This is a very unique ska album in many ways. It has all the fun and adornments of third-wave ska punk but the content is deeper than some bands are willing to go. Obviously, ska discusses racial issues but in this case, this is based on lived experience, which makes the truth hit home. It also discusses gender roles, decolonization, and so much more. I think this a special moment for this genre due to artists like JER being willing to push those boundaries, especially on a debut solo effort like Bothered/Unbothered. Plus those horns were always on point!
Bruce Lee Band: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Seriously, how cool is The Bruce Lee Band? This band has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the ska genre. Even though they are seen as a third-wave ska act, they play around with traditional ska sounds and even experiment with other genres, languages, and themes. This album is like a time stamp of who we are as a society as well as some life lessons Mike Park wants to pass on to us. What’s fun about this album is the all-star cast of ska musicians and how danceable this album truly is.
1876: Pow Wow Punk Rock 3 (EP)
This is the 3rd installment of Pow Wow Punk Rock from the band 1876. What is surprising and great about this release is that it doesn’t hold back. It is very straightforward on the struggles of being indigenous in this current hellscape and that their voices will be heard with a punk rock soundtrack in the background. The songs such as the “DGAF” and “Great Escape” are the standouts on the record but also complement the project as a whole. If you want to know more about this album please see the previous blog post with a full interview on this album and the band.
Stop the Presses is another band I would put in the “ridiculously cool” category. They have such a fun and inviting sound for each of their records. This release, Got it, is no exception. A lot of people want to view ska through this silly lens but they seldom forget that it also sounds like this. You will be dancing around in your brain and/or in your kitchen every time you listen to this album. The vocals are infectious with multi-part harmonies and the decorated rhythms from the organ on each song make it undeniable. Even the ambitious cover of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” hits the mark for making a famous song your own style.
It is crazy to think that this band went from the public library to the national stage in just a few years. Even though this band does have ties to the Los Angeles music industry, the message remains the same: we are young women and we have a lot to say. This band has been the soundtrack to coming-of-age films and television with good reason. This album is about the pains of growing up and learning about the world. The awkwardness and tenderness of this age are splashed throughout the album. It also has so many catchy lyrics and pop guitar licks, that make this album so infectious.
This album seems like a return to form for Joyce Manor but without the youthful angsty but more of a coming-of-age approach. It has fun poppiness, catchy lyrics, and hooks but with some learned life experience behind it. Kind of like they are in on the joke now instead of making fun of the rest of the outside world. It works in both aspects for this band and you feel some of their musical growth on this album. It has all the charm that Joyce Manor brings: singalong chorus, confessed late-night thoughts, half-punk/half-power pop musical arrangement, and all under 20 minutes.
I will say this band was the best discovery for me this year. Their sound, the images, and the media attention on this band made you want to be a part of whatever they were doing at the moment. It gives me slacker, glam trash, and post-punk all rolled up into one album. The lyrics are very clever and very real-world examples of how dumb society can be. But in the great tradition, Sweden has always been ahead of the curve on coolness and pop culture. This album gives me theme songs to disorders, trolling humanity at its finest, and some real thoughts on de-evolution.
In my opinion, following up to an album like Inked in Red was going to be a hard comparison. It had some hard-hitting very danceable songs within that release. But with Haunted Hours, we did the grave a little deeper to find out the meaning of life. What do we leave behind when we are gone? It has beautiful emotional tracks such as “Beautiful Day to Die” and “Haunted Hours” but it also contains politically conscious tracks we come to love from this Athens post-punk band. Also, the cover for “Transmission” fits well into the theme of this album. If you want to learn about this album, the interview from Vision Video will be posted in the blog this coming month.
Cigar put out one of the best skate-punk albums I have heard in years. It makes sense due to this band making its return this year on Fat Wreck Chords, the label that defined that sound in the 90s. I have this working theory that this kind of punk will resurge in the next few years and it will probably be due to bands like Cigar making music like this. The drumming, vocals, and fast pace of this album are infectious and I think 23 years was worth the wait for this record.
Drug Church has been climbing and building as a band for years. They are very much a chill and fun version of a traditional hardcore band. It has the consciousness of how rough the world can be but with a burn-it-all-down kind of energy. Hygiene is kind of a gift for anyone suffering adult anxiety in late-stage capitalism this past year. It gives us this mental state to thrive in with its uplifting guitar work and insightful lyrics. I have been a fan of this band since Cheer in 2016 but Hygiene gives us growth and even some optimism. Drug Church will keep its audience guessing but also captivate them all at the same time.
This is the longest release by Off at the 38-minute mark. If you are a fan of this band, you know that their specialty is getting to the point. They start out the gate running on every song they write. Honestly out of all of Keith Morris’ bands, this feels the most representative of his voice. All the musicians are excellent in this band which is important in order to keep this train going at full speed. What I like about Free LSD is that is kind of a concept album and there is a lot more experimenting going on than in the previous releases.
Escape from the Zoo: Countin’ Cards
Escape from the Zoo is the ska punk sibling to the folk punk band Days and Daze. Depending on which side of the coin you land on will be which band you relate to more. Honestly, I’m of the Escape from the Zoo variety. This album has been sneaking under the radar this year and was one of the handfuls of releases Fat Wreck Chords put out this year. This album gives an honest look at self-worth, recovery, and accepting love. The beautiful message from Countin’ Cards is to look at your past self with kinder eyes that even though you fucked up but you got yourself to a place of recovery to find a better path.
It has been a minute since The Flatliners released an album. And if you know anything about this band they will deliver on two promises: catchy songs you want to scream to and pure unabashed sad songs that cut deep. The Flatliners have done it all: ska, punk, acoustic ballads, and every type of song you could ever imagine for a band. This album starts with just a kick in the teeth with songs such as “Performative Hours” and “Rat King”, then smoothes the pain thereafter. It has some amazing moments throughout the album and has shown what is like to be an evolving band even from a young beginning. This album was much needed this year.
This album is going to be on a lot of “Best of the Year” lists for this genre. Not only is hardcore having a Renaissance these past couple of years but this is the album that stood out the most and with good reason. Soul Glo gives you everything they have: old-school hardcore, horn sections, spoken word, rapping, and breakdowns. When initially listening to the song “Gold Chain”, it gave me Minor Threat vibes, specifically “Salad Days”. It has a simple guitar build-up into the song and describes your daily life but with that power behind it. This band caught the eye of Epitaph and was signed in June 2021, which makes total sense due to where they were headed artistically. They have been touring with bands like Show Me the Boday, Gel, and Front Bottoms but I have a feeling that will change this coming year. This is a festival and headlining band going into 2023 so see them if you can at your local spots now.
Bob Vylan: Presents the Price of Life
Hot Water Music: Feel the Void
A Wilhelm Scream: Lose Your Delusion
Proper. : The Great American Novel
Pup: The Unraveling of Pup the Band
Show Me the Body: Trouble the Water
La Armada: Anti-Colonial, Vol 2.
An insightful indie punk release filled with fun synth moments. Great guitar work and lyrics throughout the album and a welcomed change of pace in the local punk scene.
Heartfelt lyrics wrapped up nicely in a pop-punk package. It has themes of heartbreak, self-doubt, but is still full of such optimism, which is rare in this type of genre. Plus this is a well-produced album chock full of catchy hooks and harmonies. Literally can’t wait for the next album from this band.
The Butts continues to grow and surprise their fans with their evolution throughout their albums. So it Goes tackles complex themes while still keeping its dark humor at the forefront. This album reminds me of what someone would write after wearing the “They Live” sunglasses on for a week.
100% face-melting skatepunk on this record. It has fun pop moments as well as thrash to create a fun musical journey. Great chorus chants, woahs, and melodic harmonies help build their storytelling through the album. You can genuinely feel this band having fun while making this record.
Hans Gruber and the Die Hards: With a Vengeance
Warning: this a very biased review. This album gives you multiple genres much like your multiple personalities. It gives you an education on things you didn’t know about and even a cover song. Song titles 10/10. In the tradition of Madonna, Hans Gruber and the Die Hards might be the next queen of the reinvention that is able to keep up with the changing times.
The Wee Beasties: Party with Us!
This is an accurately named album. The Wee-beasties ARE the party. You can definitely feel the vibe through the album. This band reminds me of the band Fucked Up but if they got into ska and were also influenced by Kiss. One of the best live bands in Texas currently and this album allows you to have that joy whenever you listen to it.
One of the most honest yet danceable albums of this year. There is a moment happening in post punk scene in Texas and this band is at the forefront. Even with the breakout hit of “Have You Ever?” the album is a testament to how we survive on a daily basis and come out on the other side.
The Holphonics have always been on top of their game and this album is no exception. It gives ska, pop, and metal then shakes it out into something completely new. This album sounds like it could be a soundtrack to a movie of some sort, which I would pay money to see.
Young Costello: Stories Told, Some New, Some Old
Young Castello makes ska music seem so smooth and flawless as a genre. All their musicians are top-tier within this band and it shines through on this release. Young Costello could sing the ending credits of a movie and I would listen to it. Looking forward to a full album release from this band in the future.
This is exactly how modern pop punk should sound so please take note. It has fun musical moments and catchy hooks while also digging deeper into our psyche.