differences you could make in your life with various changes and the superpower of hindsight. After 2020, I don’t think about that much anymore; there are years that should be burned and the ground they’re buried within salted and forgotten. 2011 is a year like that for me; a year I’d spend years getting over.

As I look over the AbsolutePunk staff list from 2011, I’m reminded most of all these little dramatic moments this year inspired. Blink-182 finally released their reunion album, Neighborhoods, and it was instantly polarizing. Was it a great return? Was it garbage? Did the band desperately need an outside producer? Should they be forced to all be in a room writing together? It was virtually instant drama, swift speculation, and all of the excess noise seemed to hum louder than any real discussion of the music itself. And that wouldn’t be the only polarizing release this year. Thrice released Major/Minor, the only album of theirs I don’t unequivocally love, and would soon after take a hiatus. Thursday released No Devolución, a record many thought was a departure from their core sound (but one I’ve long championed as their best work), and then would also take a hiatus. Manchester Orchestra would release Simple Math, and to this day, I can’t tell you what the consensus around that album is. Is it loved? Hated? I feel like I’ve read every single take about that album and still don’t know how it’s thought of within the Manchester Orchestra fanbase. Patrick Stump went solo with Soul Punk, and arguments of selling out and comparisons to Fall Out Boy were inevitable. And then there were The Dangerous Summer at peak Drama Summer. They were one of the buzziest, most talked about, and most adored within our community bands. But those assholes just couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. War Paint is an undeniable album, but I look at my list from 2011, and I have it all the way down at number twenty-eight. I just couldn’t divorce the antics from the music and was so sick of their shit.

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Back to 2010 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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2010, huh?

Specific year markers, like decade transitions, always seem to get to me. They put in black and white the passage of time in an even block. I both can’t believe and am not shocked that it’s been ten years since 2010. It feels both impossible and obvious at the same time. I browse through AbsolutePunk’s best-of list from the year and see it filled with albums that would define the next decade in music. Records that would be so influential that they would help shape the musical landscape for years to come. And I see albums from bands that were a part of the fabric of AbsolutePunk, like The Graduate and Valencia, that would soon disband and fade into the memory of forum posters alone.

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Back to 2009 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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2009 was a sneaky great year for music.

If you had asked me right before I looked at the AbsolutePunk list from 2009, I wouldn’t have remembered how stacked it was. Unlike 2008, I didn’t have an album in mind that I just knew defined the year and would go on to represent the better part of the next decade in my life. Now, looking over this staff compiled list, I’m reminded just how incredible a year 2009 was for our music scene. And I’m reminded that when a band or album started to get some buzz in our forums, it felt like an unstoppable wave of hype. 2009 had two of the most “get on that hype train” albums from this era that I can remember: Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything to Nothing and The Dangerous Summer’s Reach for the Sun. With Manchester Orchestra, we had already heard their debut full-length, and the early rumors were they were going all out with their follow-up, and it had the rumblings of an instant classic. The Dangerous Summer had released an EP and was just brimming with potential; combining the tried and true formula of incredibly relatable lyrics with just the right amount of hooks and guitars. A true “your next favorite band” contender.

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Back to 2008 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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This week’s jaunt in the Tardis takes us back to 2008. A bittersweet year that I looked upon with so much hope, and in retrospect, have so much regret and disappointment. The watchword for 2008 is change. Our country elects its first black President upon this message, and it’s echoed in my journey as well. Change. Hope. Personal changes, professional changes, societal changes, and musical changes. All wrapped with a belief and hope that we are progressing forward and moving toward something better. And before long, all of this culminates in a massive economic recession not long after I have decided to sell AbsolutePunk to Buzznet.

But first, the staff list.

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Back to 2007 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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Ah, 2007, an album ranking year that I don’t think will get the worst of Reddit angry with me, but a year that feels transitional in our music scene. While 2005 felt like a pop-punk apex, and 2006 felt like bands exploring new sounds and taking big swings, I look back on 2007 and see the shifts that started the year before playing out in significant ways. A music scene that now has spread and is straddling pop, punk, alternative, hardcore, and everything in between at a rapid pace. Reading over the staff list from 2007 shows me a shift not just in the taste of the staff and community underway, but the beginning of a changing of the guard in just what kind of music was extremely popular within the music scene itself.

On the pop-punk side, you see the genre start to morph. We’re just about to begin the neon-phase, and bands like Four Year Strong and The Wonder Years are gaining in popularity. Bands from the previous era are trying to find out where they fit in. The Starting Line release Direction and have a surefire hit in “Island” that never finds its footing with the mainstream, and the band will go on hiatus not long after. Yellowcard returns with Paper Walls, which I called a redemption, and one of the better pop-punk albums released in years, but it also never quite catches on, and the band will also go on their hiatus within a year. The Academy Is… take a shot with Santi, and while loved by a few die-hards, it seemed to pause any momentum they had. Motion City Soundtrack leans into the melody with Even If It Kills You, and I will never understand the community backlash to that album. To this day, I’m still angry it wasn’t better received at the time, and while I love a lot of what came next, I could never shake that it felt like a regression. The kings of the old guard, Fall Out Boy, show they’re not ready to give up the crown when they put out Infinity on High. A band at the peak of their powers let me “leak” a track on our website, we get featured on MTV, and the group continues their tradition of being extremely polarizing within the scene while having a knack for keeping their sound updated and fresh enough to continue to see mainstream success. A trick they’ll deploy for years to come.

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Back to 2006 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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Last week I started the process of re-looking through the, and my personal, best-of lists from the early years. I began with one of my favorite years in my musical memory, 2005. It’s a year filled with nostalgia, pop-punk royalty, and stacked top to bottom with albums virtually anyone that grew up in this music scene consider classics. But here’s the thing about nostalgia, not all of it’s soaked in sunshine. Part of looking back means doing it with the clearer eyes of today; what you know now has to impact what you see. And that means it won’t always be fun because the light of the present can see into the shadows of the past.

What I remember most about AbsolutePunk in 2006 was that it felt like a shift in the music scene was underway, and it happened quickly. From the pop-punk goodness of 2005, the music that paints our 2006 list has a darker tinge to it. Blink-182 are no more, and +44 carries with its pop-rock an undercurrent of bitterness. New Found Glory shed their pop-punk identity in Coming Home for a sound that immediately divides the fan base, and one they’ve never returned to. Bands begin to experiment a little more with their sound and stretch outward. The Format shift with Dog Problems, My Chemical Romance goes all out in The Black Parade, The Early November aim for glory with a triple-disc concept album, and we see various expansions from Underoath, AFI, and Moneen. And, on top of all of that, we have debut full-lengths from Saosin and Manchester Orchestra. Two bands that will feature in our lives for years to come.

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Back to 2005 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

Back to 2005

Last week I was able to recreate and re-add all of the end of the year lists into our database from 2005 onward. This hit of nostalgia was paired with me shaking my head at not only the outcome of the staff lists but trying to figure out just what I was thinking on my lists as well. For the next few weeks, I’d like to deconstruct some of these lists and add some of the context and memories I have from this era of the music scene. And this week, I’m starting with what could arguably be one of the most significant years in our little emo-pop-punk world: 2005. 2005 was absolutely stacked with albums that have gone on to be regarded as scene classics. Albums that I still listen to and albums that helped define the music scene for years to come.

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