This year marks my first full year penning reviews for Punknews. The opportunity has not only allowed me to keep up with my favorite bands but also discover something new. This year has been turbulent to say the least. Music has been there to help us through. There have been many stellar releases by both new and veteran bands. Here are my top 10 full length releases of 2020.
Top 10 of 2020
Danzig fans had been waiting for the release of this album for years. Cover albums are always met with mixed reactions among both fans and critics. The influence of Elvis vocally on Glenn Danzig through the years cannot be denied. 2020 finally saw the release of "Danzig Sings Elvis" The highlight of this album for me was in the song selection. Similar to the "Skeletons" collection, this album contains lesser known tracks recorded by Elvis. This release certainly isn't for everyone. I did end up spinning this more than I had previously expected I would have.
Pop punk fans were pleased to learn that Giant Eagles were going to return with their sophomore album this year. For those who don't know, this band features members of bands such as the Apers, Windowsill and Lone Wolf. I had predicted this album early on to make my top 10. "Second Coming" never gets stale as it combines the best of pop punk, Ramonescore and 80s synth pop. This album stands apart from most pop punk albums released this year.
The Sewer Rats were a new discovery for me this year. This veteran band from Cologne, Germany have released a well-balanced album chock full of pop punk brilliance. "Magic Summer" mixes Ramonescore with both garage and classic 1950s undertones. Fans of the Ramones, Teenage Bottlerocket, Lillingtons and Social Distortion should check this out. "My Baby Is At Groezrock (And I Am Not)" has not gotten out of my head since I first heard this album.
Midnight continues to carry the torch for extreme metal with this release. This Midwest band is the brainchild of Athenar who writes and records their albums. This album is full of satanic speed metal anthems. Though a metal album, this release plays like a punk album. At just over 30 minutes, Midnight hit you like a freight train carrying loads of black metal mixed with NWOBHM. Tracks such as "Escape the Grave" boast Thin Lizzy-esque guitar leads as well. This was one of the earliest releases of 2020 which has held up well throughout the year.
Eccentric pop records
The Putz have been a staple in the current pop punk scene for a number of years. I had previously heard many of their tracks on various compilations and EPs. "Rise and Shine" simply floored me upon first listen. This is a classic 90s style pop punk album in every sense of the term. This album is full of all the best elements of the genre. This album blends catchy hooks, tasty leads and humorous tongue-in-cheek lyrics that will stay in your head for days. Any fan of Screeching Weasel or the Queers would be more than pleased with this release.
5. High Spirits: Hard to Stop
Chicago's High Spirits have been leading the underground new wave of traditional heavy metal for many years. This band is the mastermind of band leader and scene veteran Chris Black (Superchrist, Professor Black, Dawnbringer, etc). This album continues in the band's style of crafting catchy hard rock anthems influenced by the best of NWOBHM and classic metal. Each song contains infectious melodies, guitar leads and backing vocals. "Voice in the Wind" could have easily been a commercial hard rock hit in the 80s. Recommended for fans of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Diamond Head.
Italian punk rock veterans the Manges pleased pop punk and Ramonescore fans with their 5th full length release. "Punk Rock Addio" is chock full of hooks and melodies the band is synonymous for. This album carries the tradition of making multiple references to Italian and American culture. Tracks such as "Chinese Dragons" and "Viper Room" takes the listener from West Coast to East Coast. This album flows extremely well with not even on track breaking the 3 minute mark. The Manges continue to be one of Europe's premier punk bands.
All star records
Joe Queer and company help close out an amazing year of pop punk with their 11th proper full length release. This album is a perfect representation of the evolution of the band throughout its storied history. Present are the usual tongue in cheek aggressive tracks as well as classic bubblegum numbers. Songs such as "Shirley Needs a Dildo" and "Hong Fucking Kong" are classic Queers. "Save the World" also features guest female backing vocals courtesy of Kelly Ogden from the Dollyrots on various tracks. The Queers have successfully crafted an album that will sure to soon become a fan favorite.
Bargain bin records
The Chats burst onto the scene a few years back with a number of well received EPS. This year, the young lads from Australia dropped their first proper full length. I have not stopped listening to this album since it was released. The Chats play a loud and snotty brand of catchy punk not unlike early Circle Jerks. "High Risk Behavior" contains some great singles such as "Pub Feed" and "Identity Theft." There is a lot of youthful energy blaring through this album that will take you back to the first time you heard the '77 sound. The Chats certainly make punk rock fun again with their catchiness and tongue in cheek lyrics.
Ben Weasel and company surprised the punk rock world when "Some Freaks Of Atavism" was dropped unexpectedly online earlier this year. Fans had heard the album was in the works though no release date had previously been reported. The timing could not be better given the current state of affairs. It wasn't just the fact that the punk rock community had new music from Screeching Weasel. More importantly, the album delivered the goods. Classic 90s Lookout Records era SW is present on "Back of your Head" and "Settle In." Guest vocals on the new wave rocker "Turn it Around" are present courtesy of Josie Cotton. The musicians present on this release have been part of the live Screeching Weasel lineup for some time now and it shows on the recording. This is the release that I have been waiting for as a long time fan of the band. "Some Freaks of Atavism" is the album that is my personal highlight of 2020.
It has been an honor to be able to review so many amazing releases this year. Bands from various genres of punk and metal filled my airwaves. I eagerly await what 2021 will bring