10 Essential Punk Albums From 2019 (So Far)

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10 Essential Punk Albums From 2019 (So Far)

Purists can mourn the death of punk’s “golden age” all they want and sneer at whatever the kids are listening to these days, but they can’t claim great punk records aren’t being released in 2019. Below you’ll find 10 exceptional punk releases, each with their own spin on whatever punk means in this current era. Fans of noise-punk, garage-punk, pop-punk, hardcore-punk and more will rejoice at the wide variety of strains represented here: classic, thrashing, nihilistic, experimental, absurd and bubbly. Dive headfirst into 10 essential punk LPs from the first half of 2019, listed alphabetically by artist.

1. Abjects: Never Give Up

With members from Italy, Japan and Spain playing music together in London, the Abjects are a persuasive three-woman rejoinder to the closed-border zealotry going around like a bad stomach bug. That is, if you like blaring garage-rock that’s as pointed as it is trashy fun—and why wouldn’t you? The Abjects even offer a response to self-sabotaging nationalism with “Fuck Brexit,” a self-explanatory blast of churning power chords, bass, drums and harmony vocals that also features a nimble guitar lick scuttling around in the background. Guitarist Noemi, bassist Yuki and drummer Alice make effective use of those elements throughout Never Give Up, their debut LP. They tend to play fast, thrashing through tunes that teeter like cars on a rickety roller coaster. Opener “Aburrido” (Spanish for “bored”) starts with six seconds of noise that might as well be the sound of a fuse that sends the song zooming off the launch pad when the riff kicks in over a cacophonous explosion of drums. Each of the 11 songs on Never Give Up communicates some piece of the Abjects’ world-view, but the title track wraps it all into one rambunctious bundle of bristling guitar and pell-mell rhythm. —Eric R. Danton

2. Amyl and the Sniffers: Amyl and the Sniffers

Hotly-tipped Australian punks Amyl and The Sniffers wrote and self-recorded their 2016 debut EP, Giddy Up, in an unbelievable 12-hour window. Fast forward to 2019, and they’ve toured the world, made a big splash at SXSW and released their self-titled debut album. Amyl and the Sniffers is a long way away from the super-charged home recordings of Giddy Up. They brought in producer Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys, M.I.A.) to add some weight and focus to their hard-to-contain spit, and though you wouldn’t necessarily call the finished product polished, there’s a crisp quality to their rumbling power chords and Amy Taylor’s forceful yelps. Amyl and the Sniffers are undeniably tethered to 1970s punk and glam, but that doesn’t dampen the playful spirit of their debut album. It’s a pedal to the metal record full of cigarette butts, sweat, skid marks, mullets and plenty of grievances to air. —Lizzie Manno

3. Brutus: Nest

It might be a stretch to call the second album from Belgian trio Brutus “punk,” but their melodic rock doesn’t seem separate from the punk ethos, either. Their conscientiously constructed rock is filtered through punk, black metal, post-rock and post-hardcore lenses, and it’s centered on the sometimes cutthroat, sometimes crushingly beautiful lead vocals of Stefanie Mannaerts. Mannaerts, also the drummer, didn’t plan on being the band’s lead singer, which makes her jaw-dropping vocals on their new album Nest all the more perplexing. Now fully embracing her dual role, Mannaerts has more than proven her versatile vocal chops—channelling the badass yowl of Kathleen Hanna, the majestic aura of Dolores O’Riordan and the mystical wisp of Elizabeth Fraser. Its collision of the tender and the abrasive is what makes Brutus’ Nest so succulent. When Mannaerts’ voice opts for ephemeral softness, the drums and guitars often show their teeth, almost in a motherlike, protective fashion, and when Mannaerts reaches for the cutting roars, the instrumentals subside for a more chilled backing. The album’s lyrics address their struggle to maintain a healthy connection with those at home, and they cradle their loved ones with the same attentiveness and affection as they do with their insanely brisk drumming, ear-splitting guitars and Mannaerts’ larger-than-life vocals. —Lizzie Manno

4. The Coathangers: The Devil You Know

There have always been angry women in music, but these days, an album like The Devil You Know feels like dressing a wound on the battlefield—exactly what you need in order to carry on the fight. It is angry but never ugly, melodic without ever being syrupy, addressing gun violence, street harassment and more, all without ever becoming overbearing or preachy. It’s not hard to write a song criticizing the NRA and their culpability in the American culture of violence and white supremacy, but that doesn’t take away the power of “F The NRA.” “Human fear’s the perfect market,” Kugel snarls. We’re all thinking it, she’s just brave enough to get up on stage and sing it. Maybe there will be a day when we don’t need songs telling the NRA to “suck my dick.” But until then The Devil You Know masterfully walks the line between politically charged while remaining, perhaps tragically, timeless. But it’s also an immensely listenable album, a fully realized emerging of the band’s true power in crafting edgy, electric songs. —Libby Cudmore

5. Control Top: Covert Contracts

The debut album from Philadelphia three-piece Control Top marries shrewd pop melodies, writhing punk guitars and Ali Carter’s wide-eyed roar. Covert Contracts is brazen in its nonconformity, but if you’re looking for a band to fight the machine simply to score woke points or to project some hollow call for unity, this isn’t your band. Control Top cut through the bullshit without beating a dead horse or reaching for low hanging fruit. Ali Carter’s qualms run much deeper than the current presidential farce—it’s about tearing down power structures and deflating egos wherever they exist. With Covert Contracts, Control Top are always on the prowl—there’s a defiance and sinister slither to everything they do. Even if you removed the biting societal and interpersonal skewerings in their lyrics, their explosive punk fits still stand tall. Songs like “Type A” and “Chain Reaction” contain just enough guitar bluster and drum thrash to bolster their hooky riffs, and Carter’s vocals are simultaneously euphonious and strident. —Lizzie Manno

6. Greys: Age Hasn’t Spoiled You

“We wanted to push as far away from what our perception of a ‘rock band’ could be while still retaining certain characteristics that sound like Greys,” says frontman Shehzaad Jiwani. The Toronto four-piece decided to try their hand at shape-shifting on their third album Age Hasn’t Spoiled You, and the risk paid dividends. It’s a dense listen that draws on everything from punk, noise and psych-pop to jazz, trip-hop and industrial. They sneak in unconventional influences in a way that doesn’t seem disjointed or immediately jarring. There’s a magnetic sprawl to this album, and each musical tangent is a new, charming landscape along a picturesque, spontaneous drive to nowhere in particular. Though that’s not to say this album is directionless. The driving seven-minute centerpiece, “Aphantasia,” holds the album together and seamlessly swings like a pendulum from one idea to the next. Maybe it’s obtuse to include a genre-defying album like this in a genre-specific list, but if the point of punk is to push boundaries and question conventional wisdom, then Age Hasn’t Spoiled You seems like a noble inclusion. Greys traverse new frontiers, and those frontiers possess a tenebrosity and musical guile that make this album an immensely stimulating one. —Lizzie Manno

7. Institute: Readjusting the Locks

After half the band left their Austin hometown for New York, Institute were forced to make their first cross-country album, but they don’t ditch their fierce anarcho-punk roots that got them this far. The band’s third album, Redjusting the Locks, incorporates the sharper side of ’70s punk à la The Damned and Richard Hell with the politics of DIY hardcore greats. Equipped with greasy sonics, the guitars are rambunctious and speedy, and their sharp melodies pierce through the grizzled garage vocals of lead singer and songwriter Moses Brown. The album is a condemnation of neoliberalism and Western imperialism, and though Brown’s slurred vocal delivery muddies some of the lyrics, Institute criticize systems that have left the planet running on fumes for generations. Their album title is a commentary on the tiny, intermittent and ineffective tweaks we’ve seen from politicians in the last several decades. Institute believe we’ve been blinded by the capitalist illusion of progress, and the current system is inherently incapable of addressing the root causes of our biggest crises. If you’re looking for a grimy existentialist punk album, here’s your best bet. —Lizzie Manno

8. PUP: Morbid Stuff

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 this year. —Lizzie Manno

9. Queen Zee: Queen Zee

Liverpool’s Queen Zee make zany queer punk for disillusioned misfits, but as much as they revel in the opportunity to rebel against social and political nonsense, they’d much rather dabble in the darkly personal, the goofy and the sensual. “Loner,” the lead track off their self-titled debut album, displays lead singer Zee’s natural inclination for humor (“I saw Jesus in my toast / I said hello Holy Ghost,” “You’re in a covers band / Strictly Duran Duran / Still living off that time you sold weed to Steely Dan”). Maybe the record’s absurdity is a defense mechanism against underlying insecurities, but either way, it makes the bitter pills sprinkled throughout much easier to swallow and 100 times more amusing. While songs like “Loner” and “Idle Crown” lean on their poppier glam sensibilities, cuts like “Hunger Pains” and “Victim Age” fall into searing hardcore-pop territory. Along with humor, there’s plenty of resentment to go around—particularly towards homophobic and transphobic people on “Boy,” the rich and powerful on “Victim Age” and an insufferable jock on “I Hate Your New Boyfriend.” On their debut album, Queen Zee seethe and snicker with flamboyant vocals and breakneck guitars, and listeners will likely reach for their feather boas as much as they will their spiked chokers. —Lizzie Manno

10. Uranium Club: The Cosmo Cleaners

Minneapolis’ Uranium Club (occasionally known as the Minneapolis Uranium Club) followed up their 2017 album, All of Them Naturals, with a record that’s about as spring-loaded as they come. Their new LP, The Cosmo Cleaners, is a shimmying punk record that glitches, splashes, beeps and electrocutes—no matter what, it’s always in motion. The rhythm section is in a near-constant frenzy, and their tempo shifts often make little to no sense, but their nonsensical nature is witting and gleeful. Blending the absurdity of Devo, the whip-smart tongue of Parquet Courts and the jittery experiments of Brainiac, Uranium Club shouldn’t be overlooked for surreal song titles like “Geodesic Son” or “Grease Monkey”—they should be celebrated for this side-splitting, mercurial and theatrical punk merry-go-round. Siphoning the pumping grooves of krautrock, the wiry guitars of post-punk, the droll vocals of punk rock, and the eccentricities of avant-garde, The Cosmo Cleaners is the opposite of trippy psychedelia. It’s a bucket of ice water unexpectedly dumped on your head, a clownish air horn blaring in your ears or a gust of wind so powerful it makes your cheeks flutter. —Lizzie Manno

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