I think it’s safe to say that 2020 has melted my brain. It’s hard to think and harder to focus with the uncertainty that has been swirling around for the past 10 months or so. Time has ceased to hold meaning with some days passing in what feels like minutes and others taking what feels like years. But Punknews has brought lots of fun, hope, and has saved my sanity multiple times. I became a news editor at the beginning of this year. I have been reading Punknews since I was thirteen and always wanted to be involved. In summer 2019 I finally started writing reviews for the site and when the opportunity to become an editor arose, I jumped at the chance. I’ve had an absolute blast (for the most part) bringing the good people the news and intend to continue for a long time to come. I am immensely grateful to be working alongside everyone at Punknews who cares so deeply and works so hard. Thank you all.
I’ve learned a good deal about myself and my music habits over the course of the year and I’m going to share some so be prepared. I now have three, THREE, gray hairs (I guess I look more distinguished now). I have gone through a few different phases where I will only listen to either one album, one band or one song on repeat for weeks at a time. This is new. For example, I listened to Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors by Jello Biafra and D.O.A. for a good solid week. And then there was a period of near non-stop ska. At one point I listened to “I Wanna Live” by the Ramones for almost 24 hours. No regrets. I listened to the Lawrence Arms and Run The Jewels for the first time this year and wondered why I hadn’t been listening to them before. Both of their new albums have made it onto my list. I have been listening to Baltimore based punk band Pinkshift a lot too. They released four singles this year and each one has been a highlight. I have had “Rainwalk” and “I’m gonna tell my therapist on you” on near constant rotation and am looking forward to hearing more from them next year.
In a year filled with a seemingly non-stop barrage of stress, music has become more important than ever. Music has offered much need catharsis, a sense of hope, and a feeling of togetherness and community when we can’t physically be with each other. So let’s dive into the list!
Top 20 of 2020
19 . Illuminati Hotties: FREE I.H: This is Not The One You've Been Waiting For
Self-releasedIlluminati Hotties embrace a more experimental sound on the statement of independence that is FREE I.H and I am on board with it. You never know what to expect from song to song which makes for a fun, exciting listening experience. There are songs that sound like indie pop, punk, garage rock, and even a radio introduction for their made-up station. The more I listen to it, the more I notice.
18. The Drowns: Under Tension
17. Bob Mould: Blue Hearts
16. D.O.A.: Treason
Sudden Death RecordsYou always know what you're going to get with D.O.A. They are going to be fast, loud, energetic, and political and they never disappoint. Treason zips by in what feels like minutes. They rip into the corrupt Trump administration with aggressive energy, telling you in no uncertain terms what they think of the state of the world. They throw in a pretty awesome Neil Young cover too. D.O.A. will never stop standing up for what they believe in and their teeth only get sharper with age.
14. The OBGMs: The Ends
Black Box MusicToronto punk rock band the OBGMs bring electric energy on The Ends. There is no slowing down, there is only uncompromising energy full of punk spirit. You can tell that the band cares about what they do with their passion evident on each track as they push their music to new heights. The OBGMs are here to stay and when shows come back, I will be in the pit moshing along.
11. Jeff Rosenstock: No Dream
10. Vile Creature: Glory! Glory! Apathy Took the Helm!
9. Nova Twins: Who Are The Girls?
Nova Twins Ltd in collaboration with 333 Wreckords CrewI started listening to Nova Twins when their song 'Athena' showed up on the recommended section on YouTube and haven't looked back since. The UK duo are energy incarnate, playing punk rock heavy with layers of distortion and creating a sound entirely their own. The songs are filled with electric spirit that makes you want to move. Who Are the Girls? is full of life and cements Nova Twins as a name to know and a band to watch out for.
7. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou: May Our Chambers Be Full
Sacred Bones RecordsEmma Ruth Rundle and Thou are forces to be reckoned with on their own but when they come together - oh man, hold on to your hats. May Our Chambers Be Full is more than an album, it's a full-on experience. The music is heavy in the best way (like a weighted blanket), atmospheric, and a bit dark with lyrics full of imagery. The interaction between Emma Ruth Rundle's powerful, emotive voice and Bryan Funck's deep, harsh voice is well-balanced and adds that much more depth. I find listening to this album very calming and often sit back and let the music wash over me.
6. Dream Nails: Dream Nails
3. Run the Jewels: RTJ4
Jewel RunnersRun the Jewels come out swinging and only add to their momentum as the album goes by with no feeling of slowing down or stopping anytime soon on RTJ4. Killer Mike and El-P are able to switch effortlessly between themselves without feeling disjointed. There is a sense of respect and camaraderie which is apparent on every track. Hard-hitting issues such as social injustice, police brutality, and corruption are critical themes that are tackled with powerful, emotional, uncompromising conviction especially on 'walking in the snow' (feat. Gangsta Boo) and 'pulling the pin' (feat. Mavis Staples). Ultimately, RTJ4 carries with it message that things can be changed from the way they have been by the people, a message of hope that is much needed during these trying times.
Top 5 EPs of 2020
5. The Shell Corporation: Told Ya So
206 RecordsThe Shell Corporation kick ass on Told Ya So. The songs are catchy and fast with lyrics that drip with much needed humour alongside scathing social commentary. The lyrics will also make you picture the horrors that must be a Lysol enema. The band plays energetically, and the vocal delivery is superb. The songs flow together seamlessly and create an EP that is a pleasure to listen to.
4. The Sewer Cats: Zelda
Hell Hath No Fury RecordsThe Sewer Cats deliver fun punk fury on Zelda. In my opinion this is easily one of the best things that came out this year. The songs are short, fast and fun filled with fierce, tireless vocals and classic, fuzzy punk sound. The EP closes with the most fun song of 2020, 'Cat Gifs'. The very existence of this EP makes me so happy.
3. NNAMDÏ: Black Plight
Self-releasedNnamdi released one of the most powerful EPs of the year with Black Plight. The lyrics are passionate, weighty, and important. The songs confront police violence and systemic racism head on. The music is undeniably rock-y and provides a great backdrop for the lyrics to come across.
2. Pup: This Place Sucks Ass
1. Classics of Love: World of Burning Hate
Self-releasedClassics of Love (now Jesse Michaels, Sharif Dumani, and Peter John Fontes) are relentless on World of Burning Hate. They deliver five near-perfect hardcore songs filled with fury and exceptional lyrics that never let up in urgent energy. Since the EP came out this summer, it has been a staple for me. I love everything about it and it never fails to brighten my day.
And there you have it! Thanks for taking the time to read my list. Stay safe, take care of yourselves and others, and wash your damn hands so mosh pits can happen again. Here’s to a great 2021!