Updated: Jan 1
Album of the Year (National): Paintstroke by The Cryptics
The best musical compositions expand your understanding of music and yourself as a whole. Sliding into first place on the technicality that it was released mere days after the conception of the Bands in the Bus website is Paintstroke, due in part because this musical masterpiece is greater than the sum of its parts. Beautifully mastered and expertly engineered, each track builds upon the previous song's momentum, allowing even short transitionary tracks like the introductory "Drifter" to feel essential to the total composition.
Paintstroke encapsulates such expansive swatches of the human experience without ever sounding preachy, pedantic, or pretentious. Few records inspire a deeper appreciation of music within me. However, this record inspired me to become a student of the genre as I traced its musical influences back through the decades, starting with TSOL's Change Today. It ultimately led to me developing a new yet apprehensive appreciation for The Doors (particularly the musicianship featured within Morrison Hotel).
This record sent me on a prolifically cathartic musical journey as it inspired me to explore complex feelings of grief. As I wept, I processed my long-repressed bereavement that spawned from years of abandonment, betrayal, and neglect until it ultimately became the soundtrack of some of my most monumental interpersonal breakthroughs in 2022.
Album of the Year (Columbus): Nuke It All by Prime Directive
After more than a decade within the local scene, the legendary Prime Directive is finally getting to reap the benefits of what they have sown for years. In a year blessed with bountiful musical releases, I consider Nuke It All the crown jewel that showcases the strength and depth of the Columbus punk scene. This explosive punk album is exceptionally well-engineered and expertly produced, allowing it to be perfectly balanced yet nuanced. I am still discovering tiny details within the LP over nine months later. Everything down to the cover art is firing on all cylinders.
Hilariously sardonic satire without sacrificing its hardcore intensity, Nuke It All is political but never pretentious. It offers diversity and range with trashy rock'n'roll tracks like Hell Ride, which recalls the salacious details of a sexual encounter with a succubus without overtly crossing the line of objectification. On another track, the Columbus punk legends tell the true story of a man who waged war against his local government. Pulse-pounding rhythms, face-melting guitar riffs, and Johnny Dredd's gift for storytelling work seamlessly together to deliver a satirical soundtrack of a modern America that has strayed too far beyond the point of redemption.
Nuke It All is a meticulously produced, high-octane thrill ride from cover to cover that will leave you on the edge of your seat and begging for more. It has the unprecedented power to kick you in the teeth while simultaneously making you laugh. I hope that in 2023, I will be privileged enough to witness Prime Directive bring the same intensity and expertise they exhibit on this album while performing live. If and/or when this happens, they will effortlessly steal the "Hottest Band in the Bus" title.
Album of the Year (Cleveland): Activation by The Missed
Coincidentally enough, I have been caught in the same orbit as The Missed since before I started my website. As many of you know, my husband is a Cleveland native and was deeply embedded in the Cleveland punk scene of the mid to late 90s and still knows an extensive network of musicians there. After losing both musical acts that we booked for our wedding, we attempted to book The Missed for our special day in Lakewood based on the recommendations of this network. Unfortunately, we couldn't seal the deal. However, less than a year later, we were lucky enough to attend their album release show, which was one of the most exceptional and eclectic shows of the year.
The Cleveland music scene has evolved in mysterious ways over the past two decades. As a whole, it is artsier and more experimental than the Columbus scene and has an entirely different and far more nuanced sound. If one could refine the essence of the Cleveland scene and distill it into a magical elixir, it would taste the way Activation by The Missed sounds. This album is filled with paradoxes; it is flowery and feminine while still capturing the gray melancholic character of the Cleveland sky. The three-piece group exhibits their unprecedented collaborative prowess by creating an ephemeral sense of verisimilitude while still having enough edge to slice through the psyche like a white-hot knife. Activation is simply rich with contradictions; it serenades you like a sweet lullaby before it bares its teeth. It is gorgeous and gritty, just like Cleveland itself, and is simply a masterpiece.