The 20 Best Punk Albums of 2020 (So Far)

Featuring Jeff Rosenstock, THICK, Dogleg and more

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The 20 Best Punk Albums of 2020 (So Far)

Punk music, more so than other genres, is rooted in the desire to physically vent, so it’s weird writing about such a visceral and alive style when live music is in hibernation. But on the other hand, there’s never been a better time to air grievances and exorcise demons. Temples of punk via hard-nosed bars might be largely closed right now, but punk albums continue to trickle from a wide range of outcasts, rebels, artistic spirits and generally loving souls. As we did back in 2019, we’re rounding up our favorite punk releases at the mid-way point of the year—but fear not, if your favorite punk-adjacent record of 2020 didn’t land a spot here, perhaps it will surface on our forthcoming list of best post-punk releases from the first half of this year. Scroll down for Paste’s favorite punk LPs, EPs and compilations of 2020 so far.

Listen to the full playlist on Spotify right here.

Alien Nosejob: Suddenly Everything Is Twice As Loud

Alien Nosejob, the solo project of Australian punk veteran Jake Robertson (Ausmuteants, Hierophants, Leather Towel), are a delight. Their latest 12-inch release, Suddenly Everything Is Twice As Loud, is a cornucopia of zany, feel-good punk. “Television Sets” leans on driving garage-punk, “Rainbow Road” has gothic guitar tinges, “Black Sheep” is a slice of spitting mod rock and “Weight of the World” falls into jangly territory. It might sound more like a compilation than a clearly defined body of work, but whether they’re spouting over left-field synths or mischievous bass lines, it’s a jolly good time. —Lizzie Manno

Boston Manor: GLUE

Boston Manor are angry—angry about a range of things, whether it be personal trauma or Brexit. This record embodies the next level of the band’s emotions; Henry Cox’s staticky screams on “1’s & 0’s” are louder than ever before, and he has never been as vulnerable as he is on “On A High Ledge.” The synthy track reckons with masculinity, making Cox’s voice fragile as he sings: “I want to cry but I don’t know how.” The whole record is full of this contrast between flashes of softness and massive, noisy explosions, but it’s more so the latter. “You, Me & the Class War” packs both over and over; it’s a volatile anthem, sonically and lyrically, while Cox narrates an abusive relationship. —Danielle Chelosky

Cable Ties: Far Enough

Cable Ties make politically charged punk-adjacent music that’s about as subtle as a motorcycle zooming down a suburban cul de sac. The issues that the Melbourne trio—made up of Jenny McKechnie, Shauna Boyle and Nick Brown—tackle span the massive (environmental decay, apocalyptic dread), the systematic (privilege, misogyny) and the personal (emotional abuse). Throughout the band’s sophomore album Far Enough, McKechnie’s fanged, righteous wail and fire-hot power chords recall the heyday of riot grrrl if the movement were updated to address specific 2020 concerns while offering profound new insights into the very issues that first drove punk’s most revolutionary subgenre. —Max Freedman

CB Radio Gorgeous: EP

Chicago punk supergroup CB Radio Gorgeous, which features members of CCTV, Forced into Femininity and Negative Scanner, released a tape a few years ago via Not Normal Records, and recently, they followed it up with their vinyl debut. This four-track, seven-inch release, simply titled EP, is seven-and-a-half minutes of thrashing, take-no-shit punk. With tinges of classic American hardcore and ’70s punk, this EP is a volcano of snotty attitude, but strong pop fundamentals and sharp production underpin it all. In case you didn’t know hardcore punk could sound stylish and spunky, here’s CB Radio Gorgeous. —Lizzie Manno

Chemtrails: The Peculiar Smell of the Inevitable

Garage rock romps take a trip to another galaxy on Chemtrails’ latest album, The Peculiar Smell of the Inevitable. Harmonies aren’t something you get too often with punk bands, but the Manchester, U.K. group offers satisfying pop vocal intermingling (and dramatic distortion) as the perfect companion to their kaleidoscopic guitar and synth lines. This is punk rock splattered in pastel polka dots and adorned with floppy antennas. It’s whimsical and cork-screwed, but don’t let your guard down—it can turn sinister quickly. —Lizzie Manno

Chubby and The Gang: Speed Kills

Chubby and The Gang’s debut LP, Speed Kills, was released via independent British hardcore label Static Shock back in January, and critics raved about it, coming to a similar consensus that its hopped-up punk-pop is impossibly punchy and ridiculously fun. Charlie Manning-Walker and his fellow band mates are all hardcore veterans—having played in bands like Violent Reaction, Abolition, Guidance and Gutter Knife—but somehow they’ve made one of the strongest stitchings of pub rock, classic pop, surf and punk in recent memory. “Chubby and The Gang Rule OK?” is both a statement of fact and their unruly lead album track that takes about 30 seconds to convince you that their breakneck rhythms and pop chops are the real deal. Like their colorful, cartoonish album cover, the album celebrates the vast characters of working-class London: the dubious, fun-loving rascals, the crass authority figures, the squares and the reckless brutes. But more than anything, Speed Kills is an ode to the “gang,” the fiercely loyal one that finds you when you’re young and makes grim circumstances much more bearable. —Lizzie Manno

Dogleg: Melee

As song titles go, “Kawasaki Backflip” rolls off the tongue quite nicely. It has a certain rhythm—you can imagine it as a punchline delivered by Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush. Somehow, it evokes a carefree thrill and a display of skill, both at the same time. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that those descriptors can also be applied to “Kawasaki Backflip,” the opening track on Detroit rock quartet Dogleg’s debut album. A powder keg packed into just under two and a half minutes, the song is a bundle of heavy artillery snare cracks, buzzsaw guitars and singer Alex Stoitsiadis’ demolition dreams, delivered with a perfect balance of throat-shredding desperation and melodic know-how. More or less, those sonic qualities course through Melee’s 10 tracks, and they’re the reason Dogleg has built considerable buzz within the punk and emo communities. Formed in 2016, the band is brawny enough for the former and catchy enough for the latter, walking a line previously mastered by bands like ’90s Midwestern heroes Braid or more recent emo-revival flagship The Hotelier. At this point in their career, at least, Dogleg go faster than both those bands. In fact, they very rarely reach for the brake pedal on Melee, choosing instead to approach a thrash pace on standout songs like “Fox,” where drummer Parker Grissom and bassist Chase Macinski establish themselves as solid, speedy foundation-layers and a group of 11 people expertly provide backing gang-vocals. —Ben Salmon

Dope Body: Home Body

Baltimore outfit Dope Body may have split up a few years ago and released a documentary called The End about the band’s supposed final shows, but we’re happy they’re off the sidelines and back with their first new album in five years. From Home Body, we get fuzzy noise rock, unpredictable indie and off-the-wall ’70s punk. Its contrast of bubbling electronic textures and effects with grubby guitars and mean percussion is mystifying, but at its core, this is lock-into-the-groove, head-nodding punk at its finest. —Lizzie Manno

Flat Worms: Antarctica

For some reason, ear-splitting guitars are one of very few excruciating sounds that’s not only tolerable, but enjoyable. Flat Worms have perfected the art of absolutely filthy garage rock guitars—fans of grimy feedback and distortion will drool over this band. Their 2017 self-titled debut (recorded and mixed by Ty Segall) was driven by smoldering guitars, but unlike other noise punk bands, frontman Will Ivy’s vocals weren’t covered in the same soot. His clear, matter-of-fact speak-sing was a sharp contrast to their sonic sludge, and when paired with vigorous rhythms, it was the perfect soundtrack to blowing off steam. On Antartica, the 2020 Steve Albini-recorded sequel from L.A.’s Flat Worms (guitarist/vocalist Ivy, bassist Tim Hellman and drummer Justin Sullivan), they dust off their instruments of mayhem, and though this record’s guitars might be ever so slightly less mucky and the tunes not quite as memorable, it’s still enough of a spastic, fun romp. —Lizzie Manno

Higher Power: 27 Miles Underwater

U.K.’s Higher Power have never been the type of band to be put in a box, and that’s showcased best on their latest record 27 Miles Underwater. Throughout eleven tracks, they manage to pack as much as they can into their sound: punk, hardcore, metal, ’90s alt, crossover thrash, sludge, you name it. There’s not a boring moment on the album; a highlight is “Seamless,” which opens with metallic riffs that carry the song into a satisfying alt-rock explosion. Jimmy Wizard is one of the most expressive and fun vocalists in the genre right now, especially on “King Of My Domain,” as he scream-chants on the bridge: “All this pain is self-inflicted / All this pain is self-inflicted,” as if it’s a revelation that will help him change in the future. —Danielle Chelosky

Jeff Rosenstock: NO DREAM

If anyone can sum up the anxiety that inherently comes with living in a year like 2020, it’s Jeff Rosenstock. It was a pleasant surprise when he randomly released this album during quarantine with no prior warning; it was much like a breath of fresh air after being stuck inside for so long. Or, more fittingly, like a great, sweaty pit at a punk show after not going to gigs for months. The opener “NO TIME” catapults the album straight into his brand of catchy, hyperspeed punk with anxious vocals. He shouts, “When you wake, does it feel like you have a purpose?” His humor is best on “***BNB,” where Rosenstock is narrating the life of someone who’s having an identity crisis in Airbnbs. It ends on a comically dark note: “I’ll black out on the plane / Mumbling in the dark and living vicariously / Through a photo album in a stranger’s BNB.” —Danielle Chelosky

Kvelertak: Splid

Kvelertak’s second and third albums—2013’s Meir and 2016’s Nattesferd—contained so much hyper-hooky, hard-hitting heavy metal, they made for an interesting thought experiment: Commercially speaking, just how big could this band be if they employed a melodic singer? Their excellent fourth full-length effort, Splid, answers that question: Kvelertak doesn’t give a shit. Or maybe they do, but if they’re going to get big, they’re going to do it their way. They had a chance to hire someone who actually sings to replace former howling, growling vocalist Erlend Hjelvik, who left the band in 2018. But they didn’t. Instead, the sextet—whose records consistently top the charts in their native Norway—brought in Ivar Nikolaisen, previously a member of the bands Silver and The Good, The Bad and The Zugly. And on Splid, Nikolaisen proves himself not only up to the task of replacing Hjelvik, but also well-qualified for the daunting job of fronting one of the world’s best heavy bands. —Ben Salmon

No Tongues for Quiet People: Joint Fortune

Kalamazoo quartet No Tongues For Quiet People bring both enthralling precision and harsh dissonance to post-hardcore and punk music. Their 2020 debut album, Joint Fortune, is filled with unexpected arrangements, and with each track, it becomes harder to crawl out of their winding soundscapes. The arc of their incisive guitar work, which ranges from tender acoustic strums to ferocious, distorted solos, is hard to predict—you never quite sure whether they’re going to meet you with a buzzsaw or a disarming hug. —Lizzie Manno

P22: Human Snake

After forming in 2015, Los Angeles four-piece P22 released their debut 12-inch EP, Human Snake, earlier this year. The quartet, which features Wand’s Sofia Arreguin (drums), Nicole-Antonia Spagnola (lead vocals), Justin Tenney (guitar) and Taylor Thompson (bass), turn protest music on its head. Alongside unorthodox drumming and stark vocals are their intensely fascinating lyrics, marked by poetic, animalistic imagery and a desire to decode what makes us all tick. P22 are not your typical punk band—they’re 10 times more evocative and challenging. “The Manger” is a good example of their sonic and lyrical ambition: Dramatic tempo changes underpin their thought-provoking lyrics: “He said ‘Because humane people don’t start revolutions / They start libraries and cemeteries / She said ‘I could never love anyone’” —Lizzie Manno

Raspberry Bulbs: Before the Age of Mirrors

Doomy punk and black metal coalesce on Raspberry Bulbs’ latest release and Relapse Records debut, Before the Age of Mirrors. Dirty guitar distortion meets their menacing, paranoid lyrics, and the end result is a wonderfully dissonant, ominous-as-they-come record that shows its teeth. Abstract words are delivered with washed-out, diabolical vocals, and they’re positively bloodthirsty—searching ruthlessly for anyone who crosses them. Its muscular melodics are the kick in the butt we all need right now. —Lizzie Manno

Sleaford Mods: All That Glue

It’s not just the pandemic: Times have been tough forever at this point. Sleaford Mods are the preeminent poets of England’s last decade of austerity and Tory rule, delivering an angry and scorchingly funny look into how the working class are being squeezed on all ends by a government and elite who don’t give a shit about them. As vital as the band’s punk/hip-hop hybrid has been over the last 13 years, it’s taken on new power and relevance in just the last two months. The brand new compilation All That Glue is a broad overview of the band’s last seven years, jamming together some of their best-known songs (“Tied Up in Nottz,” “B.H.S.”) with B-sides and other various obscurities. Jason Williamson’s (frequently hilarious) everyman fury and Andrew Fearn’s laser-focused punk loops are timeless but deeply, essentially of their moment—torrents of righteous invective that you can dance to. —Garrett Martin

Sweet Reaper: Closer Still

California rock trio Sweet Reaper have made a supremely tantalizing record in Closer Still. Its garage-pop and surf-punk has everything you’d want in a back-to-basics rock album: devilishly memorable melodies, driving rhythms and intuitive pop sensibilities. Try and resist its danceable, vibrating grooves, and you’ll likely fail within 10 seconds. There’s nothing super technical going on here, but in a genre crowded by mediocrity, it needs to be said that this is top-shelf punk-pop elation. Closer Still is a testament to the importance of honing songwriting fundamentals and that instinctive, tune-obsessed bug that keeps music lovers up at night. —Lizzie Manno

THICK: 5 Years Behind

THICK, the Brooklyn-based DIY punk outfit made up of guitarist Nikki Sisti, bassist Kate Black and drummer Shari Page, are much more than a girl band. But that doesn’t mean they ignore the reality of that label pretty much defining them: The term “girl,” in particular, seems inextricable from the band’s music. Whether they are caterwauling or harmonizing, opening up a mosh pit or shredding, gender is at the forefront of their identity. The trio’s debut album 5 Years Behind is about the feeling of falling behind where parents, friends and strangers on the Internet expect an ostensible adult to be in their career. While the ethos of punk rock doesn’t necessarily mingle with profit and commercialization, the reality of our capitalist world means that if you don’t make money off of your craft, you’re better off working a dead-end retail gig that will at least marginally pay the bills. While this is true of every human being living in this borderline-dystopian system, women have it especially bad. —Natalia Keogan

Wasted Shirt: Fungus II

Modern garage rock extraordinaire Ty Segall has joined forces with Lightning Bolt drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale for a new LP under the moniker Wasted Shirt, and in case you didn’t already guess based on their eccentric, lengthy back catalogues, Fungus II is quite the joyride. It’s experimental in nature—blooming and contorting in every possible direction and hypnotic in more ways than one. There’s nothing tuneful about this band, but that’s what’s great about them. Their LP sounds like everything and nothing you’ve ever heard before: set tempos and genres are a construct, expectations are smashed and no idea is too strange or off-putting. What prevents this from sounding like a mess are their mesmerizing song structures and alluring, slippery mystique. —Lizzie Manno

Worriers: You or Someone You Know

Brooklyn-based Worriers’ music feels like a CliffsNotes of millennial problems that can sometimes feel a bit too real. If 2017’s Survival Pop was a guide to the exploration and affirmation of gender and other identities in its multiplicity, You or Someone You Know is a sequel that tackles the mirror maze of existence, bad decisions and exhaustion. Lead singer Lauren Denitzio has always treated their music as a diary of some sort, but this time, the listener gets handed the pen to let their lived experience exist in Denitzio’s lyrics. That’s what makes Worriers so charming: They create unabashedly feel-good pop-punk jams that enhance, not veil, oftentimes heartbreaking experiences. Worriers take us through tumultuous and very unsexy moments of adulthood that can only be fully understood by countless sleepless nights, long showers and awkward social gatherings. —Jade Gomez

Listen to the full playlist on Spotify right here.

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