“Best Of The Year” lists are a dime a dozen, that’s for sure. If you follow our End Of The Year series, you already know we’re not big fans of creating just one ‘top’ list, but if I was forced to drop one in 2018, I’d place PACK SOUNDS‘ “Bold Statements” LP right at the top. This amazing emotive punk and post rock infused record stole my heart and delivered a ranging and emotional experience with a plethora of hooks and great, varied songs that all lead to each other. Given their artistry, it was a particular pleasure to ask the band to join us in this year’s recap and present you their noteworthy musical moments that encapsulate the year. Here’s a look back at what 2018 gave them. Read up, listen, enjoy, and leave your comments below!
2018 was a really big year for Pack Sounds. After four long years of working on our debut album, which was delayed by everything from line up changes to major medical issues, we finally released “Bold Statements” in July. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out and are extremely appreciative of the positive feedback it has received thus far. On top of being very active locally in Kalamazoo, MI, we also finally ventured out of state and had a blast on our first US/Canadian tour. All in all, it felt great to be so productive and finally share what we’ve spent so long crafting with everyone.
2019 is already shaping up to be an even busier year for us. We’re already in the process of setting up next year’s touring plans. If all goes well, we will be doing a Spring tour down to Texas and a Fall US/Canada tour. We will probably sneak in a couple more jaunts as well but those are still in the works. On top of all that, we are also hard at work on our next record and currently writing a ton of new material. Hopefully we’ll test some new tracks out on tour and hit the studio towards the end of next year.
2018 was a killer year for new music and below are some of the highlights for us.
Obviously a ton of stuff came out this year so I should have more picks but I found myself spending a lot of time discovering records that are amazing but were released prior to 2018. That said, here are the albums that seemed to be stuck on repeat for me from 2018. Most of them are from either long time buddies or new friends we made from playing shows this year.
RESPIRE – Dénouement & Memorial (An Accompaniment)
These guys are long time friends from Toronto who just seem to keep getting better and better with every release. They are equally amazing live so I encourage everyone to see them if they have the opportunity. These releases have everything a listener could ask for. Beautifully composed pieces that so thoughtful and emotional. Respire should be the soundtrack to the end of the world.
SPANISH LOVE SONGS – Schmaltz
Pack Sounds opened for these guys around when this album came out. Super catchy record from start to finish. Also really nice down to earth people. Seems like they’ve been blowing up a lately too so I’m happy to see I’m not the only one listening.
EVERYWHEN – Summer Singles
I feel like this band is so new but are going to blow up once people find out about them. We had the pleasure of playing with these guys in New Jersey and Philadelphia on tour this year. Our friend, who designed our record, sent me their unmixed recordings and I was floored. Found out later that the band is made up of people from 1994, Algernon Cadwallader & Prawn so no wonder it rules. Only four songs but it does the trick. Good luck not getting “Deprivation Well” stuck in your head for days.
BRACKISH – Worlds
Another band that I wish more people knew about. Anyone who grew up on Get Up Kids, Saves The Day, Jimmy Eat World or Weakerthans will totally love this. They are another Philly band that we had the pleasure of playing with on tour. I’m normally more focused on music than lyrics but these guys had me singing along to every song when I saw them. Really catchy melodies and songwriting.
RUSS (guitar / bacup vocals)
2018 has been a big pleasure for me as some of my favorite long-standing bands, and some that I have been obsessed with only in more recent years, all put out new albums this year. There was even one that was a total unknown for me that I got unexpectedly completely hooked by.
MEWITHOUTYOU – [untitled] LP
mewithoutYou is unequivocally my favorite band and they never disappoint or cease to surprise me, so having them release a new album was an absolute treat for me. The new untitled record is simultaneously a break from their established stylistic trajectory (namely in terms of aesthetics and concept) and a return to the form of their earlier albums – in that it’s raw and they sound legitimately pissed in a way that tops even their last album Pale Horses (which I also loved).
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE – Thank You For Today
This is just an undeniable crash course in concise, well-crafted pop song-writing that I could not listen to enough every single day for weeks and weeks on end, and I’m still certainly listening to it on the regular. Death Cab has definitely transitioned into a much more synth-pop oriented entity, and although I sometimes miss the sprawling nature of Narrow Stairs or Transatlanticism, the organic feel of Plans, or the relative simplicity of earlier albums, I love seeing a band evolve and keep going over the course of years of being at it. The synth sounds they come up with and the warbly tone of the effects they employ make Thank You For Today a sonic delight – the perfect album to drive around to at night.
THE SIDEKICKS – Happiness Hours
A brilliant treatise on the fleeting nature of happiness, wrapped up in the perfect combination of pop hooks and punk energy. I love that underneath it all Happiness Hours can be this musically ambitious, so laden with character writing and extremely personal references that you could never exactly fully understand unless you were close to the author, all these gut-punching moments of emotional jolts – yet still come across on the surface, perhaps in a masterfully purposeful tongue in cheek way, as a feel-good buffet of pop hooks and undeniable rock energy. The Sidekicks are perhaps the band I have been the most obsessed with in recent years.
YOUNG JESUS – The Whole Thing is Just There
This band totally captured my heart when I saw them in Kalamazoo in 2017 and I became completely enraptured by their S/T album. I have played that record countless times now so I was very ready to hear them follow it up. The Whole Thing is Just There is still growing on me, but that’s something I love and look forward to. I know I have a lot more to get to know and appreciate about this album. Young Jesus is so adjacent to the sound of a lot of indie bands that are blowing up right now, yet so much more sonically adventurous than anything you could compare them to. I love that they embrace the nature of improvisation, that they can wrap up post-rock and free jazz influences into songwriting that almost sounds like LVL UP. It makes so much sense that this band is on Saddle Creek now.
DOE – Grow Into It
This is the one that came out of nowhere for me. Grow Into It is ripe with meaty power-pop guitar frenzy, perfectly catchy vocal hooks, and is just so righteously pissed! It all comes together to create a delightfully satisfying package. The energy on this album is impossible to ignore. I feel like this and Happiness Hours might be the only ones on my list that really reflect in the way Pack Sounds writes music, which is interesting to me. When Andrew and I were on tour in Germany this Fall, we got to meet someone who books tours for Doe. If we could somehow play some shows with this band, I would just be overjoyed.
STEVE (drums / backup vocals)
This year was weird. These are the albums that helped me get through it.
SPANISH LOVE SONGS – Schmaltz
I know Andrew already mentioned this one, but this probably my favorite record of the year. It’s honest, relatable, and filled with raw emotion. I got the see them when we played with them in Kalamazoo early in the year, and then again in Florida later in the year for one of the most cathartic sets I’ve ever been to. They’ve been on the road for most of 2018, and I expect they will be in 2019 as well.
WE ARE THE UNION – Self Care
What end of the year list would complete without some ska? I’ve been a fan of this band since I saw them in 2006/2007 in their old trombone player’s apartment. I loved it then, and I love it now. WATU knocked it out of the park with this one. While the music is upbeat and catchy, the lyrics offer a dark take on modern society and how it is affecting all of us. While depression and anxiety are well represented, there’s an underlying theme throughout the album of hope that things can get better, and no one is alone with their struggles. I got to see them once this year, but I’m hoping to get to see them again really soon.
THE PENSKE FILE – Salvation
I saw these guys for the first time in 2014 and was floored by how tight they were. Four years later and they keep getting better and better. They are one of the hardest working bands out there right now, and this record is a testament to that. It features big choruses, hooks that get stuck in your head, a driving rhythm, and the lyrics seem to give a nod to the past while telling the present and future to bring it on. I got to see them much more than what seemed reasonably possible this year, and that made me really happy. Good things are on the horizon for this band, don’t sleep on them or this record.
OLD SOULS – Hey, How Are You?
This one has been a long time coming, but I’m glad it’s finally out. From front to back, this album exudes raw, honest energy. I was fortunate to see these guys play 6 times this year, and I would always leave with their songs stuck in my head. It’s been great to see these guys grow over the years, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
SHOOK ONES – Body Feel
See the recent IDIOTEQ interview at this location »
I thought Shook Ones weren’t an active band anymore, so I was surprised and elated when I saw they had a new record out. In typical Shook Ones fashion, they’ve put out a banger of a record that’s fast, gritty, and catchy. I’m hoping 2019 is the year I finally get to see them live.