The 20 Best Best Punk Albums of 2022

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The 20 Best Best Punk Albums of 2022

Remember 2022? It wasn’t as bad for most people as 2020 and 2021, but it wasn’t exactly a full-on Return to Normal, Good Times, either. It was a year wracked with war, oppression, poverty, inequality, health disparities, economic instability, ecological decline—all the usual suspects. And the punk bands are doing their job: paying attention, bringing communities of like-minded people together and documenting the bullshit. Below are Paste’s picks, in alphabetical order, for the 20 best punk albums of 2022. Some are by basement-dwelling hardcore bands, and some are by arena-ready pop-punkers, and most are somewhere in between—but a common thread among them all is a willingness to push back against the way things are and to demand a better tomorrow.

Ammo: Web of Lies / Death Won’t Even Satisfy
Where other “best of 2022 punk” lists load you up with twinkling emo and pop-punk bands, this one’s jumping into the hardcore end of the pool with both feet. Ammo is a ferocious four-piece from New Jersey that recorded its debut full length way back in 2019, but just released it last year via the great Static Shock Records. With 11 tracks that speed by in 14 minutes, Web of Lies / Death Won’t Even Satisfy is packed wall to wall with classic, unrelenting hardcore and regular melodic moments that set Ammo apart from other chuggers. They’re like a musical chainsaw to the face—you love it and you keep coming back for more! —Ben Salmon


Anxious: Little Green House
Connecticut-based emo band Anxious have had a major few years, releasing a critically acclaimed string of EPs that they’ve now finally followed up with the release of their full-length debut album. Little Green House gives them even more space to experiment with the melodic, and often anthemic, take on post-hardcore that the band have become known for. Navigating between harsh, guitar-driven bangers and dream-pop-influenced tracks like closer “You When You’re Gone” with ease, the band still inject bittersweet lyricism and earnest performances into everything they do. The infectious combination of grit and heart solidifies Anxious’ spot as an up-and-coming band to follow. —Elise Soutar


A Wilhelm Scream: Lose Your Delusion
If melody was world domination, A Wilhelm Scream would be one of the biggest bands on Earth—and rightfully so. Lose Your Delusion is the Massachusetts group’s first album since 2013, and apparently they’ve packed nine years of indelible hooks, impressive vocal harmonies and whiplash-inducing rhythmic shifts into a half-hour of hella catchy hardcore. With songs about addiction, anxiety, political divisions, perseverance and so on, AWS doesn’t sugarcoat its perspective, even if their music sounds like a candied jackhammer. —Ben Salmon


Chat Pile: God’s Country

Chat Pile’s debut LP ends with a nine-minute narrative that sounds outlandish on paper: A man is tormented by a nightmare figure resembling McDonald’s mascot Grimace, to the point of suicide. The surreally macabre premise is heightened all the more by the track’s name: “Grimace_Smoking_Weed.jpeg,” a title calling to mind a tossed-off joke file name or online message to a friend in lieu of an actual image. But the song itself is arguably the most chilling selection on an already-bleak record, in no small part due to vocalist Raygun Busch’s tortured contributions that sound an inch from self-destructive action at a moment’s notice—even before erupting into agonized shrieks in protest of the “purple man” who haunts him. When the track’s back half stretches into a sludgy death march, his lyrics become all the more direct, culminating in Busch crying out, “I don’t wanna be alive anymore / Do you?” The pressure of the track proves to be so suffocating that even Busch’s final scream of Grimace’s name to close the album becomes bloodcurdling, where a more ironic approach would have rendered the whole thing high camp. “Grimace_Smoking_Weed.jpeg” is, in microcosm, emblematic of the tricky balance Chat Pile evokes with visceral ugliness throughout God’s Country. The absurdity and paradox of capitalist landscapes are laid bare, depicted with just as much horror as the band believes they ought to merit. Just as characters for fast-food marketing and toys become taunting reminders of the soul-crushing nature of post-industrialization, so, too, does the illogical nature of houselessness in a nation with buildings to spare, and the pursuit of wealth above personal fulfillment. —Natalie Marlin


Drug Church: Hygiene

Albany- and Los Angeles-based five-piece Drug Church—vocalist Patrick Kindlon, guitarists Nick Cogan and Cory Galusha, bassist Pat Wynne and drummer Chris Villeneuve—are back with their fourth album, the follow-up to their 2018 breakout Cheer and acclaimed 2021 Tawny EP. As previewed via singles “Million Miles of Fun,” “Detective Lieutenant,” “World Impact” and “Premium Offer,” Hygiene is heavy and hooky in equal measure, as if Cogan and Galusha’s guitars and Kindlon’s vocals are two animals locking horns with ferocity. “There are things that you see coming / Rolling like slow-moving trains,” Kindlon barks over chainsaw guitars on “World Impact”—Hygiene was one of those things, as is Drug Church’s continued presence at the crest of the melodic hardcore wave, alongside the TURNSTILEs and Fiddleheads of the world. —Scott Russell


Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice: Remember The Future Vol. 1 + 2
You could probably fill this entire list with punk bands from Australia, where they presumably grow on trees—just like kangaroos (I think). Like a lot of ’em, Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice is (1) from Melbourne, (2) takes a hyperactive New Wave approach to punk and (3) uses their songs to document the dystopian state of the world and call for change. The mastermind behind this outfit is a guy named Dougal Shaw, who processes disappointment and dread through his lyrics, then wraps it all up in barbed, rubbery post-punk that’s enjoyable enough to make you forget you’re pogoing along to societal collapse. —Ben Salmon


Dust Star: Open Up That Heart

Here’s the difference between Dust Star and many of the bands you’ll hear labeled as power-pop: This is rugged stuff, rooted more in the grimy Dirtnap Records brand of pop-punk or Sloan at their most swaggering than the relatively sweet sounds of Big Star and Teenage Fanclub. The drums are frenetic and persistent. The guitars sizzle crisply, like a live wire downed in a storm. Oliver Hill’s bass lines bounce up and down the staircases in your skull. Cameron Wisch and Justin Jurgens share vocal duties, sounding at top speed like the aforementioned dudes from Sloan (on “Nothing in My Head”), and, when they slow down, like the Beach Boys (on the title track). In between, they just sound like two guys whose pop-song acuity cannot be contained by their punk-rock impulses. —Ben Salmon


Glaas: Qualm
Berlin is one of the world’s punk hotspots these days, with plenty of punk and post-punk bands hanging out in the shadows and new ones bubbling up every year. Take, for example, Glaas, a five-piece made up of members of Clock of Time, Idiota Civilizzato, Useless Eaters and others. On Qualm, they take the classic sound of dusky German post-punk and brighten it (slightly) with hooky elements that often sound as much like the siren of an emergency vehicle as a musical instrument. These bits give Glaas a vibe that’s somehow disorienting and appealing at the same time. —Ben Salmon


Hammered Hulls: Careening
That mysterious tremor you felt under your feet last September was an entire scene shuddering with joy at the announcement of Careening, the debut full-length from D.C. punk supergroup Hammered Hulls. The band is Alec MacKaye (Faith, Untouchables), Mary Timony (Autoclave, Helium, Ex Hex), Mark Cisneros (the Make Up) and Chris Wilson (Ted Leo, Titus Andronicus), and together they make a hulking, jagged racket that rumbles and lurches like four decades of Dischord/D.C. punk melted down and bottled up into these four bodies. Fun fact: This is, apparently, the last album recorded at the legendary Inner Ear studio that documented so much of the D.C. scene over the past four decades. Perfect. —Ben Salmon


Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance

Horsegirl are three friends who make music in a basement. It’s true, and they want you to know that, not because they’re shy about the attention they’ve received as indie rock’s latest breakthrough, but because the Chicago trio of Penelope Lowenstein, Nora Cheng and Gigi Reece want you to know that they’re having fun. They’re accomplishing that in the way that only passionate teenagers can: professing their admiration for Kim Gordon, painting T-shirts haphazardly, and throwing riffs against the wall until they unfurl into songs. The end product of those basement hangs, Versions of Modern Performance, impressively combines noisy, punk-minded influences that congeal into a wondrous concoction of post-punk, no-wave, early shoegaze, and more. While inspired by the ’80s and ’90s cadres of emergent indie rock’s noisier actors, Horsegirl’s sound is singular, curious and glossed with a healthy layer of irony that Gen Z wears like a reliable pair of workboots. —Devon Chodzin


The Interrupters: In The Wild
I keep reading about a ska revival among the next generation of punk bands. But how can you revive something that never died? That’s the question we should be asking about The Interrupters, L.A.-based ska/punk lifers whose fourth album In The Wild is a rock-solid collection of irresistible ska and punk tunes, singalong choruses, chunky guitars and Aimee Interrupter’s powerfully gruff lead vocals. Sometimes they sound like Social Distortion fronted by Joan Jett and sometimes they sound like Rancid—especially on “As We Live,” when Tim Armstrong shows up and does Tim Armstrong things. —Ben Salmon


Long Knife: Curb Stomp Earth
Portland punk veterans Long Knife make a promise in the name of their third album and then spend 13 tracks delivering on that promise like their lives depend on it. Curb Stomp Earth is rooted in hardcore punk, but it rocks and rolls, too, deploying flashy guitar licks, regal keyboard lines and vibrant horns against shredded vocals and pedal-to-the-metal riffs and rhythms. This list is alphabetical, but if it’s a perfect marriage of punk and rock you’re looking for, start with Long Knife. —Ben Salmon


Pack Rat: Glad to Be Forgotten
Welcome to yet another killer project from Patrick McEahnie, who has played with both Corner Boys and Chain Whip before COVID-19 sent him home to do his own thing. That thing is called Pack Rat, and Glad to Be Forgotten perfectly splits the difference between wild-eyed, fuzzed up punk and synth-fueled, buzzed out New Wave. The result is a record that’s as fast as it is catchy and vice versa. Add this one to your small collection of good things to come out of the pandemic. —Ben Salmon


Petrol Girls: Baby

Every few years, a punk record is unleashed into the world at such a fraught time. Each listen reveals more layers, prophesying events one by one. If Green Day’s American Idiot was the soundtrack to a world approaching war, Petrol Girls’ Baby stands tall and immovable in the face of reproductive rights being attacked. It’s a cruel twist of fate that this scathing, angry, catchy album arrives the day Roe v. Wade is overturned. Nonetheless, the U.K.’s Petrol Girls rest into an unshakable groove propelled by rage, guided by their scrappy punk foremothers. “I don’t want to be saved,” screams Ren Aldridge on “Preachers.” Guitars and drums roll and crash around her, foreshadowing a fragile world. However, each song stands tall, held up by the band’s fighting spirit and grit. Baby is a necessary record to take into the world with gritted teeth and warpaint. —Jade Gomez


Pinkshift: Love Me Forever
Pinkshift’s sound is unmistakably rooted in the 2000s pop-punk-rock of Paramore and My Chemical Romance, but gunked up significantly with the grimy guitar chug of ’90s grunge. They strike this balance so well, it is incredibly easy to imagine Pinkshift headlining large venues in the near future—amphitheaters, for sure, and maybe even arenas like their forbearers. Formed among med school and engineering students at Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore-based trio of color has the power and pizzazz to break big and help change the face of alt-rock along the way. —Ben Salmon


Prince Daddy & The Hyena: Prince Daddy & The Hyena

If PUP hadn’t already called an album Morbid Stuff, Albany’s Prince Daddy & The Hyena could have easily slapped that title on their latest. Vocalist/guitarist Kory Gregory’s thanatophobia (or death anxiety), exacerbated by the band’s near-fatal 2018 touring van crash, inspired their third, self-titled album, and its emotionally and instrumentally overwhelming rock. This record is not for the faint of heart: Haunted by a dark figure called The Collector, Prince Daddy & The Hyena is a stormy sky that rays of sunlight only occasionally penetrate. “Let’s give it a fresh start tomorrow / Let’s try to shine like El Dorado,” Gregory howls on the poppy “El Dorado,” only to then warn, “Symmetry don’t come easily,” while on the heavy punk of “Hollow, As You Figured,” the vocalist somehow fashions his submission to The Collector’s will into the feel-bad song of the summer. Prince Daddy & The Hyena aren’t particularly interested in silver linings, preferring to face the dark clouds head on and dare the listener to look away. But if you can connect to—or at least hang with—their harrowing songwriting, you’ll find a hell of a rock record here. —Scott Russell


Smirk: Material
Feel It Records had another strong year in 2022, putting out consistently high-quality punk records at an admirable rate. You can drop into the label’s catalog just about anywhere and find something cool, but a good place to start would be the first proper full-length from Smirk, aka Los Angeles songwriter Nick Vicario. Song titles on Material include “Living in Hell” and “Hopeless” and “Material World’s Unfair,” so the outlook here is bleak. But musically, these 10 mid-fi post-punk songs are groovy, jittery earworms that’ll squirm right into your brain and make themselves at home. Congrats on your new skullmates! —Ben Salmon


Soul Glo: Diaspora Problems

Philadelphia hardcore staples Soul Glo’s fourth album Diaspora Problems refuses to step off the gas, driving full speed ahead into another chapter of the band’s seething commentary and brutal riffs. The outfit take many cues from punk essentials like Black Flag and Bad Brains, combining speed with sharp, accessible lyricism. Lead single “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future))” is a perfect thesis for Soul Glo’s never-ending exploration of how far they can take their sound while also finding new angles from which to tackle deeper issues of social justice without sounding ham-fisted. Soul Glo are sincere, scathing and just what the world needs. —Jade Gomez


Special Interest: Endure
To fully understand Special Interest’s excellent third album Endure, close your eyes and think back the summer of 2020, when the fear, uncertainty, isolation and resultant cabin fever of the COVID-19 pandemic collided with the fear, anger and unrest of the George Floyd protests on city streets across America. That’s the environment that birthed Endure, a powder keg of a record that finds the New Orleans band glamming up its punk rock by leaning harder into soul, pop, disco and dance music—not to mention one incredible Alli Logout vocal performance after another. The results feel appropriately revolutionary. —Ben Salmon


Straw Man Army: S.O.S.
If you feel like the moving sidewalk to the apocalypse has been speeding up for the past few years, you’re not alone. The nervy New York punk duo Straw Man Army not only understands, they’ve crafted a soundtrack for the rest of the journey. S.O.S. is a set of tense and tightly wound post-punk tunes that touch on issues like war, poverty, incarceration, income inequality, class conflict, environmental catastrophe and capitalism’s murderous march through us all. Along the way, bouncing bass lines and prickly electric guitars dance around Straw Man Army’s deadpanned doom and gloom. —Ben Salmon


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