The 40 Best Punk Albums of the 2010s

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The 40 Best Punk Albums of the 2010s

If you’re a believer in the doctrine that the hardest times bring about the best art, then surely the 2010s were a landmark decade for punk rock. In an age where our mere existence and welfare is up for debate, you don’t exactly have to spout about imperialism or capitalism to make a bold political statement that defies the doomed fates laid out for us by the one percent. To sing about anxiety is to be political; To sing about love is to be political; To sing about waiting for the bus is to be political; And of course, to sing about post-9/11, post-Great Recession oligarchy or the #MeToo movement is to also be political. Punk provides catharsis, transcendence and a safe space—and it’s hard to imagine this decade without this creative outlet.

While punk and its subgenres took a nosedive in terms of mainstream relevancy in this decade, cult acts flourished thanks to labels like Burger Records, Sister Polygon and Castle Face. At the start of the 2010s, it seemed that pop-punk and emo, in particular, had suddenly fallen out of fashion, but the latter half of the decade has witnessed a resurgence thanks to groups like Wavves, FIDLAR, Neck Deep and PUP. Garage punk has remained in good hands by way of veterans Ty Segall, Black Lips and Thee Oh Sees, plus post-punk is having a moment thanks to a crop of charismatic, speaking-singing lead vocalists. And in the shadows, the experimental, arty wing punk has remained as wonderfully weird and subversive as ever. While we’re employing a liberal use of the word “punk” here, it feels right since the idea of strict genres in 2019 seems about as useful as a pager. To reflect on one of the most powerful and infamous forms of art, Paste is looking back at 40 of our favorite “punk” records from the past decade. Scroll down to view the full list below, which was voted on by the Paste staff and limited to one album per artist.

Listen to our Best Punk Albums of the 2010s playlist on Spotify right here.

40. Beach Slang: The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us (2015)
The opening seconds of Beach Slang’s debut record sound like the release of years of bottled-up energy, an inextricable surge of frustration and determination. The cranked rhythm, loud, distorted guitars and gruff vocals of James Alex are the touchstones of Beach Slang’s melodic, meat-and-potatoes punk rock, but the beating heart of the band’s music is Alex’s earnest, forthcoming songwriting. A perpetual unease frames these songs, and the antidote, the lifeline that Alex hangs onto, comes from the music itself. The songs on The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us are mined from the same portion of the soul where Beach Slang heroes like The Replacements and Jawbreaker toiled. Lines like “It’s a dead-end town for trash like us” (from “Throwaways”) and “The night is alive, it’s loud and I’m drunk” (from “Noisy Heaven”) stake out the opposite ends of the spectrum for The Things We Do, describing a life that’s all blurred edges until the right song makes everything fall into place. —Eric Swedlund

39. Oso Oso: basking in the glow (2019)
It only takes a few listens to Oso Oso’s new album, basking in the glow, to recognize that questioning the guy’s songwriting decisions is an exercise in diminishing returns. He is, it seems, incapable of writing a bad tune, at least at this point in his career. Folks who were paying attention could see this coming. In 2015, Lilitri debuted Oso Oso with Real Stories of True People, Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters…, an album where you can practically hear his melodic gifts fighting through a layer of punk pretense. Two years later, he self-released Oso Oso’s sophomore effort, the yunahon mixtape, as a pay-what-you-want download on Bandcamp. And no matter what you paid for it, you got 11 tracks of crisp guitars and killer melodies that recall the heyday of emo-pop bands like The Get Up Kids. It’s as good as anything released by a real indie label that year. basking in the glow proves yunahon was no fluke, with 10 tracks that all hum along like clean, finely tuned mega-melody-machines. There’s a dreamy acoustic intro (called “intro”), and the album’s melancholy closer, “charlie,” is paced like an alt-rock epic, à la late-era Death Cab for Cutie. But in between, Lilitri serves up one razor-sharp song after another, each perched right on the line between the inescapable feeling of experiential dread and a warm, wide-eyed optimism that things are about to get better. Maybe. Hopefully. —Ben Salmon

38. Potty Mouth: Hellbent (2013)
The young women of Potty Mouth balk at the idea of being dropped under a “riot grrrl” genre designation, and understandably so. As bassist Ally Einbender rightly put it to the folks at Stereogum earlier this year, “GENDER DOES NOT EQUAL GENRE.” Can’t blame them for being frustrated at this. Sure, the band named itself after a seminal document of the riot grrrl movement—the first LP by Bratmobile—but only viewing this quartet from that narrow perspective is just silly. Potty Mouth, like any good students of their chosen genre, dug into the influences that brought the riot grrrl sound into being: the vibrant late ‘70s post-punk scene and the ragged underground rock scene in the US of the ‘80s. These four women have followed that thread through to current days, holding on to not only the angst-ridden drive of the music but the tone of defiance and empowerment that rides alongside. The songs on Hell Bent, the band’s second album, are fearless expressions of self-reliance (“I’m rusted shut / But I’m not one to give up / I’m rusted shut / But I’m not gonna shut up”), middle fingers to people trying to read motivation into the band’s actions (“What happened to you to make you wear black and studs? / What happened to me to wear them just because”), and self-flagellating journal entries (“My head is spinning / My lips are numb / How about one more? / It’s just for fun / But I can’t stand and I feel dumb”). —Robert Ham

Bodega Lead.jpg 37. Bodega: Endless Scroll (2018)
Brooklyn art-rock five-piece Bodega are well aware of their city’s storied underground rock traditions, but rather than pilfering that sound, they decided to add something fresh to the city’s lineage. Their debut album Endless Scroll was produced by Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown, and it features an experimental, fluid sound that decries technology addiction, gentrification and the mind-boggling “pizzacore” scene while mythologizing Titanic’s Jack Dawson and celebrating female masturbation. Taking cues from Gang of Four and the B-52’s, co-lead vocalists Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio possess an infectious art-punk spirit and spit out droll lines left and right while guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam plays like a chugging, post-punk version of Wilko Johnson. Throughout the album’s 14 tracks, you’re met with blaring and sharp instrumentals paired with laugh-out-loud observational quips (“Your playlist knows you better than a closest lover”) that fit the common gripes of the decade like a glove. —Lizzie Manno

36. Jeff Rosenstock: POST- (2018)
On New Year’s Eve, everyone on Earth, it seemed, kicked 2017 unceremoniously to the curb, offering good riddance and hopes for a better 2018. And by the evening of Jan. 2, we were all stressed from fear of global nuclear annihilation after another reckless tweet from the President of the United States. But that day in between? It was pretty good! Time off work (for many). A great football game on TV. And best of all, a surprise new album called POST- from punk-rock lifer Jeff Rosenstock, former Bomb the Music Industry! member and one of the most magnetic personalities in underground music. He’s also a staunch DIY dude, as evidenced by his POST- rollout. Like his breakthrough 2015 solo album We Cool? and its 2016 follow-up, WORRY., POST- is packed with hooky pop-punk jams that beg for singalongs and fray at the edges. According to Rosenstock, it was recorded with friends in secret, and finished just before it was released. You can hear all of that in these songs, which crackle with urgency and fun. POST- feels less like an album and more like a document of tightly knit people working hard to make something that feels cathartic and good. —Ben Salmon

yak-alas.jpg 35. Yak: Alas Salvation (2016)
The British press has a long history of heaping hyperbole on young, up-and-coming bands. So I was a bit skeptical when I read an article in DIY Mag back in April 2016 titled, “YAK MIGHT JUST BE THE BEST LIVE BAND IN THE COUNTRY.” But I was intrigued regardless, quickly looking up who this Wolverhampton band was. And they were right: Yak, at least for a little while, truly were the best live band in the U.K., armed with one of the most inventive punk albums in recent memory. Chock full of heavy fuzzed-out guitars and a pulverizing pace that never gives up, it’s no wonder that Alas Salvation caught the eye of Jack White, whose Third Man Records put out the band’s sophomore LP, Pursuit of Momentary Happiness earlier this year. Led by Oli Burslem, the band’s uber-charismatic lead singer and guitarist, Alas Salvation was a near-perfect reflection of the group’s live show: chaotic and howling Stooges-inspired punk rock played at such a frenetic pace that it wouldn’t be surprising if it collapsed in on itself—which it threatens to do a couple of times. But it’s also melodic as hell (a rarity in this genre), filled to the brim with catchy melodies, from the singalong chorus of “Victorious (National Anthem)” to the high-flying “Use Somebody.” Like the chorus of “Hungry Heart,” Yak’s debut truly was one of those special releases to revisit “again and again and again and again and again…” —Steven Edelstone

white-lung-paradise.jpg 34. White Lung: Paradise (2016)
Paradise is the fourth full-length from Canadian trio White Lung and the follow-up to the near-universally lauded Deep Fantasy. Though labeled a punk band, White Lung has made a reliable counterpoint to such confinements. Since their debut with 2010’s It’s the Evil, each release has seen a slight change in dynamic for the music, but it’s on Paradise that White Lung have taken their most significant musical turn yet. Pop sensibilities are nothing new to punk. Hell, if anything, pop and punk are like siblings close in age who are either kicking each other’s ass or hugging it out. Hooks and brevity are the name of the game, and White Lung’s instinct for both are given full reign on Paradise. It’s an album that, even with its distinct differences to the band’s prior releases, still holds the group’s characteristic in-and-out songwriting that feels like a cross between a punch and a high five. —Jonathan K. Dick

pup-morbid.jpg 33. PUP: Morbid Stuff (2019)
Toronto’s PUP unleashed their third album, Morbid Stuff, on their own Little Dipper label, and it contains some of their loftiest melodic payoffs yet. The album was produced, recorded and mixed by Dave Schiffman (Weezer, The Mars Volta), and it makes for their most pristine recording to date. Morbid Stuff is at the crossroads of enlivening joy and debilitating self-hatred. Songs like “Kids” and “Free at Last” overflow with angsty lyrics of anxiety, heartbreak and fierce self-put-downs, but their reassuring pop-punk riffs and refrains will scoop you up and bring you back to your senses. The collision of utter bleakness and youthful exuberance that characterizes this record also manifests itself on the album cover—four people are playing musical chairs with knives in hand, party hats and blindfolds. The boldest cut is the post-hardcore rager “Full Blown Meltdown,” which sounds like just that. Stefan Babcock sounds like he’s foaming at the mouth when he sings, “I’m still a loser and always will be / So why change now?” The album tracks Babcock’s struggle with depression, and though there are many forlorn moments on this LP, PUP channel their pain into a catchy punk album that’s about as fun as any record you’ll hear on this list. —Lizzie Manno

Thumbnail image for shame-songs.jpg 32. Shame: Songs of Praise (2018)
If London is the bedrock of European punk, then the district of Brixton is its spiritual center. With a heritage stretching from The Clash to Fat White Family and beyond, it’s an area long-marked by diversity, political unrest, squat culture and, more recently, gentrification, giving it an infamous reputation as a creative hub and a kind of haven for misfits. It’s from Brixton’s most notorious pub, The Queen’s Head, that one of the latest groups in its history arises, the pug-nosed quintet Shame, and finding themselves on the shortlist of guitar bands you should actually give a shit about. Citing influences like The Fall and Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Shame make familiar but not unawesome post-punk. Think tightly-wound, jittery guitars, mile-a-minute hi-hat and an exquisite bleakness that stems from their municipal origin (Gang Of Four-flavored “Concrete,” a song about an unhappy relationship that will have you beating on your steering wheel, embodies this sound perfectly). What sets these lads apart is their beyond-their-years songwriting, riotous live shows (they were once fined for ripping a chandelier from the ceiling) and frontman Charlie Steen’s arresting vocals. —Madison Desler

31. Screaming Females: All At Once (2018)
Much of Screaming Females’ appeal, and even their greatness, is their esotericism – in particular the impenetrable world of Marissa Paternoster’s hermetic guitar, lyrical poetry and visual art. All At Once veers from that world sharply, collecting some of the most conventionally anthemic and melodic rock songs of their career. The ironic twist is that for the New Brunswick, New Jersey group this is their experiment, one for which their six previous albums spent developing their own inimitable sound has well prepared them. There were flickers of a more accessible sound on 2015’s Rose Mountain but the power trio remained enigmatic, pursuing their own uncharted vision of rock. This time, they dare to adopt the structure of existing rock genres. As a result, it’s quite varied, making it really enjoyable to listen to all the way through. After being thoroughly and perversely encrypted for so long, it’s bracing to hear one of the most original practicing voices in rock (musically, vocally, lyrically) speaking so plainly on every level. With some bands it would mean a capitulation or slackening. For Screaming Females, it is just another display of power. —Beverly Bryan

good-throb.jpg 30. Good Throb: Fuck Off (2014)
London’s Good Throb specialized in a manic, plodding, gorgeously amateurish noise, with a bass guitar that sounds like the strings haven’t been replaced or tuned since Tony Blair was in office, a guitar that could cut through the grime in your shower tiles, and the shril, clipped barks of prime shouter KY Ellie shouldering their way through the murk. Any one of their three seven-inches might provide the definitive Good Throb experience—this is the kind of thing where brevity and urgency are key—but Fuck Off is still an undeniable, overpowering jolt of acerbic fury, and their only full-length. I’m gonna throw out some words and if you like ‘em you’ll probably dig Good Throb: The Fall, Kleenex/LiLiPUt, Delta 5, The Slits…but more ramshackle and unhinged than any of ‘em. Yeah. That kinda jive. —Garrett Martin

29. Downtown Boys: Full Communism (2015)
Downtown Boys have never been shy about making the political personal. Each member of the sextet has a background in social organizing, and they bring this knowledge to their raucous and commanding live shows. In 2012, the Providence-based band released an unhinged eponymous album featuring a range of rough tracks, covers, and live songs. The record’s follow-up arrived in 2014 in the form of a self-titled seven-inch. Seconds into their 2015 full-length, Full Communism, Downtown Boys reveal their agenda: progress through education. Crying out against a honking saxophone, Joey DeFrancesco speaks the first lines of the opener, “Coming in on a wave/ A wave of history,” before Victoria Ruiz bursts in screaming, “Do what we want/ On our wave of history.” “Wave of History” is “Kids in America” for the kids who have become disillusioned with their country, their social roles, and the apathy of their peers. “Monstro” perhaps most fully embodies the spirit of Downtown Boys. The song is preluded by a spoken intro (“Brown and Smart”) in which Ruiz asks, “Why is it that fear always wants us to go looking for more?” This is Downtown Boys at their most vehement, their most scathingly acute. This is the relentless effect of Full Communism: an album that makes you think, an album that urges you to take action, an album encompassed by an energy that cannot be summarized. —Quinn Moreland

ought-sun.jpg 28. Ought: Sun Coming Down (2015)
Tim Darcy’s stark poetry would jump off the page on its own, but the Ought frontman’s mode of delivery is the foundation of the band’s evocative pomp. He delivers lines with a twitchy, theatrical vigor or an austere, matter-of-fact cadence, and these animated recitations accentuate their propulsive rhythms and can lead one’s mind down an infinite amount of vivid rabbit holes. His use of repetition and glaring, short lines delivered with pace and intensity provide Ought with a distinctly economical muscle. With their second album, Sun Coming Down, Darcy divulges lines that double as minimal mantras. On the first verse of “The Combo,” he loops the line, “Time without time, and I’ll see that I’m right, I got” with such a deliberate emphasis that you’ll want to sit in a quiet room afterwards to contemplate its meaning. It’s not just Darcy’s vocals or lyrics that make everything appear weighty and on the brink—guitars are shrieking with shapelessness one moment and locked into an unrelenting trance the next, as if its wielder has swallowed the key. Drawing on nimble indie rock, serrated post-punk and pumping krautrock, Ought are equally nervy as they are awe-inspiring. On the near eight-minute “Beautiful Big Sky,” which likely remains their best track to date, Darcy makes inevitable small talk between acquaintances (“How’s the church? / How’s the job? / How’s the family”) appear depressing and performative, but also feel like a momentous and beautifully melancholy occasion. If Ought can make existential monotony feel as majestic and affecting as a sublime cliffside view, this song is enough to justify its place on this list. —Lizzie Manno

cende.jpg 27. Cende: #1 Hit Single (2017)
Cende may have been a relatively short-lived band, but that makes it even easier to savor the charm of their sole debut album. The quartet met at Purchase College and lived together at Brooklyn DIY venue David Blaine’s The Steakhouse before dropping a self-titled EP in 2015 and a full-length two years later. The cheekily-titled LP, #1 Hit Single, was helmed by songwriting duo Cameron Wisch (Porches) and Dave Medina with Greg Rutkin on drums (LVL UP) and Bernard Casserly on bass (Normal Person), and it elongates the breakneck minute-long punk bursts of their EP and adds a couple teaspoons of honeyed pop. It sounds like the younger power-punk cousin of Pet Sounds, and Wisch, who oversaw the recording of the album has conceded that Brian Wilson’s recording techniques were a huge inspiration for #1 Hit Single. Leaning on unconventional time signatures and Wisch’s layered vocal harmonies, Cende make emo-tinged pop songs so delightfully peppy and luscious that you’ll be glad that Wilson didn’t rush out to buy a beanie and the Descendents (where Cende got their name) catalogue and make this type of album himself. Cende were the perfect group of musicians for this job—with both classical training and well-worn punk experience, plus an equal affinity for succulent melodies and dynamic rhythms, Cende embody all the best qualities of pop and punk. —Lizzie Manno

mannequin-patience.jpg 26. Mannequin Pussy: Patience (2019)
Mannequin Pussy’s first two albums—2014’s GP and 2016’s Romantic—are both under 20 minutes and feature speedy jolts of punk along with the occasional glimmer of dulcet-toned pop. But their 2019 LP, Patience, is crisper, poppier, longer and more fully realized than anything they’ve released before. In a still-modest 26 minutes, Mannequin Pussy, led by frontwoman Marisa Dabice, dish out punk-pop that will make you want to hug your teenage self, but also fight on behalf of the adult you’ve become. Dabice opened up on this record in a way she hasn’t before. She sings about abusive relationships, self-hatred, and personal inadequacies, revelations she struggled with for years before ever talking about them. It’s a record that simultaneously pierces while forcefully standing its ground, rightfully taking up space. Patience begins with anxious heart racing, but concludes with the kind of heart racing we all strive for—that lovey dovey tingle you wish you could bottle and save for when you’re feeling cynical. Dabice, along with Colins Rey Regisford (bass, samples, vocals), Kaleen Reading (drums, percussion), and Thanasi Paul (guitar, keys) also made one of 2019’s most anthemic tracks in the form of lead single “Drunk II.” When Dabice forcefully, begrudingly admits, “I still love you, you stupid fuck,” you can already envision a crowd of forlorn fans belting that line in a basement venue on a Tuesday like they have nothing to lose. Dabice’s admission of not only subtle imperfections, but also deep-set, recurring inner turmoils, is immensely invigorating. Patience is the sound of liberation, and paired with melodic riffs that scream into the void just like Dabice, it’s also an emotional reboot you can rage to. —Lizzie Manno

DOGRELARTWEB1-9900000000079e3c.jpg 25. Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel (2019)
Fontaines D.C. have been pigeonholed as the British Isles’ next great post-punk export à la Shame or Idles, but this Irish five-piece deserve more than that reductive framing. Fontaines D.C. are more poetic than the bands they’re lumped in with, and their debut album Dogrel is a testament to a different set of concerns. Dogrel takes on the degradation of urban cities as lively cultural hubs and launching pads for people to make something of themselves—or at least put some change in their pockets. Frontman Grian Chatten and his bandmates share a love of literature and poetry (the Beats, James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, etc.), and they write songs together in Irish pubs, resulting in a brazen-faced, romantic portrait of Dublin and its vast characters. Two of their biggest calling cards are self-belief and authenticity. The uplifting lyrical themes on the lead track “Big” (“My childhood was small / But I’m gonna be big”) are analogous to “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” the lead track on Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, though “Big” has more wit and spit. If self-awareness is one factor of the renewed interest in post-punk, the intense, charismatic Chatten certainly has it as he pokes fun at charisma (“Charisma is exquisite manipulation”). Dogrel is an album of tremendous ardor and vivid landscapes, and interspersed with an Irish underdog spirit, Fontaines D.C. are nearly untouchable. —Lizzie Manno

gloss-main.jpg gloss-trans.jpg 24. G.L.O.S.S.: Demo (2015) / Trans Day of Revenge (2016)
Thankfully Paste’s music editors are magnanimously letting us cheat just a bit on this one. Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit never made an album, but between these two EPs and their full blast live shows they were easily one of the best and most important punk bands of the decade. (Maybe if we did a hardcore list they’d come in number one? Just spitballin’ here.) G.L.O.S.S. raged against the world’s mistreatment of trans and non-binary people across their two records, burning down the whole absurdity of transmisogyny with beautiful anger in the spoken intro to Demo’s “G.L.O.S.S. (We’re From the Future).” If Demo was a declaration of existence and statement of purpose, with songs like “Masculine Artifice” and “Targets of Men” establishing the band’s primary themes, Trans Day of Revenge was a plan of action, a cathartic call to stop putting up with society’s hatred and prejudice by any means necessary. —Garrett Martin

23. Thee Oh Sees: Floating Coffin (2013)
Thee Oh Sees dropped another heady psych joint with Floating Coffin. It stitches psychotic school dance vibes among the surf garage in a hurried splendor. And the songs are kinda long! Which rules! This record marks a maturity milestone for the band. They played tight and cohesively on Putrifiers II. They were good. But with Coffin they are damn good. Here we hear them shooting off in a billion different directions, creating this eclectic collection that covers fast, slow, dreamy, frenzied—all loud. “Minotaur” plays a beautiful example in bookending. Solemn cello leads the nihilistic jam in and out, padding the dusty guitar nicely. John Dwyer’s otherworldly vocals prescribe, “Men get sick / Of their work / Each and every day / There is no cure / Except to stay / Stay home today / And go to the beach instead.” A bed of gliding female vocals help it coast a little more sweetly. It’s nonchalant wanderlust expertly packaged in fuzz and sarcasm. Coffin is an easy, spring-appropriate listen. Something about Thee Oh Sees always sighs warm air. This album does that, too, but with hurriedly-spiked punch heavy on its breath. Drink up, Johnny. —Beca Grimm

flasher-constant.jpg 22. Flasher: Constant Image (2018)
D.C. trio Flasher play an amalgamation of joyful, frenetic pop, punk, post-punk and shoegaze. The band released their debut album, Constant Image, in 2018 on Domino Records, and it’s unequivocally one of the best guitar albums of the past few years. What sets them apart from many of their peers is their knack for writing such immediate pop melodies and their slick production value, which maintains their chugging rock energy and allows their impressively consistent tracklist to shine. Each member contributes vocals—guitarist Taylor Mulitz (formerly of Priests) is playful and self-assured, bassist Danny Saperstein’s vocals are snotty and eccentric and drummer Emma Baker lends gorgeous vocal harmonies. —Lizzie Manno

black-schlagenheim.jpg 21. black midi: Schlagenheim (2019)
It may be hard to write about, but Schlagenheim is a record you feel more so than anything else. Case in point: First track “953” features one of the hardest hitting lead guitar riffs in recent memory, an opening salvo that makes you want to drop everything and go run a mile—something I actually did, resulting in my fastest time ever. Within mere seconds of hitting play on their debut album, Geordie Greep and Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin make their case as two of our most inventive contemporary guitarists, all while you try your hardest to keep time with a beat that will still elude you after 10 listens. There’s a high barrier to entry for Schlagenheim, a record by a band who refuses to meet you halfway. Pedantic and pretentious all the way through, Schlagenheim showcases why black midi are generationally great instrumentalists despite our inability to follow what they’re doing and why. By the end of “Ducter’s” anarchic pandemonium, you won’t know what hit you, but you’ll find yourself quickly returning to “953” for another go around of an album that showcases some of the most talented musicians around, coalescing behind an experimental, genre-less and extremely noisy sound to exceptional results. Schlagenheim is beyond weird. Schlagenheim is a legitimate one of a kind record. Schlagenheim is a masterpiece. —Steven Edelstone

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