Another year is behind us, and it’s time to take stock. As always, there is so much great music out there for anyone who cares to pay attention to it. I know it’s nerdy, but I relish composing my year-end list. It’s sort of like those gratitude journals that people do nowadays, forcing you to give attention and acknowledgement to moments of joy you experienced over the previous year. And the hope is that, as a reader, maybe you’ll get turned on to something you didn’t already know about. I know that happened to me as the Sorry State staff worked out our lists behind the scenes over the past couple of weeks.
A note about my top 10: in the past, I have excluded Sorry State releases from my year-end lists. I thought this was important both to maintain some semblance of objectivity and because I try as much as possible to treat my children with equal love and attention. However, this year there were two releases on Sorry State that I think made significant contributions to punk and hardcore, and it felt wrong not to include them in my top 10. However, I haven’t included any Sorry State releases in my list of honorable mentions, but our other nine releases from 2022 all deserve a place there.
Also, note that none of these lists are in any order. It’s hard enough to narrow these things down, much less rank each item.
So yeah, here’s what moved me this year…
Daniel’s Top 10 of 2022
Straw Man Army: SOS 12” (D4MT Labs)
If you’re reading this, hopefully you already know about Straw Man Army. If you don’t, stop what you’re doing and listen to the two albums they’ve put out so far. Their music is thoughtful and earnest and beautiful in a way I rarely associate with punk, particularly hardcore punk… they’re one of those rare bands that is unmistakably punk while challenging punk’s philosophical and aesthetic norms and expectations. Most of all, though, they’re just a great band who writes great songs, and SOS finds their anarcho-punk sound evolving to embrace elements of psychedelia and pure pop. While their sound is more akin to bands like Zounds and Crisis, being a Straw Man Army fan today reminds me of being a Fugazi fan in the 90s, when you knew you were watching something special happening in real time.
Nightfeeder: Cut All of Your Face Off 12” (self-released)
Cut All of Your Face Off is 2022’s windows-down, fists in the air, volume at max, everyone screaming along album. While embedded in the thriving world of dirty, Discharge-descended hardcore, Nightfeeder injects that sound with a hooky sensibility I find irresistible.
Rigorous Institution: Cainsmarsh 12” (Black Water Records)
Cainsmarsh was my most anticipated record of 2022… the one I knew was coming and couldn’t wait to hear. I remember the day it came in, taking it home, putting it on the turntable and thinking, “FUCK YES!” Cainsmarsh gives us more of the stomping, anthemic punk and incredible lyrics I loved on their earlier singles, but fleshes it out with a sense of dark musical abstraction that reminds me of early Swans, a sound tailor-made for their dystopian lyrical themes. Another of contemporary punk’s most essential bands.
Peace de Résistance: Bits and Pieces 12” (Peace de Records)
Peace de Résistance’s debut LP blindsided me. Maybe it shouldn’t have, since I already loved Moses’s other band Institute and Peace de Résistance had already released a strong demo tape, but I don’t think too many people had “singer for Institute makes a glam rock masterpiece” on their 2022 bingo card. While you can hear Moses’s punk background in his lyrics and in the seedy rawness of the production, this record has its sights set on something bigger than punk. I’m here for it.
Sniffany & the Nits: The Unscratchable Itch 12” (Prah Recordings)
On the first night of Scarecrow’s European tour, my friend Flo asked me if I’d heard the Sniffany & the Nits album yet. I hadn’t, and while he talked it up that night, I didn’t get to hear it for another month and a half. It lived up to the hype. It sounds like the people who made this record have musical interests and knowledge beyond hardcore punk, but appreciate the genre’s intensity (not to mention its blistering tempos). Sniffany’s singer is also an ultra-charismatic frontperson, which makes for a gripping album.
Reckoning Force: Broken State 12” (Not for the Weak Records)
Being just a couple hours away in Raleigh, we knew there was a wave of killer young bands forming in eastern Virginia, but Reckoning Force’s Broken State made a lot more people sit up and take notice. A total powerhouse of a record, its big hooks, blistering speed, and wall of sound intensity bring to mind the best bands of the No Way Records years.
Rat Cage: In the Shadow of the Bomb 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Man, I love Rat Cage. Every time they put out a record I play it to death, and this new single is no exception. While always a fast, raw, and in-your-face hardcore band, each Rat Cage record sounds a little different from the others. The lyrics for “In the Shadow of the Bomb” were inspired by a trip to Hiroshima, and the music gives a nod to the heavy and anthemic tradition of Japanese hardcore.
Shaved Ape: demo cassette (Sorry State Records)
For me, Shaved Ape’s demo is the most exhilarating piece of hardcore punk that came out this year. It is raw intensity personified, and whenever I play it I have a distinctive visceral reaction that I don’t get from any other record. It’s a similar kick to 7-inch bursts of intensity by DRI, YDI, Genetic Control, Negative Approach, or Deep Wound, but has enough personality to stand alongside those records rather than in their shadow.
Woodstock 99: Super Gremlin 12” (Sorry State Records)
Super Gremlin is another record that floored me when I first heard it. I remember that first listen, feeling surprised and delighted as each new song went in a direction I never could have expected. While it’s certainly episodic, the snarl of nihilistic hardcore runs through the entire record (well, most of it anyway), as does a Ramones-esque fusion of the dumb and the arty. One of those records that sounds like nothing before it.
Alienator: demo cassette (self-released)
I haven't stopped listening to Alienator's demo tape since it came out in January 2020. Alienator channels the moment when punk and metal first crossed over, when bands like Corrosion of Conformity, early DRI, and post-Discharge bands like Broken Bones and English Dogs exploded with the unpredictable intensity of water splashing into hot oil. Alienator references Siege’s speed, Slayer’s technicality, Sabbath’s heaviness, and YDI’s raw anger, arriving at a blistering sound you can’t hear anywhere else.
2022 Honorable mentions
Indre Krig, Ignorantes, Horrendous 3D, Verdict, Fatal, Long Knife, Delco MFs, White Stains, Personal Damage, Dissekerad, Vidro, Gefyr, Primer Regimen, Inferno Personale, Fuera de Sektor, Savageheads, Axe Rash, Neutrals, L.O.T.I.O.N., Gauze, the Prize, A.I.D.S., Cherry Cheeks, Judy & the Jerks, Ammo, the Drin, Yambag
Pohjasakka: Kidutusta Ja Pelkoa 12” (Finnish HC)
Totalitär: 1998-2002 12” (Skrammel Records)
Agoni: En Röst För Fred 12” (De:Nihil Records)
Mercenary: Demos Collection 12” (Beach Impediment Records)
Sluggo: S/T 12” (4Q Records)
Aunt Sally: 1979 12” (Mesh Key Records)
Varaus: Tuomittu Elämään E.P. 7” (Larmattacke Records)
These are 2022’s reissues I was most excited about. It excludes some like Sealed’s reissue of Rudimentary Peni’s Death Church and TKO’s recreation of the Portland edition of Poison Idea’s Kings of Punk because I already had original copies and thus the reissues weren’t as important to me (though the music on them is). The reissues that are on the list presented music that was new to me and/or brought together material I already knew in a way that felt exciting and fresh.
Best Live Sets I Saw in 2022
Axe Rash, Inferno Personale, Vidro, Tower 7, Ammo, Golpe, Public Acid, Fried E/M, Mujeres Podridas, Suck Lords, Electric Chair, Woodstock 99, Indre Krig
After a few years without venturing too far from home, in 2022 I got to go on tour and to go to a few fests. I’d love to write about each of these experiences, but in the interests of keeping this to a semi-reasonable length, I’ll just say that if you have the opportunity to see any of these bands, take it.
2022 in Record Collecting
I feel like I’ve calmed down on buying collectible records, but these pictures tell a different story. That being said, I remain a bargain hunter, and as in my score photos of years past, a lot of the records you see here have sub-optimal covers or other flaws that kept their prices down. However, some were just plain bargains, like my biggest dawgs, Swankys’ Very Best of Hero LP and Anti-Cimex’s second EP. The latter is extra special because my pal Anders sold it to me the day after Scarecrow played an incredible couple of gigs in Cimex’s (and Anders’) home country of Sweden.