Heather Blotto

Miley Silence Miley Silence cassette

Crunchy hardcore from Hamburg, Germany that mainly stays in the mid-tempo zone, with straightforward riffs and vocals that alternate between shouting and the scratchiest of scratchy screaming. Definitely enough power and enthusiasm here to drive a circle pit, but not sure if it totally comes across is this rehearsal studio recording. “Hugs Till I Die” is a pretty excellent name for a hardcore song.

Fun Time Objects C20/20 Go-Go! LP

First, I’m just gonna admit that I can’t tell if the title of this record is a reference to eye testing (strongly supported by the vision-chart-inspired album artwork), the controversial introduction of tapes and home dubbing into the music scene, the calendar year, or the comet C2020. The multiple possibilities of meanings fit in with the reality of a band from Brooklyn releasing a proto-punk record in 2020. The retro sound is perfectly convincing—upbeat and snotty, accented with tambourine, and topped with a dissociative op-art album insert. What does anything mean? The perennial threat of neo-fascism is bulging at Reagan-era levels, but the world is in many ways unrecognizable compared to the world that first spawned punk’s irreverent minimalism. Instead of being an aggressive challenge to the old days’ buttoned-up social order, this lands as more of a return to simpler times when pushing the system’s buttons was so much easier. This record might be the musical equivalent of sniffing glue, and maybe that’s what some of us need right now.

Joy Joy cassette

Launching with forceful, haunting vocals amid minimal post-punk drumming, super-fuzzed-out bass, and atonal but brutally intentional guitar flourishes, this tape is exciting from the first moment. The next tracks venture more toward a danceable post-punk sound, folding in synth drums and vocals that duel rhythmically with the driving, syncopated instruments. JOY nods to the legacy of anarcho-punk bands like LOST CHERREES and CRASS’ Penis Envy, while also echoing the post-punk sensibilities of bands like DELTA 5 and ESG. They apply an expansive sense of imagination, breaking genre rules and creating songs that embody duality: enraged yet disciplined, sweetly harmonized yet unnerving, viscerally human yet mediated with electronics. Definitely not to be missed.

Chill Parents At the Barricades cassette

Eight quick tracks of hard, crunchy punk with a political bent. Searching for a reference leads me all over the place. There are melodic riffs over impassioned protest lyrics reminding me of ANTI-FLAG on one track, then explosions of party-hardcore intensity on the next, running into some gruff ’80s-punk-style ranting and guitar chugging that reminds me of BUTTHOLE SURFERS on the next. Whatever this is, it’s not what you expected. Whoever you are, you’ll find something to love and something to hate here. As cool as it is to hear a band with a carefully crafted and cohesive sound, this tape reflects the reality of what bands are usually like in real life—a lumpy assortment of creative ideas and intermittently compatible personalities.

Plava Laguna Cobalt Blue cassette

PLAVA LAGUNA delivers an impressively fully-realized goth electronic sound, reminiscent of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES but with plenty of updates. It’s unusual to see a group in this format get everything this right, but PLAVA LAGUNA totally nails it. The moody electronic compositions, velvety and ethereal vocals, pacing, and mix are all seamless. This band sounds like they could be headlining goth festivals and I was just the last person to hear about them.

Dry Socket Shiver cassette

Scathing and brutal hardcore out of Portland, Oregon that delivers an impressive wall of unflinching attitude. The record label described it as “unapologetic,” which initially sounded to me like kind of a generic punk descriptor—like, when have punks ever been apologetic (with the exception of Milwaukee’s chronically unsung the APOLOGETICS)? But, it turns out I agree that DRY SOCKET really drips with whatever it is that is the opposite of an apology. There’s plenty to love here with the heaviest of breakdowns, occasional weird guitar riffs, and experimental timing. But the real gem is the hurricane-force vocals, steeped in such a thick concentration of fury that they are legitimately kind of terrifying, an effect that keeps growing the more times I listen through.

Moron Moron cassette

Freaky and lighthearted hardcore from Berlin, that tends to bleed into some art-punk territory in its down-tempo moments. The track “Ants in My Pants” brings listeners back down to earth, like all the way on the ground, where everybody can get weird and nobody needs to be taking themselves too seriously. This is for you, if you are into fun and refreshing weirdo hardcore.

Mr. and the Mrs. Seaside With Mr. and the Mrs. EP

Minimalist, lo-fi punk with a beach theme and decent dose of angst. The message is mostly unintelligible except the emphatic, “fuck cops!”. Waves crash in the background of the instrumental third track, behind a menacingly repetitive surfy guitar riff accented by some female screams suggesting a shark attack or other seaside calamity. This would be a great record to get stoned and zone out to, except that it’s not quite long enough to get lost in—clocking in at just over six minutes. Definitely curious about what these beach-oriented weirdo punks from Kansas will come up with next.

Stud Count Pleasure Center cassette

There’s a lot going on within the walls of these four tracks—a blast of hardcore rage on the first track, a grunge ballad complete with emotive compressed vocals, and a punchy, melodic punk anthem. The fourth track is a cover of the WIPERS’ “Telepathic Love,” steered in a power pop direction with singing along the lines of the EXPLODING HEARTS. The cover really works. It makes me consider how Greg Sage’s unflinchingly earnest delivery defines the WIPERS’ sound just as much as the songwriting itself. Stoked to see STUD COUNT playing around with that and re-imagining such a great song.

Motorsav Sange Fra Sygdon LP

Opening with an impassioned rush of melodic Scandinavian punk riffs, MOTORSAV delivers a familiar sound with a sprinkle of synth lead on top to spice things up. The record progresses into darkwave territory that maintains a driving punk tempo while taking on a dreamy, ethereal tone, and then explodes back into blasting hardcore. All the songs are good, but the mood is a little all over the place. The melodic tracks have surprising twists and turns, with super-tight performance and dreaminess in the production quality. The synth adds depth, and makes the sound stand out within this genre. Definitely recommended for fans of dark, melodic punk like GORILLA ANGREB, MASSHYSTERI, or Portland’s the OBSERVERS.

Substitute Eat Your Enemys cassette

SUBSTITUTE dives headfirst into a grunge waste-wonder-land, channeling Kurt Cobain’s forced, raspy singing style and jangly, anguished minor chord progressions. SUBSTITUTE synthesizes that legacy with updated elements of extended, melodic guitar leads and driving, aggressive punk drumming (but to prevent any confusion, the band emphasizes on their Bandcamp page that they do not play pop punk). This is likely a welcome addition for fans of the grunge classics that influenced this project, but the references may be too heavy-handed for some or an outright turn-off for people who aren’t drawn to that particular limb of the punk family tree.

L’Appel Du Vide Demo 2020 cassette

I don’t know if “deathrock” is strictly a genre, or just a feeling, but this tape definitely has a deathrock feeling. Dissonant guitar chords build tension and resonate with the listener’s internal sense of impending doom, while everything else is brooding and dark. The guitar player’s style of fast, continuous staccato picking is like DICK DALE transmuted into a sinister underworld creature. Slow, deliberate vocals In German complement the vibe. Released in February 2020 with a note stating “burn after listening” and images of a virus, the tape artwork is disturbingly prescient.

Rubble Parts Per Million EP

If any record crossing my turntable in the last year has made me feel extra sad that we can’t be in a room dancing together for the foreseeable future, it’s this one. RUBBLE incorporates the unstoppable enthusiasm for punk that Portland bands seem to be able to perennially channel. They pull from the most fun, bouncy parts of street punk and Oi!, and smash them together with eerie, melodic vocals, reminiscent of LOST CHERREES. This release is more melodic and has a little more nuance than the band’s earlier records. It’s challenging to make songs that are thoughtful and fun, but still have a punk edge, and RUBBLE has definitely done it. Definitely something to check out!

Aborted Tortoise Scale Model Subsistence Vendor EP

Frenetic, lo-fi rock’n’roll punk from Perth, Australia that sounds like a redux of the early 2000s—only this time around, the superficial brattiness has been replaced with something a bit more existential. Pulling a page from THEE HEADCOATS’ book, the crazed singing and super precise rock’n’roll riffs combine to deliver a contained mess that is wildly high energy without boiling over completely. The whole production sounds like it is about to burst at the seams, possibly owing to it being recorded and mixed on a four-track. You can try to imitate the effect of pushing a four-track tape recording to its mechanical limits, but there really is something special and (dare I say) nostalgic about the sound of the real thing. Recommended!

The Astronauts It’s Got a Garden LP

If you’re like me and somehow missed it, the ASTRONAUTS are a “semi-legendary” UK band that loosely resonates with a variety of genres including anarcho-punk, psych-rock, progressive rock, and folk punk. They launched in 1977, just eight years after Apollo 11’s moon landing. In 1981, they released their first LP, Peter Pan in the Suburbs on All the Madmen Records—sharing the roster with FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN and the MOB. With witty, irreverent lyrics and a sound swinging from tripped-out psych-rock to impassioned political ballads to folky campfire sing-alongs, they wound their way into the hearts of hippies and punks alike while touring around the UK with ZOUNDS. Their original recordings were overlooked for years before becoming massively collectible in the era of Discogs. The band’s early EPs and first two LPs were re-released on vinyl by La Vida Es Un Mus Records a few years ago, making them available beyond the realm of serious record collectors. While they may have slowed down for a few years in the ’90s, the ASTRONAUTS never stopped making records. Scattered among various formats and labels, they continued to grow and transform. So this November 2019 release is hardly a reunion. It’s Got a Garden stands out in the way it fully takes advantage of modern recording capabilities. There is enough of a consistent aesthetic throughout the band’s discography that it feels like a peek into a parallel universe where the early UK anarcho-punk bands recorded with what, at the time, would have been major label recording studio equipment. The richness of the song “Garden” reimagines DAVID BOWIE-style futurism minus the rockstar vanity, before meandering into a chorus of theatrical singing backed by thin violin accompaniment. There’s something greater here than a more velvety recording, though. While some bands stick around trying to relive their glory days, the ASTRONAUTS’ true glory days are ahead of them. In the process of tirelessly crafting album after album, they’ve perfected rather than rehashed their sound. This new release is just as fresh and exciting as anything they’ve created.

Kim Kim cassette

Downtempo and moody, the tape launches with a dreamscape of moaning vocals and percussive, fuzzed-out bashes of guitar. The first track builds up to a goth wall-of-sound that one could imagine issuing from the opening of an unexpectedly illuminated cemetery crypt. Also, the track is about the Roman emperor Nero’s sordid story. And that’s just the first track. The tape proceeds to defy genres, introducing metal guitar riffs, then minimalist post-punk drumming, stirring in some legit darkwave dance grooves, and then warping itself back into crushing waves of sludgy metal. The track “Wild One” channels a twisted rock’n’roll vibe aligned with the early CRAMPS. While there are plenty of familiar sounds, nothing about this sounds derivative or cliché. There is a forlorn richness throughout the tracks. The power of the vocals drives the songs forward and lends some cohesion to a collection of otherwise varied elements. I would not be surprised if these folks end up famous.

The Lice Punk Is Bed cassette

There is a lot to like about this collection of dreamy, lo-fi bedroom recordings. The catchy, fuzzy coldwave riffs and endearingly retro drum machine compositions definitely have an irresistible charm. But there’s no way those features can make up for the off-key singing that throws a wrench in the gears of this otherwise sweet pop project. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of off-key singers—NEIL YOUNG, DANIEL JOHNSTON, DEAD MOON. This is punk, after all. But sadly, it just doesn’t work with this kind of melodic fuzz-pop. We need an anchor in this sea of electronic trashcan drumming and delay-drenched synth leads, rather than another untethered line flailing wildly in the gale.

Pleasure Leftists The EPs of PL cassette

PLEASURE LEFTISTS here grace listeners with a remastered re-release of their first two 12″ EPs, originally released in 2011 and 2013. Their earlier releases, including the original vinyl EPs and a tape with nine of the same tracks released by Feral Kid Records in 2013, aren’t exactly accessible (although the nine tracks on Feral Kid tape are available online) so this is a great chance for completists to perfect their collection, for fans in general to finally get those original tracks that were left of the Feral Kid tape, and for everyone to hear a noticeably better production quality. These early recordings show the band’s progression from their origins taking cues from SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES and referencing RUDIMENTARY PENI toward a more tempered post-punk sound with dreamy tangents bordering on shoegaze. Continuous threads of instrumental precision and dramatic vocal performance tie the band’s sound together throughout their releases spanning eight years. The remastering adds a velvety feel to the generous applications of reverb on these two earliest recordings, which showcase the depth of singer Haley’s raw vocal power.

Permanent Residue Permanent Residue cassette

Slick and snotty pop-punk from Chicago featuring members of CANADIAN RIFLE. This tape looks like it was made by some goofy teens at Kinko’s and sounds like it was made by some punks with decades of writing and recording under their belts. The vocals oscillate between acrobatic and straight up obnoxious, but I think that’s on purpose. The instrumental interludes are excellent. Fans of FLESHIES, DILLINGER FOUR and the like will definitely want to check this out.

Sex Reasons Guilty All Around cassette

This tape combines the band’s summer 2018 demo and four new tracks. The latter are plodding, scathing feminist hardcore delivered at full intensity. Hardcore breakdowns are always my favorite part, but these breakdowns take it up a notch and sound like a powerful hell-demon running at full force through a block of frozen molasses. The faintest hint of delay in the vocals in exactly the right places drags the sound into hardcore’s current era. The demo tracks are rougher, faster, and more brutal, as to be expected. Don’t miss this.

Disbeware Disbeware cassette

This tape came with an encouraging note saying the guitar and drum duo is “by old punks out of Portland.” With a strong political bent, lo-fi recording, and drums mixed way down low, the songs can’t help but have a bit of a folk-punk vibe. The best parts are the scattered moments of off-key-but-somehow-melodic singing that you might recognize as the special sauce spicing up bands like SHOTWELL and HICKEY. The recording is so weird, and the songs are so slow and earnest, that it inspires nostalgia for the countless ephemeral basement-and-porch creations in small towns made by punks who probably grew up to be square…or went on to be famous. Liberated, self-aware, and a little gross.

Pledge Drive Second Impressions cassette

Theatrical and fun post-punk energy with sassy lyrics laced into a gloriously complex wall of sound. With a six-piece band including guitar, bass, synth, and a sax there’s a reason it sounds like lot is going on. The creativity and groove of the tracks truly warrants an X-RAY SPEX reference. For anyone who had the luck of running into Worcester, Massachusetts’s SECRET LOVER, there is a lot in common with their sound, too. The band’s proclamation of being “famous for friendliness” is also pretty irresistible in my book.

Cobra Cobra Cobra Cobra cassette

Self-described “São Paulo, DC, Buffalo super freak group,” with members of PENUMBRA, FUTURO, COKE BUST, and RADIATION RISKS, recorded in Brazil in 2017 and released by Buffalo’s More Power Tapes. It is truly a collection of freak hardcore! Taking full advantage of whatever technology is available to make this sound like it came from the future, or from outer space…or from the past’s fantastical vision of the future and outer space. It sounds like it might have a keyboard but no such instrument is credited. This is fun, doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, and definitely rips by any standard.

DeStructos Blast! cassette

Slick and upbeat post-punk from Philadelphia, filled to the brim with the tension between bleakness and determination. Far on the sophisticated end of the punk spectrum, the tracks incorporate some dance-punk, post-hardcore, samples, and artsy vibes among staccato yelling in a seemingly self-aware re-working of punk’s original postmodern project of cannibalizing culture and regurgitating it in new and thought-provoking ways. It reminds me of an updated version of HUGGY BEAR, but they can also execute pro-sounding new wave magic.

Launcher Bone Saw LP

In their first full-length release, LA’s LAUNCHER delivers twelve super fast tracks, all but one clocking in under two minutes. The sound channels some of that LA ’80s punk snottiness through a lens of rock’n’roll riffs, the result landing in a strange quadrant of punk populated by gross, freaky punk pioneers like the CRUCIFUCKS and also sometimes by snotty street punk bands like L.E.S. STITCHES or BLANKS 77. LAUNCHER keeps a tight hold on the fury and weirdness of that intersection while avoiding the cheesy tropes. There are no sing-along parts here.

Numbskull Action Mutate With Me cassette

Minimalist, lo-fi rock’n’roll punk with a snotty streak and a refreshingly healthy dose of self-awareness. This release really hammers home the point that it’s not fancy equipment or production acrobatics that make a punk record good. There are some real standout tracks on here, and no shortage of infectious rock’n’roll riffs, no-bullshit vocals and screaming guitar leads. Mutate With Me adds something new and weird and even a little exciting to the sounds of the early Rip Off Records catalog. Definitely worth checking out for punks who like to do a degenerated version of the twist or those willing to give it a try.

Orphan Riot American Endgame CD

High energy pop-punk that is a little more along the lines of Epitaph or No Idea Records than punks who lived through it the first time might be comfortable with. But that’s kind of the point. Everyone in the band is under 21. It makes sense for them to be writing super-fast, super-melodic, super-angry and idealistic songs, and they are kicking ass at doing that. The melodic riffs and gruff vocal style remind me of BAD RELIGION and JAWBREAKER. There’s also a bouncy vibe that could have as much to do with Oi! influences as it could be taking a cue from early GREEN DAY and RANCID.

Världen Brinner Vi Äger Natten! CD

The second full-length release from Sweden’s VÄRLDEN BRINNER, this album vacillates between  heartfelt, singalong anthems to more brooding moments of overflowing emotion. A thread of thoughtful, dynamic songwriting ties the collection together. This will likely appeal to fans of Scandinavian melodic punk, but has a very polished production style that sounds like it is geared more toward mass appeal than to basement-dwelling DIY punks. Even so, there are moments when singer Malin’s velvety vocals break open and pour out into a maxed-out, raw singing style that resonates with grittier punk sensibilities.

Dead Cells I LP

With their brooding and dark sound on the aggressive end of the melodic punk spectrum, it’s actually surprising to me that this band isn’t from Portland. DEAD CELLS are from Vancouver, BC, which, it turns out, actually gets even more rainfall than the capital of brooding, melodic punk. Drenched in chorus effects, with desperate, panicky vocals and melodramatic drum compositions, this record delivers a sound likely to appeal to fans of angsty Northwestern punk like the OBSERVERS and the WIPERS. This record stands apart from the pack with a strong leaning toward classic death rock and a subtle surf vibe that peeks through intermittently. The vocals forgo cool guy slickness, instead veering toward Roz Williams territory—a welcome break from the norm. Definitely an aesthetic that is relevant in the current historical moment and not to be missed for fans of punk that runs on melodic, bittersweet, joyous despair.

Fleshies / Shellshag split EP

FLESHIES and SHELLSHAG have both been at it since the late ’90s, and both prove it’s possible for bands to keep moving forward, trying out new sounds, and continually recalibrating the things they know they do best, rather than resting on their punk laurels. Bands come and go, and there is value in the constant flux of a subculture built on ripping it up and starting again. But sometimes bands stick together and end up with not only the longest tour journal on the planet, but a cumulative consciousness of all the stuff that worked: all the sonic and social experiments that went right. So it’s not too surprising that they’d put together a record that is comfortingly familiar yet also weird and courageously original. The first track enfolds FLESHIES’ new downtempo, heart-wrenching, rock’n’roll anthem inside a cozy wrapping of what sounds like the influence of SHELLSHAG’s signature fuzzed-out dreamscape. The second track, also featured on FLESHIES’ most recent full-length, Introducing the Fleshies, changes gears with a brief but intense blast of unstoppable, furious punk mayhem. SHELLSHAG’s first track offers up a new take on their sound: way more dark and driving, but still incorporating distortion-laden team vocals and infectious melodies. The second track descends into an intense unraveling and re-tangling of all the brainwaves. If SHELLSHAG were a rock, this track would be all the cool, mucky, squirmy stuff living underneath it, and we are the excited five-year-old who can’t resist picking it up.

Varsovia Recursos Inhumanos LP

Originally released in 2014 on CD, this record from Lima, Peru’s VARSOVIA struck a nerve with synth punk fans, prompting its reissue this year for the first time on vinyl. Expertly-programmed synth compositions compliment beats that blend rugged industrial samples with tidy post-punk arrangements. The vocals cover a wide range, too, sometimes dramatic and haunting, other times yelling or concise and reserved. Some of the tracks land solidly in the truly experimental realm not unlike MEN’S RECOVERY PROJECT, while others offer a dancefloor-ready coldwave sound. Overall, this is a lot more slick than most records reviewed here (one of the tracks was featured on HBO’s Spanish-language comedy series, Los Espookys), but definitely a landmark in the synth-punk skyline; worth checking out!

Beating Beating LP

Punk is an expansive category, but there is also a lot of music that is not punk and this record feels like it falls outside even that blurry boundary. It is artsy, experimental, and a bit psychedelic, with emotive vocals, unorthodox rhythms, open-ended synth solos, and textural sound collages. The track “Slow Burnt” is almost seven minutes of ambient noise, fading into shimmery dreamscape, pop-soul ballad, then shifting back into a proggy, grunge dreamscape (this time with drums). The more cohesive songs do sound kind of like a tripped-out meandering style of post-punk, like the CLASH on quaaludes.

Corridor People Corridor People LP

This is a new project from Stockholm, Sweden featuring Dan Gräns, former member of garage power-poppers IMPO AND THE TENTS, but this time going in a very different direction—heavy on synths, and banishing all mirth (but not without a retaining a significant amount of cowbell). Brooding yet upbeat, the vocals approach incantations, with intelligible points emerging from the reverb like distant mountain crags piercing a dense fog. The coolest thing about this record is the dance beat. I could definitely picture the dance party in Blade (the ’90s vampire movie) going off to this record, screaming along with the lyrics, “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul.” Yes, my vampire friends, you will.

Los Honey Rockets Asco en el Escenario 12″

Bouncing between driving, dark punk riffs and psychedelic, proto-punk detours, Mexico City’s LOS HONEY ROCKETS has a lot to offer here. The record integrates divergent sounds and comes up with something that sounds nostalgic and original all at once. This would have fit in on Alternative Tentacles’ early oughts roster, with bands like the PHANTOM LIMBS and the CAUSEY WAY that didn’t really fit into punk but had an undeniably punk attitude and were pushing the limits aesthetically. Expand your consciousness and listen to this record, punks!

Charger Watch Your Back 12″

This one-sided, one-track picture disc comes with a flexi disc of the same track. OK, it’s not actually a picture disc, Pirate’s Press emphasizes that this is a UV digitally-printed record that sounds better than a conventional picture disc. But realistically, people are not gonna buy this to play in on a turntable. You can download the track for a buck, if you want to listen to it. The front of the record has the band’s logo with transparent red glowing eyes, and the back has a full-color fisheye photo of the band playing at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland. They look genuinely stoked. The band is made up of RANCID’s Matt Freeman, guitarist Andrew McGee, and drummer Jason Willer of ALARIC, CROSS STITCHED EYES, and several classic punk reunion bands. The track sounds like MOTÖRHEAD and Matt Freeman’s unique vocals evoke RANCID’s first self-titled album. People who want this, you know who you are!

Dregs Watch Out EP

Brutal, fast, straight-edge hardcore from Vienna, Austria. DREGS’ debut vinyl release is totally fucking unstoppable. Singer Julie’s scathing and unrelenting vocals are backed up by the most pounding of hardcore breakdowns, occasional noodly guitar solos, and mysterious noise compositions at the beginning and end of the record. This is thrashy, intense and brilliant.

Spectres Provincial Wake / Northern Towns 7″

With the first track’s jangly and grippingly catchy intro, it’s hard to believe this record was recorded just a couple years ago and not in the ’80s. The cover artwork looks like a faithful re-enactment of an ’80s pop album, foreshadowing a change in direction from the band’s earlier darkwave releases. The second track does tend back toward the dark side of new wave, with influences like the SMITHS or the JESUS AND MARY CHAIN. Both tracks are worthy of being played on repeat while you wait for SPECTRES’ new full-length.

Vueltas Ocho Espadas cassette

Portland’s VUELTAS has five tracks of crystal-clear, brooding deathrock. The riffs are creative and original, and the Spanish-language vocals are unsettling and spine-chilling, which is a pretty amazing feat in this genre where creepiness is replicated so prolifically that it’s easy for bands to just blur into the mist. Current or former members of POISON IDEA, ATRIARCH, and CLITERATI. Definitely something to check out for any punks of the darkwave or deathrock persuasion.

Bauwaves U R Everything LP

Thoughtful and brooding indie punk that is a bit like an updated and pared-down take on grunge. Introspective lyrics explore feelings of depression, alienation, and grief while the repetition and minimalism of the riffs kind of drill those feelings into your head. There’s a true thread of deep heartbreak and pain, which is likely to resonate with some, but without some kind of redemption, I find it hard to vibe with the untempered sadness.

Jade Helm Days Gone / I’ll Decide 7″

This melodic and ethereal single skates the edge between punk and indie, with retro UK shoegaze influences like early SLOWDIVE or CHAMELEONS. The melodies are catchy but sophisticated, and the song structures keep the momentum going. The occasional hard edge switches up the dynamic on “Days Gone,” but overall this could have been an ’80s radio hit.

Dyke Drama Hard New Pills 12″

The only complaint fans are going to have about this record is that it’s too short. For those not already familiar, DYKE DRAMA is the solo project of G.L.O.S.S.’s Sadie Switchblade. The record is dedicated to Barker Gee, a friend who passed away, and pays tribute to him by incorporating riffs and melodies from the incredible music he created. The tracks encompass the tenderness of 50 MILLION, the SPRINGSTEEN-esque sensibilities of BENT OUTTA SHAPE, the infectious melodies of the REPLACEMENTS, and gritty vocals overflowing with emotional sincerity and heartbreak. Barker would have loved this, and if you have any connection to him or to the melodic side of punk, you will too. These songs distill the sweetness of what punk can give us in hard times, whether you’re in the middle of the struggle or just looking back and remembering what got you through.

Sad Neutrino Bitches Weltraumendspurt EP

Dare I say that this freaky record sounds a little like CRASS’ “Bata Motel” if it didn’t take itself nearly as seriously, took a bunch of psychedelic drugs, and decided to be on a rock’n’roll EP. Just focus on the vocals and the drums. Some less out-there references land in the neighborhood of a more gleeful version of BLATZ or the CRUCIFUCKS. I think the band says it best themselves: “The songs are about being ugly, being pissed, being not clever or too sad to fuck.” True weirdos fully embracing the meaning of punk and gifting this gem upon us as a mere side-effect of their rapture.

Street Gurgler Primal Business LP

Tough, no-nonsense punk that includes a bit of a lot of things: stompy Oi!-influenced tempos, lyrics pronounced with anarcho-punk conviction, screamin’ psych-metal guitar riffs, fast circle-pit-worthy interludes, and even some freaky sound effects. This record is excellently punk while emphatically defying subgenres and labels. Refreshingly free and original, it shares the sensibility of early punk trailblazers. The closest comparison I can make is that it sounds like a less-panicky and more psychedelic version of DIRT, with higher production value. Even comes with a cool newsprint poster.

Real Tears Hay Fever LP

This second full-length release from Sweden’s REAL TEARS delivers thirteen high-energy power pop tracks, with a touch of glam and a gritty edge. They sound like the type of people that might get picked on by bikers while playing at an out-of-the way truck stop bar in the ’70s, but also like the type of people that might pull a crowbar out of their tour van and fight back. Classic rock’n’roll riffs figure heavily into the mix and the unchecked enthusiasm reminds of early MARKED MEN or the CARBONAS. A real feel-good record.

Psychic Void Skeleton Paradise LP

Calling itself “psych-punk,” this record kind of defies genres, pulling from creepy retro-horror, rock’n’roll punk, death rock, and even a little industrial or synthwave. One moment it reminds me of the CRAMPS and seconds later it sounds influenced by RUDIMENTARY PENI. Highlights include a minute-and-a-half intro with a drum machine beat (especially the snare tone) that sounds like NINE INCH NAILS’ “Closer.” The vocalist creates incredible synergy with the layered instrumental tracks when he’s maxing out into a deranged fury like on the track “Alley Dweller.” Could be described as a more slick and less gritty version of BITTER FRUIT, another band that totally defies genres. Definitely recommended.

Exotica Musique Exotique #03 EP

Blown-out, fuzzed, wall-of-hardcore sound from New York with sinister riffs and punchy, scathing vocals delivered in bursts. Cool sound effects and creepy feedback add some variety, and the pace doesn’t let up. The drumming is creative and unorthodox in a way that really sets the sound apart from everyone else old or new. Lyrics in Spanish and English, with band members from Mexico, Argentina and the US. This is their third 7″ release, and has all the energy of their first record with more attention to songwriting. Another excellent hardcore EP!

Chain Cult Shallow Grave LP

Athens’ CHAIN CULT wastes no time, opening the first track with a catchy chorus-laden guitar riff that would sound just as much at home on a new-wave record as on a dark melodic punk record. The raspy vocals sound a little like the singer from OXYMORON, which is refreshingly different. Anthemic songwriting and adventurous drumming tie the sound together. Definitely something to check out for fans of Scandinavian melodic punk and melodic dark punk.

Body Farm Tower of Babel EP

Tripped-out hardcore with the sickest of breakdowns. Between spastic, unstoppable verses, BODY FARM shines brightest in breakdowns that are brutal and catchy with a metal influence. This might be the first time I’ve heard an actual sample of Trump on a punk record, and it’s definitely successful at being completely vomit-worthy. I hate hearing his voice, but have to admit they use it effectively to establish context for a song about the prospect of people being punished for having abortions. The fury and passion of the song are set off against a backdrop of the true-crime nightmare that is American politics. This is totally excellent.

Dèche Le Luxure En Vain LP

Refreshingly unselfconscious punk songs in the tough but not-totally-not-silly style of bands like FILTH, and vocals that sound like the woman singer in DIRT. The whole thing is in French, but the band is from Cleveland. Fast enough for hardcore and fun enough for punk, this is pretty much a raging circle pit on vinyl. While nobody can argue that punk isn’t repeating itself, this record suggests that it’s getting better and better as it mutates.

Luna Honey / Wax Lead Wax Lead / Luna Honey split 7″

WAX LEAD opens with an unlikely combination of ethereal true-goth romanticism and sprinklings of bluesy twang. Vocalist Holly Axlerod’s powerful and haunting vocals are front and center, as the track winds through a maze of dramatic interludes to its brief but dancefloor-worthy crescendo. LUNA HONEY offers an extremely slow, deliberate, and poetic invocation of a ruthless curse. Velvety vocals are accompanied by sparse synth beats, distorted bass, and baritone saxophone. The artwork inside the record is beautifully printed on transparent vellum.

The Mind Edge of the Planet LP

Minimalist, mechanical, lo-fi instruments intermittently accompanied by dreamy, gentle vocals. While some of the tracks veer into noisy electronic territory, others are centered around the vocals and clean guitar leads that bring to mind ’90s singer-songwriter nostalgia. Tempos range from danceable to ballad, mostly settling somewhere in the zone of somber contemplation of a dying world. Since spheres don’t have edges, I’m gonna go ahead and assume this is also some low-key flat earth propaganda.

UBIK Next Phase LP

Blending snotty ’77 punk, spooky darkwave, and playful anarcho-punk sounds, UBIK delivers a refreshingly fun and inspired take. Dueling minimalist guitar and bass lines combined with overlapping vocals on the track “Peter Dutton is a Terrorist” offer up a catchy but earnest anarcho-punk vibe, while other tracks feature graveyard-ready, reverb-drenched vocals, and yet others offer a more straightforward hardcore attack. Definitely something for everyone here, but their songwriting and originality shine brightest in the anarcho-punk moments.

Das Drip Das Drip LP

This full-length release from Raleigh, North Carolina’s DAS DRIP is about as nuts as a record can sound and still be called hardcore, rather than noise or art punk or whatever other label people use to talk about something that sounds like the feeling of getting beaten up, but in a good way. It’s furious and spazzy, blending unlikely elements into a whirlwind of twang, squeal, relentless yelling, and a generous dose of brutally fast drumming. There is something creative and vital here besides just anger. A potent antidote for the monotony of boring, macho hardcore!

Hotet Död Framtid EP

Fast and melodic Scandinavian punk with everything you could possibly want from this genre: dueling male/female vocals that are impassioned and charmingly a little off-key. The title of the record translates to “Dead Future,” and despite the catchy melodies, the lyrics have a brooding, cynical undertone that perfectly sets off the upbeat sound. Definitely something to check out for fans of the canon of Scandinavian melodic punk bands, or melodic punk in general.

Haircut Sensation EP

Four no-bullshit hardcore tracks each clocking in under two minutes. HAIRCUT delivers high-intensity punk with a super clear recording that still somehow sounds completely inseparable from the context of a sweaty basement packed with freaks moshing and running into each other and knocking everything over. Like, one does not exist without the other. The vocals are totally excellent, in a slightly hoarse and screamy way, like a satisfying texture you can almost touch.

Casual Burn Mean Thing LP

Frantic, intense lo-fi punk from New Orleans with a lot of reverb and a heavy retro vibe. The overall sound is refreshingly original and free. It sounds like it could have come from the ’80s, before punk knew exactly what it was supposed to sound like. A lot of the individuality is owed to singer Monet Mallof’s charismatic, confident, powerful, and freaky vocal style, which is backed by a perfect complement of brooding, driving riffs that are catchy and dissonant and gross all at the same time.

Nun The Dome LP

Melbourne, Australia’s NUN have been releasing darkwave synth punk records since 2012, predating the current trend by more than a few years. This record shifts gears a bit, with more restraint and slower tempos than earlier releases. Dramatic vocals descend among austere but complex synth instruments. The echoey, velvety vocals sometimes seem to take after SIOUXSIE SIOUX, while the synth and drum machine compositions occasionally veer into the odd minimalism of Bolides Over Basra-era MEN’S RECOVERY PROJECT. The band is organized like a conventional punk band, with different members creating the lead synth, bass synth, and drum machine parts, which allows them to create a sound that feels both more vital and more tempered than you might expect from a multi-tracked solo project. Definitely something to check out for anyone into darkwave or synthwave or goth cosplay.

La URSS Nuevo Testamento LP

Upbeat, high-energy, dark punk that is clean and polished yet still creepy and full of angst. Alongside the requisite reverb and chorus effects, there are some anthemic sing-along choruses and refreshingly unexpected elements like a beautiful synth interlude and the occasional noodly, melodic bass riff. This record draws from a lot of different influences—MASSHYSTERI to the BUZZCOCKS to WIRE—and is likely to appeal to fans of any of them. Amid super slick production quality, sophisticated songwriting, and precise instrumental performances, the vocals still sound kind of unprofessional in the best way possible—like this is definitely still a punk band. It’s all the good things that a band should learn how to do by the time they’re putting out a third full-length record, without losing authenticity, getting stuck, or getting too pro. Can’t stop listening to some of these tracks!

Eat My Fear Taking Back Space EP

Self-described as queer feminist straight-edge hardcore from Berlin, EAT MY FEAR is definitely a band the world has been waiting for. The songs are packed with angry and impassioned political lyrics, plenty of group vocals, and probably more breakdowns than the fast parts were designed to withstand. Without diminishing the depth of the emotion or gravity of the subject matter, these songs sound fun as hell. This reminds me of the fury and creativity of late-’90s political hardcore bands like HARUM SCARUM and ANTI PRODUCT. With six tracks clocking in at about eight minutes, this EP left me wishing there was more, and looking forward to what’s next.

Email Trouble Cyberbully cassette

The combination of driving mid-tempo drum machines, dark, dancey synth leads, and angsty human vocals really resonates with the strange realities of late capitalism and the electronic age. Minneapolis’ self-described “Queer+Trans punx making synth beats” deliver ten tracks that could definitely get a basement full of punks dancing deliriously, peppered with smart political and cultural critique. The minimalist synthesized instrumental compositions allow the vocals and lyrics to be front and center. This tape is totally electronic and totally punk at the same time, which is no easy feat. The tape includes cool artwork and a free, customizable ALIENation membership card.

Mala Vista Mouth Breeder EP

NYC’s MALA VISTA pack five catchy, fast, rock’n’roll songs onto this EP. The songs have a fun, high-energy, ’77 punk style and a heavy retro undertow. But they don’t just take the genre cues and sit back. Punchy chorus riffs, tidal waves of shredding, and lyrics about fucking up fascists set this record apart. Garage punk has a tradition of avoiding politics, but I think this record proves that rocking out is more fun with a common cause.

Argument? Paintings EP

Weird, experimental, and nostalgic peace-punk from Berlin that comes across as completely earnest without taking itself too seriously. Playful basslines climb and descend, channeling the B-52’S as much as CRASS, while the blunt yet passionate lyrics remind me of NAKED AGGRESSION. It has a tough, artsy vibe, and vocalists taking turns, not totally unlike HUGGY BEAR. There’s something refreshing about hearing a band that doesn’t seem at all concerned with fitting in to a current trend, but is just having fun and doing what feels right. Definitely something to check out for anyone into peace punk, or looking to hear something sincere and unusual.

Obsessions Killing Time / Final Solution 7″

A dreamy, psychedelic take on garage rock, with reverb on the vocals and a heavy tambourine presence. The straightforward minor chord progressions and disaffected, snotty vocals are more emotional and less macho than you might expect from a garage record. While I don’t suspect these guys are actual fascists, it is a bit tone deaf to release a track called “Final Solution” with no lyric sheet.

Scrap Brain A Journey Into Madness LP

Raw, vulnerable, and disgusting, SCRAP BRAIN delivers a scourge of slowed-down art hardcore spiced up with a few unusual elements like a remixed pop sample and electronic interlude. While some hardcore bands attempt to break music through extreme precision or brute force, SCRAP BRAIN instead uses their powers to contort notes into unnatural positions, pours on malaise-infused static confusions, and glues it all together with scathingly unapologetic lyrics dissecting the experience of madness. Definitely something not to miss for hardcore fans, art rockers, and weirdo punks alike.

Musclegoose A Hot Dog Made of Us EP

Remember when punk used to be silly and tough and mercilessly antagonistic all at the same time? This weird EP channels the rawness of ’80s punk like CIRCLE JERKS or BORN AGAINST, plus something a little extra artsy. I haven’t heard anything simultaneously this smart and this dumb in a long time. It sounds like fun.

Good Shade Way Out LP

This fourth full-length release from Columbus, Ohio’s GOOD SHADE goes between extra fast, melodic power-pop and more tender, meandering ballads. The moments of glory are the simple, understated interludes between overwrought vocal melodies and multi-multi-layered guitar leads. While the band has a full lineup for live shows, all parts of the recording are written, performed, and recorded by one member. It’s an impressive accomplishment, but not likely to appeal to fans of punk.

Pleasure Leftists The Gate LP

In their first release since 2015, PLEASURE LEFTISTS return with ten brooding yet upbeat post-punk tracks. The songs are awash with emotion and interweaving layers of instruments, while singer Haley’s vocals cut through with dramatic melodies. The deathrock sound is still present, with a strong SIOUSXIE AND THE BANSHEES, ’80s-style undertow. What the band gains through restraint and thoughtfulness here leads to a sound that is solid, but a bit less adventurous than their original 2015 full-length, The Woods of Heaven. Recorded by Stan Wright of ARCTIC FLOWERS, it’s beautifully and intentionally produced without sounding over-produced.

Cyberplasm The Psychic Hologram LP

This record sounds like a DIY Brain Machine hijacked by anarchist hardcore punks and reprogrammed to rearrange your psyche. The concept of the record is that redemption lies in liberating the body from the mind to achieve freedom from dystopian, fascist control. The artwork includes a poster proclaiming, “YOU ARE THE INFINITE,” and “FREE THE BODY FROM THE MIND.” Brutal, blasting hardocre riffs and vocals appear intermittenetly, drenched in reverb and effects in a cyclone of chaos. This is not a noisy hardcore record. At least half the tracks are totally electronic and edge toward slow, sludgy, angry dance music. It always frustrated me that ATARI TEENAGE RIOT was so almost good. Glad to see this record taking a page from the same book but putting together something truly excellent and completely punk. The irony of the futuristic artwork and theme wrapped around such an archaic object as a vinyl record is not lost on this reviewer.

Primitive Teeth Plastic cassette

Five tracks of dark but high-energy punk, with songwriting that sounds like it draws some influence from melodic Scaninavian punk, and dramatic vocals a little like X. The unconventional post-punk drumming adds a lot to the sound, and catchy minor chord progressions create tension and anxiety. Includes most of what you’re likely looking for in a dark punk tape, with some cool and spooky special effects right at the end of the final track.

Nadir Collecting Misery LP

Solid jams with anthemic riffs from Queens, New York. There’s far more than meets the ear at first. This record avoids the generic monotony of gruff bro pop punk, and steers more into the direction of being a little more musical, with thoughtful guitar leads and a killer vocal performance. Definitely something for fans of current sad, nuanced, wall-of-sound melodic punk like VACATION to check out.

Antidon’ts We Reap What You Sow CD-R

The band was looking forward to being included in the last print issue of MRR, so our apologies that it looks like they missed that boat. This is some real high-energy, spazzy, angry punk that bounces back and forth between screamy streetpunk and legit ska-punk. The best parts are the fast, crunchy riffs that sound a little like early GRIMPLE. They also mention that they recently recorded a split with MDC.

Bad Year My Escape 7″

This record really makes me realize that the only difference between a lot of the “cheesy” pop-punk that gets compared to NOFX and the “authentic” pop punk that gets compared to CRIMPSHRINE is production value. BAD YEAR’s songs are pretty great, but I kind of can’t get past the squeaky-clean delivery. There are moments where the grittiness sneaks in, but most of it lands closer to SCREECHING WEASEL. Hand-screened, one-sided, four-song picture disc.

Trashley Joyful Angst LP

Electroclash dance punk from Paris that keeps the guitar, bass, and drums high in the mix, and doesn’t stray too far into the electro end of the spectrum. Impassioned group vocals and melodic riffs bring to mind the chaos of early ’00s synth punk. Lyrics in English that sound cool, but don’t totally make sense. Probably pretty incredible to see this band live, if they keep up even half the energy level of this recording.

Pandemix In Condemnation LP

Blending perfect amounts of artsy peace-punk weirdness and brutal aggression, Boston’s PANDEMIX deliver a sound that is all at once angry, transgressive, fun, and exciting. This record reminds me why I love punk: it’s got some real out-of-the-box peace-punk moments, dissonant chord combos, irresistible melodic hooks, dark creepy riffs, and fast hardcore parts. The track “Synthetix” juxtaposes full-blast hardcore riffs with a punchy, CRASS-like mid-tempo interlude, while “Column of Light” is a slow and scathing screed, with just vocals and guitar. Pretty much something for everyone. Seriously, do not miss out on this!

Arteries Arteries LP

Portland’s ARTERIES take everything we know about the last 40 years of punk, and distill it down to a concentrated liqueur of all the best elements. Freaky and experimental, they weave otherworldly anthems with haunting group vocals, effervescent synth effects, persistent post- punk basslines, and unexpected turns. It brings to mind the unlikely combination of sounds like the SCREAMERS and LOST CHERREES. Members of Portland’s RED HERRING and RAW NERVES. I am blown away by how great this is.

Molar Straniero 12″

Upbeat post-punk with strong pop undertones, but still aggressive enough to sound unmistakably punk. The songs are melodic and pretty, but also unsettling. These two different tendencies pull in competing directions, creating a natural tension. Just when you think the song has settled into a poppy riff, it gets weird again, throwing in layers of dissonant chords, unexpected accents, and yelling. Their 2016 release includes a cover of a SLANT 6 song, and the influence is still a relevant point of reference on this release. This record has five tracks, definitely looking forward to more.

Abolitionist A New Militance 10″

At first, I kept thinking that I must be missing something here. I don’t want to be making assumptions about the gender identities of the band members. This can’t possibly be an entire eight-song concept record about feminism by a band of four dudes, with lyrics written in the first person from the perspective of a woman (“Hands off our bodies / We’re tired of the gaslighting”). The cover art is an illustration of an army of women: featuring oversexualized, stereotypical representations of women of different ethnicities. Their faces are covered by pink bandanas, and they wave pink flags while marching away from a cityscape emitting clouds of pink smoke. Unsurprisingly, the illustrator is also a man. It’s almost funny, like one of those “unclear on the concept” cartoon panels, how hard this misses the point. To the band: not all liberation movements belong to you. What feminism needs is for men to step back and let women define the struggle, define the goals, speak for themselves, and get to be the protagonist in their own story. You don’t still get to be the cool guy in the band, you don’t still get to tell the story. Support feminism by supporting women, not by exploiting women’s struggle to promote yourself. And besides it not being your story to tell, you are not competent to tell this story from a woman’s perspective. The pink theme is a little baffling (did I mention the vinyl is also light pink?), and the lyrics read like a BuzzFeed listicle of top feminism hashtags. It’s shallow and reductive, with no signs of actual understanding of why these issues resonate so strongly with women’s real lived experience. I commend the effort and intention that went into this, and am glad there are men that want to support feminist struggle. It’s OK to have a long way to go, as long as you’re willing to do the hard work of listening, learning, and growing. Why not write a record drawn from your own experience of how patriarchy has harmed you and people you care about?

Dewaere Slot Logic LP

The record kicks off sounding a little like a loungey take on the MISFITS, and then moves into heavy rock with theatrical vocal delivery somewhat in the vein of the STROKES. The entire recording is drenched in a heavy coating of static fuzz and reverb. It’s big and dirty and you probably know if that’s the kind of thing that gets you going.

Années Zero Nique EP

Heavy hardcore punk with a bit of a creepy deathrock undertow. Growly vocals, accented with reverb, drive the songs with unstoppable energy and there are enough intelligible riffs and dynamic changes to keep things interesting. This record expands on what could easily be a formula for punk songs—short, angry verses over repeating guitar chord progressions—but it is so much more than that. Incorporating the occasional melodic, chorus-drenched guitar lead or unusual rhythm changes brings in a ton of nuance and keeps it sounding exciting and fresh. Definitely recommended. Record comes with cool fold-out poster artwork.


Fast, intense art punk with synth up front in the mix and maxed- out vocals. Even with the synth, freaky art riffs, and occasional group vocals, there’s nothing tender about this, which is so refreshing. There are some super-catchy grooves worthy of being called “hooks” but they’re buried in the mix in a very cool way that kind of sneaks up on you. Weird, angry, fun, and it seems like you could dance to it, or at least kind of flail around and shake spastically.

Witch Fever Toothless / Daddy Pt. 2 7″

Gritty rock’n’roll vibes that remind me of fatally tough ’90s rockers like BABES IN TOYLAND and L7. High production value and undeniable talent on the part of the vocalist make the sound fall somewhere between the current wave of underground punk witchiness and radio-ready hard rock. The lyrics are explicitly about claiming empowerment, which is pretty excellent whether it’s performed in a basement full of sweaty punks or a rock club full of regular people.

Red Delicious Far From the Tree EP

This is so good! Hardcore with tough and growly female vocals sung in Portuguese, sick riffs, and sludgy breakdowns. There’s something old school about the vibe, with slower parts that almost have the kind of sassy, deliberate delivery of MINOR THREAT. The fast parts are brutal and fun at the same time, a combo that is sadly not as pervasive as one might hope. Listening to this record is the closest thing to being in a circle pit that you can do without actually moving. Every member of this band brings in cool, interesting elements. And they managed to cram eight tracks onto an EP. Don’t miss this!