Going strong since 1991, 2014's effort from the legendary Californian punks shows just how relevant they remain. Though far from treading new ground, Honor Is All We Know reminds you exactly why you love Rancid. It's an album you'll continually be pressing the repeat button on, desperate to hear once again the brilliant gang vocals, politicised lyrics and catchy choruses.
24. Hollie Cook, Twice
One of the UK's brightest talents, Hollie Cook released her second album in May this year. Easily one of the most laid-back and luxuriously beautiful records of the year, Twice delivers track after track of bass-heavy and deeply groove-led reggae. Hollie's voice is simply sublime, pairing perfectly with the upbeat, summery feel to the tracks. Tiger Balm is a real stand-out track from the album, condensing into four minutes everything good about Hollie. If you haven't checked her out yet, get on board now...
23. Hornets, No Faith
Irish four-piece Hornets blew us away with the hugely energetic No Faith in March. This is one of those records which grabs you and doesn't let you go until you're worn out and near-deafened frNo Faith is heavy, hard-hitting, and certainly hardcore, yet retains an inherent punk feel, and one which we absolutely love.
om the sheer force, energy and power which throbs through it's veins. It's a brilliantly produced and seamless EP, with absolutely no filler whatsoever.
22. Restorations, LP3
Certainly Restorations' best effort yet, 2014's LP3 was also one of the best albums of the year. There's an overriding sense when listening to the record that these guys are on the brink of something massive. The album itself, too, feels massive: it's lavishly produced, and pulls together a vast array of different genres and techniques, somehow combining them into a cohesive and addictive collection.
21. Real Friends, Maybe This Place Is The Same And We're Just Changing
What a year it's been for debut pop-punk albums. Real Friend's debut is right up there with those we've already raved about. So full of melody and intimacy, you find yourself really feeling for troubled vocalist Dan Lambton and his woes. If you listened to 2013's Put Yourself Back Together you'll know exactly what I mean. Maybe This Place… hasn't really moved on too much from their previous release, they have very much picked up where they left off, minus the references to 'sleepy eyes' and 'boney knees'. It can all be a bit too doom and gloom, it's not an everyday album, and it's not an instant classic, but it is a joy to listen to when you're in the right mood for it.
20. Hellwinners, Hellwinners
The fact that Hellwinners is a four-track EP and it makes our Top 25 is testament to just how good this band really are. An audaciously addictive and massively catchy release, it's one that you'll be playing every single day once you get it. There's no doubt that Wired Awake is one of the best songs this year has given us: the edgy, strained yet melodic vocal and choppy, aggressive drumming and guitar styles batter the listener into submission in true punk rock style. The EP is fast-paced, non-stop and downright fantastic.
19. Stanley Odd, A Thing Brand New
If you like your hip-hop socially conscious and combining a handful of genres of music, then A Thing Brand New is for you. Stanley Odd, a Scottish hip-hop collective released their second album in 2014, and it was one which surprised us with it's eclectic style and intelligent lyricism. The record is a truly unique one, with the collective's Scottish accents playing a key part in their sound alongside the sometimes-blues, sometimes-jazzy, sometime-other style. How they get the mish-mash of instruments and styles to work just shows how talented they are. Definitely one to put on the Christmas list.
18. Owls By Nature, The Forgotten And The Brave
Although not necessarily what you may call typical fodder for The Punk Archive, this one had to be included in our Top 25. There are some truly outstanding elements within this record. It's one which strips back music, and rebuilds it based on the purest features. There is no wastage here, nothing unnecessary, and absolutely no filler: but at the same time it's hauntingly beautiful at times as well as displaying some outstanding musicianship. We even went as far as to call it "life-affirming" in our review back in November. If you fancy a bit of respite from the punk, metal and alternative we write about, give The Forgotten And The Brave a go. You won't be disappointed.
17. Six Time Champion, Expecting Honesty
Another EP making our Top 25, showing just how fresh the UK punk scene is right now. Six Time Champion released one of our Editor's favourite records (period.) this year, combining youthful energy and aggression with modern pop-punk. Although clearly rough diamonds at present, Six Time Champion have that certain something which the best bands have. There's a grittiness and authenticity here which you can't learn or buy: it's natural and not many bands have it in as great a quantity as 6TC. We think they could be the flag-bearers for UK pop-punk in 2015. You heard it here first...
16. Blitz Kids, The Good Youth
A band that seemingly continue to fly fairly low under the radar, Blitz Kids' The Good Youth is one of the standout albums of 2014 purely because of their ability to pen astoundingly catchy choruses. It's not a unique or innovative record, but what it does, it does very well. On My Own is one of those songs which'll have you moving, singing, and replaying time and time again; while Sometimes is exactly the same, with some angsty lyrics thrown in for good measure. We love this album's pick-up-and-play feel: it's one which gives you instant gratification. Winner.
15. Mungo's Hi-Fi, Serious Time
The Scottish DJ duo have had a memorable 2014, and Serious Time is undoubtedly a contributing factor. This is a brilliant modern dancehall record, one which pulls together some of the best recording artists in the scene with modern interpretations of classic reggae rhythms. There's three standout tracks in particular, but overall it's a solid five-star record. Can't Stand It, however, is the album's best song by some distance: the huge bassline and dancehall style combined with Warrior Queen's perfectly pitched lyrics and political stance meaning it's nigh-on impossible to not play at maximum volume.
14. Colt 45, The Tide Is Turning
It seems like we've been following our favourite Cumbrian three-piece, Colt 45, for some time now, so we were hugely excited for the release of their debut full length this year. With excitement comes expectation, however, so we're delighted to be able to name The Tide Is Turning as one of our albums of the year. A truly gritty street-punk'n'roll record, there are flashes of true brilliance here amongst all the 'outstanding' the album contains. It also showcases the band's breadth of talents, with slower, more emotive tracks such as The Simple Things Are Working blowing away and involving listeners brilliantly. It's a very endearing and almost comforting record, this, and one which suits any mood. Brilliant.
13. Gnarwolves, Gnarwolves
What a year it's been for these boys. Not only did they release their self-titled full length, but played the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals, as well as hitting up America and announcing tours for Japan and Australasia into 2015. They're a band amassing legions of fans as they go: and it's hard not to join that legion when you see or hear them. This album is more of the same from Gnarwolves: but when that 'same' is so good, you can't help but love it. Smoking Kills is a brilliant example, and the go-to track on this fast-paced roller coaster of a skate-punk album.
12. The Bunny Gang (feat. Nathen Maxwell), Thrive
"A beautifully constructed set of tracks which are...delightfully mellow" is how we summed up Thrive when we reviewed it in September. The more and more we've listened to it, the more and more we've fallen in love with it. An album which is perfect for the end of the night, the start of the day, or just whenever the hell you fancy, it's complex, multi-layered and a downright brilliant listen. We found it to flow perfectly, smooth and melodically almost melting it's way into your eardrums and consciousness as a whole. There's something for everyone here.
11. Backbeat Soundsystem, Together Not Apart
Another artist we only became aware of this year, Backbeat Soundsystem have released arguably the best reggae record of 2014. Not only is it a genuinely accessible record, but it's one which doesn't lose it's longevity, either (as can often be the case with the most accessible). At their best when slowed down and pared back, Backbeat Soundsystem clearly know their way around a melody or two, with not just the guitar, synth, bass and brass melding together gorgeously, but the vocal too. I would recommend listening to Together Not Apart on some high-quality speakers or headphones, though, as there is instrumentation and layering here you don't want to miss.
10. Me vs Hero, I'm Completely Fine
You waited four years for this record. It was worth it. In the new wave of pop-punk, it's hugely reassuring to know that Me vs Hero stuck to their guns, delivering on what they know best. I'm Completely Fine is easily one of the standout albums of 2014, with it's energetic and catchy delivery alongside angst-ridden and powerful lyrics. Me vs Hero have clearly grown as a band through their years of adversity and this album sounds like a joyous celebration of that fact. It's not complex, and it's not difficult or challenging to listen to. What it is, though, is plain and simple brilliant UK pop-punk.
9. The Hotelier, Home, Like Noplace Is There
A record which left us numb with awe, The Hotelier delivered a record which conjures up emotions you didn't even know you had earlier this year. Although we first heard it in February, we pretty much knew it would make this list then. The album is beautiful, melodic and intelligent, with lyrics covering some challenging subjects maturely and sensitively. It's subtle and powerful, and one every record collection cannot do without.
8. Rise Against, The Black Market
How do they keep doing it? Rise Against's seventh studio album sees them in as rude a health as they've ever been, with all the classic elements still here. Not only is this a brilliantly addictive and catchy rallying cry, it's a really intelligent and well-pitched record which suits 2014 in so many ways. Alongside this, you've got some brilliant videos (in particular for lead track I Don't Want To Be Here Anymore). Sounding more melodic than ever, yet still massively pissed off, The Black Market has something for every Rise Against fan. There's also People Live Here, a track which genuinely pulls at the heartstrings with it's emotional and intelligent lyrics. It's classic Rise Against.
7. Mad Caddies, Dirty Rice
2014's best purely ska-punk album, Mad Caddies have delivered arguably one of their finest records in Dirty Rice. There's not a single song on this riotous skank-fest you won't love, all of them featuring the Caddies' cheekiness and huge brass elements. The band's sound has changed a lot over the years, and here is at it's most mature: but don't see that as a bad thing. They've mellowed a lot but sound better for that. Shot In The Dark is one of our favourite songs of 2014, with Back To The Bed and Brand New Scar following closely behind. Perfect for a skankathon or just to chill out to (there are some brilliant basslines in here), Dirty Rice shows Mad Caddies back to their best.
6. Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues
To be totally honest, Against Me! didn't just release an album in January this year. They released something far bigger than that: this is a piece of art, it's a protest movement, and it's a perfectly pitched bullet into the heart of bigotry. As to be expected, this is a different sound from Against Me!, but one which matches the album's content and style perfectly. Transgender Dysphoria Blues isn't an easy listen by any stretch of the imagination; but that is part of it's brilliance. Give this record the time and effort it deserves and you'll see why it's so high up our chart.
5. The Roughneck Riot, Out Of Anger
Folk-punk ain't dead. It's kicking, screaming, alive, and it's all down to The Roughneck Riot. Out Of Anger is a defiant middle finger to, well, just about everything. The sheer energy, passion and grit which runs deep through and is the heartbeat of this album is so rare nowadays, that to harness it and put it through the means of folk-punk rock is something truly special. There are no songs on Out Of Anger which deserve less than five stars.
Some of the harmonies and melodies here are new to the genre but move the game on so dramatically that when you listen to records from Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, they begin to sound hugely out of date. Lyrically, too, the content here is brilliant, with The Roughneck Riot getting their political stance clearly positioned. It's a genuinely incredible album, this, and one which you need in your collection.
4. Neck Deep, Wishful Thinking
There's no doubt about it. Neck Deep have truly earnt their place in our Top Five this year. Certainly one of the hardest-working bands out there right now, they've delivered an absolute belter, especially considering they've only been a band since 2012. Every song is full of win, from the now legendary Growing Pains to the heartfelt album closer Candour. They seem to have effortlessly combined the usual harmonies we have come to expect from the genre with the increasingly more common rushing guitars. It's hard to say exactly what it is which makes this record so good, but it works.
3. Riskee and the Ridicule, Dawn of the Dog
We couldn't possibly fail to have this album in our Top Five of 2014. The MC background of front man Riskee perfectly mould the punk-hop backbone of a band into a force to be reckoned with. The socially conscious lyricism and the musical hooks generated by the band have resulted in an album that deserves high acclaim.
2. The Menzingers, Rented World
Another band who just seem to be getting better and better, The Menzingers brought us a nigh-on perfect album this year. Rented World is only their fourth full-length, and it feels as if they're really starting to hit their stride now.
The mix of styles in Rented World is what really elevates it. There are some straight-up, simple pop-punk tracks such as I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore, as well as some hugely moving and haunting songs such as Transient Love, which quite simply is one of the best songs of the last five years.
They're a band you can't help but feel delighted for. So likeable as a unit and in their sound, it really feels as if Rented World is the culmination of eight or nine years of hard work. It's brilliant to see the band getting the credit and acclaim they deserve.
1: ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Lonely The Brave, The Day's War
There's not really a lot more we can write about The Day's War. Reading our Editor's review back in September (http://thepunkarchive.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/lonely-brave-days-war.html) will tell you all you need to know about an album so clearly head and shoulders above anything else 2014 has to offer.
The astonishing humility with which Lonely The Brave have been receiving the widespread acclaim for what is purely and simply a masterpiece is a measure of the band, and sums up again just what it is which makes them so special.
Even sat here, writing this now, with the album on as this is being typed, the incredible emotion it conjures up are flooding through the keys. Never has an album made so many people feel so many things. Never has an album had so many interpretations and so much power for so many people.
The Day's War, with it's washy guitars and beautiful melodies, heart-breaking melancholy, life-affirming optimism and outstandingly haunting lyrics is such an instant classic that it feels familiar already. It's one of those albums that makes you feel like it was written just for you, and because of that produces an overwhelming emotional response from it's listener.
Which, in our view, is exactly the way music should be.
We've heard perfection. It's The Day's War.