by Kate Whittle
Well, I'm mortified to be posting my top ten list (hint: it's almost nothing but pop punk) so soon after The World's Most Embarrassing Hobbit Review, but Lord knows I'm not about to develop better taste in music just so I have more "cool" cred. I never had any to begin with.
Also, not all of this came out in 2012. Enjoy.
1. Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds. So here’s this guy that writes this hilarious Bad Sandwich blog, which is by turns smart and tender and stupid and disgusting. Take this, his musing on being bad at moderation: “Like, how I’ll eat a few buckets of deep fried beef hearts and then go a week only drinking beet juice, or I’ll fuck an entire special ed class and then spend the rest of the year just teaching them the lessons I’m paid to teach them. You get the idea: Binge and purge.”
And, in a following post about having kids: “My intent is to explain the key difference between parenting (which is a chore on par with being a prison guard, and is soul sucking in the relentlessness of its temporal totality and necessarily killjoy-esque mindframe) and being a dad (which is really, truly one of the most rewarding, joyful things you can possibly experience on this earth).”
I learned in a high school English Lit class that we should judge writing by whether it reveals fundamental truths of the human experience, and goddamn does Brendan Kelly fit that bill whether blogging, Tweeting or playing some of the best music ever. Besides his extensive work with bands like Larry Arms, he also put out a record in March that I have played a zillion times this year. It transcends punk rock into something complex and dark and sexy and awesome. I want to go listen to it again just thinking about it.
He also retweeted the link when Grant Geiger wrote a review of I'd Rather Die than Live Forever for my blog Missoula Punk News, which indicates that stupid blog for a moment registered in Brendan Kelly’s consciousness, which brings me no end of vain joy. I’m going to go listen to "Ramblin’ Revisited" for the thousandth time right this second. Ten out of ten drunken makeouts.
2. Mean Jeans. I’d heard a couple of this ultimate-pop-punk band’s songs before I saw them open for Nobunny in a Portland basement in March, and even through a super tired fog I was like “holy shit,” and now I have both their full-length records and I’ve played them to death. A perfectly stupid, party-happy good time counterpoint to all the serious sad-sack stuff I’ve listened to this year. Mean Jeans are infectious. I was up front and center for their set at The Fest in Gainesville in October, and I could see Mikey Erg and the Dopamines were watching from the side. That’s how you know a band is legit. And Come Toobin is the perfect summer song ever. Six out of six pogo dances.
3. Dear Landlord. WHISKEY AND RECORDS AGAIN! Their entire discography of angry, desperate and driven punk rock accompanied me through some really weird shit I dealt with for the first part of this year, and now that I’m in Missoula and basically the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, I still have them on my shuffle because it’s all still so good. Their Florida Theater set at Fest was fantastic, and then when I saw the guys later hanging out in Durty Nellys after Off With Their Heads, I went up and pestered them to tour to Montana and they were totally nice and talked about how Bozeman is cool. (Mikey Erg and the Dopamines were there too. It was surreal.) Also, Dear Landlord is comprised of really attractive dudes. Five out of five ladyboners.
4. Joyce Manor. So, I experience music in a way I can only describe as textural. Like, when I hear a really good tune it’s like a tasty, crunchy bite that my brain wants to eat. When I’ve heard a song too much, it loses its crunch. Joyce Manor haven’t lost that crunch for me yet, and I have yelled and clutched my steering wheel singing to “Constant Headache” dozens of times this year. FEELINGS. AND CHUNKY GUITAR RIFFS. Their set at Fest was scheduled for 3 in the afternoon in the cavernous Florida Theater, and I’ll be damned if it was not fucking packed with people who went apeshit as soon as they launched into, “Stretching out cheap cotton over your thick skull...” As one dude next to me remarked, “I thought me and nine other people liked this band!” Joyce Manor play such great minimalist rock with stabby riffs and throaty heartfelt vocals I would have loved but not understood when I was 17. They blasted through their Fest set, looking dead serious all the while and barely talking in between songs. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Ten out of ten crushes on boys who will never love me. (Stream Joyce Manor's self titled album here.)
5. Leonard Cohen. Sneaking his way onto this list after I'd already written it, I got a hold of Old Ideas, his album that came out in January, and deeply regret not having listened to it all year. He's got the greatest old-man voice of all time and he knows how to use it. While nothing on Old Ideas is the new "Bird on a Wire" or "Chelsea Hotel," it's smooth and sexy and wistful and lovely. Listen to Crazy to Love You.
Stay tuned for part 2!
A version of this post appeared on Missoula Punk News.