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2019 Year-End Top Tens, Part One

It’s the end, the end of the decade. But before we get to those top ten lists, it’s time for another round of year-end top tens! As always, we asked MRR shitworkers and friends from across the globe to write about their favorite records from 2019.

This was, of course, the year that the print magazine ceased publication. The first half of 2019 for us was a collective whirlwind of publishing the final three issues, vacating the compound that had been home for over twenty years—to say nothing of the logistics of moving over 50,000 records—and beginning to publish reviews and other content online. All on top of the ever-tightening vice of life under late capitalism. Is any year ever really a “good” year? But through it all, punks continued to make music for raging, for connecting, for resisting, and as MRR has always been an idea rather than merely one medium, we are still here to bring it to you. In the first of three installments, here’s what we had to say about 2019’s best records:

HAFIZ BASTARD

Punk is shit business. Direct complaints from Singapore, South East Asia.

LARMA – LP (Adult Crash / Beach Impediment)
Only the Swedes can pull this off, if they weren’t from Malmö I don’t think it would be as good. Putting a mark on where HERÄTYS left off.

LIFELOCK – 2018 EP (Brain Solvent Propaganda / Symphony of Destruction)
They bleed your ears on the record and also live. There was DISCLOSE, NO FUCKER and now LIFELOCK. Singapore’s greatest exports.

UBIK – Next Phase 12″ (Iron Lung)
There was a period this year where I listened to this shit everyday. Tell me another band that is as catchy as this—none. Everyone should give a shit about what Melbourne punk has to offer.

ANXIOUS LIVING – CS (Pissed Off!!)
Two Singaporeans and an American got together and recorded this masterpiece. Melodic dark punk rock that reminds me of MASSHYSTERI with chorus pedal on guitar and vocal harmonies. It’s beautiful.

DOLDREY – Invocation of Doom LP (Iron Lung)
This record is heavy as fuck. I don’t really listen to much death metal but I will if its played by a bunch of drunk hardcore punk kids. You can pogo to all of the tracks on this record.

BLINDED HUMANITY – Mind Control EP (D-Takt & Râpunk / Televised Suicide)
This was recorded a few years ago before they stopped playing when one of them moved to Berlin. Singapore’s crust and this record sounds like it came from the depths of hell.

AXE RASH – live at Ungdomshuset at K-Town Hardcore Fest, Denmark
I’ve been going to K-Town for the past few years because I wanna see some punk action. AXE RASH this year was wild when the were closing the fest. Scandinavian Jawbreaker.

HARAM – live at 416, Singapore
OK, our tiny little practice space turns into a packed hell on earth. Crazy show.

SCAB EATER – Ultra Vires LP (No Patience / Symphony of Destruction)
This shit is underrated. Brute and dark hardcore. I always love how they got that wailing chorus pedal sound in the guitars. Wee wee wee wow wow weee grrrghhhh.

KOHTI TUHOA – Ihmisen Kasvot LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Fuck, this record is full of beats. I love whatever they come up with.

GREG BENEDETTO

Greg Benedetto plays in S.H.I.T. and was one of the organizers of Toronto’s Not Dead Yet festival.

DIÄT – Positive Disintegration LP (Blackest Ever Black / Iron Lung)
Without a doubt my record of the year. Has been since I first heard it. Since their first LP, DIÄT provided a grim look at the reality most punks (people?) in 2016 faced—life is shit, you wake up, you cope, repeat, die—in a way that pushed past the myopic hopefulness of youth many of us grow up in. Maybe the hope now comes from the fact that we’re all in this misery together? Who knows. 2019’s follow up doubles down. The lyrics are sharper, the production bigger. From helplessness, to the lies of the western power apparatus, to missing the damn bus, DIÄT identify that they (we) are miserable and hopeless, but it’s still worth singing about at least. “Isn’t it time you start thinking about your health? About your future? About your debts?”

PELADA – Movimiento Para Cambio LP (Pan)
There will certainly be some people who question the validity of this record being on a list in MRR. These people will be wrong. This record deserves just as much if not more than whatever straight up D-beat cosplay punk would normally be touted. PELADA mix all sorts of genres to get you where they are going, but to say that Chris Vargas’ presence, power, lyrics and vocal delivery are not punk in a true proper sense of the word—confronting power structures, challenging authority, defying convention—would be incorrect. PELADA are vital and I’m happy to say that whenever I’m given the chance. Maybe you just need to loosen up? If you think punk is just a sound in 2019, it might be time to face that you are wrong.

KALEIDOSCOPE – After the Futures… LP (Toxic State / La Vida Es Un Mus)
I’ve been following Shiva Addanki’s work since he was pumping out issues of Accept the Darkness as seemingly the lone teen in the world of CRAZY SPIRIT/DAWN OF HUMANS etc. KALEIDOSCOPE held a certain promise when I saw them a couple of years ago in Toronto, and this year they certainly delivered on it. After the Futures exists outside of any and all trends left in hardcore punk in 2019. Its lyrics are informed, the music defiant. A vital contemporary record worthy of the world’s attention. Indebted to things like NO TREND and VOID, but entirely about now with no hints of nostalgia.

LARMA – LP (Adult Crash / Beach Impediment)
TOTALITÄR is a funny thing. There are so many bands trying to do it, that it’s almost a genre unto itself, but the truth is that few get it right. In this case, the members of LARMA get it very, very right. True Swedish Hardcore Punk Mangel. Ripping from start to finish. Not one dud track. Play it loud and play it again.

POSSIBLE HUMANS – Everybody Split LP (Hobbies Galore / Trouble In Mind)
This was a left field one for me. Caught it because the folks at Lulu’s in Melbourne were singing its praises. Post-punk in a way that’s indebted to things like GUIDED BY VOICES, MISSION OF BURMA etc., but again, feeling entirely fresh. A rare guitar player’s punk record too. When they need a hook they find it and when it’s time for the song to propel forward they are good at that too. Big recommend.

KRIEGSHÖG – Paint It Black / White Out 45 (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Before I heard this, I was told KRIEGSHÖG had become more “mature.” Naturally, I was nervous. KRIEGSHÖG hadn’t released anything in a couple years and there had been lineup changes. Thankfully, the nerves were for naught. In this case, mature meant more dialed in, more focused. The rage borne of their 2011 LP is distilled here into a pure unbridled fury. “Paint it Black” is among the best of their best yet. Soon it will be safe to say they are the next generation of masters out of Tokyo, I think.

KOHTI TUHOA – Ihmisen Kasvot LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
This thing is just a fucking ripper. I loved the first LP greatly and here they return to that blazing power. Helena’s voice sounds utterly inhuman. The playing is so precise, that on first listen you don’t notice how much they fuck with convention. The strumming patterns, the drumming. Everything about this record captures what’s so great about the canon of Finnish Punk, without ever rehashing it. Regionality is a thing. There’s something in the water in Finland. A+ would thrash again.

RIGOROUS INSTITUTION – Penitent EP (Black Water)
Like a lot of people reading this, there are many records that qualify as crust that I absolutely love. That said, I never thought 2019 would see the style come back into vogue—can you be a crust punk with an Instagram account? Does it even fucking matter? This RIGOROUS INSTITUTION 7″ suggests that it doesn’t. Powerful, crunchy, driving crust punk done incredibly well. Check out that SWORDWIELDER LP, too.

RANK/XEROX – Servants in Heaven / Cradle of Life 45 (Iron Lung)
RANK/XEROX have seemingly snuck under the radar for years, so it was really great to see them get the recognition of Iron Lung Records and the visibility that comes with it. This is a real downer of a track. “Servants in Heaven” is a slow, post-punk burner out of the mind of David West, of RAT COLUMNS, Ex-TOTAL CONTROL etc. Psychedelia sneaks in here and there, as it plods forward. One of my favorite songs of the year, easily. A 45 that’s worth scooping.

BRYONY BEYNON

Bryony Beynon has been a columnist for Maximum Rocknroll since 2010. She is a punk and sexual violence prevention worker.

In my 2019, everything good either broke, faltered, or altogether fizzled down to a useless wet wick, and, by way of a wizened fascist cherry on top, the UK’s gasp for something better got suffocated away. I leave this decade manic, scared and empty-handed. But friends, in all turds there is some sweetcorn. What worked this year? What felt good? 1. Unionizing. 2. Every time I was in the ocean. 3. These records:

TERRA SOROR – Revenge CS (self-released)
Eco-nightmares spiral out from gnarled roots. The planet is ending and the fires are already here. Now Mother is coming back to tell you what you’ve done, and she’s not happy. Let’s be real, nature’s role here is less Plant Music, more Little Shop of Horrors. You’ve heard Ellie’s acid scratch guitar in SNOB, her growl-throated spit-roar in GOOD THROB, this trio of women playing punk in London take an anarcho pummel paired with clattering drums and lurching bass to their terrifying apex. You broke the planet and now you’re going to pay.

POWERPLANT – People in the Sun LP (Dreamland Syndicate / Erste Theke Tonträger)
A one-human prodge turned full group, it was a joy to discover that someone still cares this much about obtuse musical world building. Industriously freaky off-kilter synths mashed principally by Theo Zhykharyev, who plays it fast and punk without the gonzo bore of any youtubecore re-tread (although if you liked that you might like this, &c.) it’s nurturing something biggerhearted, no papering over the cracks. The calamitous force and insistence of Fallopia Japonica all up in your foundations. Powerplant drinks herbicide for breakfast.

LIVID – demo CS (self-released)
London-based gender outlaws spew out gutsy liberation sound on this demo, a welcome intervention of walls-falling-in hardcore. (I recorded it and am still humming these bangers!!!) The cishet free youth implore you to jettison your old tired ethics with the added looming threat of a studded baseball bat. Presumptions will get you merked. The truth is the thing which moves you. Like for real.

HYGIENE – Private Sector LP (Upset the Rhythm)
Tripping over their penny loafers on a stained pub carpet, self-consciously thumbing a paperback, Hygiene return with all the quiet rage of a brylcreem’d autodidact about to make a searing point. Catapulted from the stern repartee of their previous records’ stolid retro-genuflection, everything of “the now” that deserves a skewering gets one, from establishment child abuse cover ups to tax havens and the EU. There’s even a rousing honky tonk anthem demanding the renationalisation of the railways. Blimey, yes please. It’s important to know your desires, and ten thousand civil servants into auto-erotic asphyxiation and the emmiseration of British working class can’t be wrong.

FATAMORGANA – Terra Alta LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
The trembling certainties of synthesis loop around each tune on this beautiful album, and Patxi’s voice soothes and burns in simultaneously mourning and worship of our dying planet. Only this torrid twosome could make me abandon my hardened shell of cynicism to sit and shed a tear of wonder at a slideshow of their photographs of rock formations. Two aliens from love planet.

NYLEX – Plastic for People LP (No Patience)
Fatal jangle from Adelaide, spread out across their continent on fire. Plastic melts and you’re passing out from the fumes. Yes, it’s built upon minor-y, chorus-y post-punk conceit we’ve heard plenty of, but NYLEX brings a cut-above sound to the format with extra insistent hooks that keep singing back. Plastic doesn’t wash. Celeste’s bell-weather chime throat is loose and spooky without being histrionic. Tingle and ready to mingle.

PLEASURE LEFTISTS – The Gate LP (Feel It)
A stunning, swirling and fully realised punk LP. Center stage always are Haley’s soaring vocals. It’s slightly more smooth listening with extra-pop production, still not without a good quotient of palm muting. Last year on tour I visited a record shop in Cleveland and bought a live tape of this band and asked the tall man behind the counter if they were still together, as I knew it’d been years since their last record. “Yeah I think so, just about” he mumbled. Later I realized he was the same guy who’d played bass with a toothbrush hanging out his mouth when I saw them in London in 2014. I get it, I too would be almost embarrassed to out myself as a progenitor of this band, as if just by doing so I’d be brashly inviting reverent praise, readied for a struggle session. Either that, or maybe everyone is a Pleasure Leftist. Unmissable.

NEON – 12″ (Square One Again)
This is brain music. Big words for a bigger problem. NEON knows, of course, but NEON is not too knowing about it. These songs do not have parts. Ugly gxrls do it better. Under the squall there are some theoretical mores that half wanna be cited, long-sighted, half inscrutable, the con’s descending, upwards into noise again, the free space beyond cat-and-mouse referents. This is splenetic gunge made by Big A little a Aa-Aart-adjacent polymaths who’d still scoff dry, long and hard at squares who might gamely try to tag this “art punk.” My god. NEON repeats its diagnosis with the grim certainty of a verdict, walking out the words, as if to chant and be happy might work, as if to talk as fast as your mind moves might solve it, as if to talk yourself out and then right back into believing again. The moments of let-up feel weighted and profound, rare as they are (the “epic” on this record just breaks the two-minute mark) but it’s a balanced chaos. NEON teases you towards conceptual surrender. It’s not for you. It’s all for you. You can’t afford it. It’s free.

CHRONOPHAGE – Prolog for Tomorrow LP (Cleta-Patra)
I loved this record for the whole year, and the Gregorian calendar is a capitalist scam so gimme some wiggle room. Dispatch from a totally complete genius universe previously unknown. A tactile, brittle pop recording where you can hear the room inside the songs and it seems like everything, and I mean everything, is sprouting. Say a prayer, there’s soil all over the amps. This perfect din is the spiritual inversion we need to do as the world outside folds in on itself. You face them down in the sewer to thank them for their songs but they shake the nub end of a rubber crucifix in your face and turn away. Grinning.

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING – All In Good Time LP (Castle Face)
This diamond band was the centerpiece of my sonic world by the turn of the 2010s, but EDDY CURRENT’s real soul clicked in properly for me after a few years living in Australia at the same decade’s close. Not that they played during this time. No, the pubs and bowlos could do nothing but welcome a wave of loose copycats with a wry smile. This new LP is a group refined but on track, rocked up out their lawn chairs for another go. No rush, no fuss. The glare from the pokies reflects in the greasy mirror behind the bar. Noone’s getting bashed tonight. Eleven songs of warm, generous hope, dished out equally to strangers and friends. There are even strings! The simplicity of gripping a new mate as you stumble home past familiar cars, toes on warm concrete. The palm trees snooze bendy, the bowling lawns all out for the count, change in your pocket. Eyes to the sky. Light, soon, and a new day in every breath.

RYAN HERTEL

Ryan Hertel was a shitworker and record/zine/book reviewer for MRR for about three years. He’s now living in Portland, OR in search of new wonders and magic. See him do things on Instagram @RyanRHertel and follow his movie obsession @NudityAndExplosions.

In no particular order, below are the top ten musical holdy, touchy things I found that were put out into the world in 2019. There are some killer albums, some demos, some re-releases, and even a book/record combo here. Musically, I had a lot to be excited about this year.

VIOLENCIA – Violencia 2019 CS (Crystal Mine / E.R.A.)
This loud, fast Tijuana powerviolence quartet was a standout act at Corrupted Youth Fest in Los Angeles. This magical cassette collects their previous two releases and a 2019 live show in LA. This is grind your face down on the microphone raw vocals scattered over killer hardcore/powerviolence/loud scary fight music.

POTTY MOUTH – SNAFU LP (Get Better)
Everything about this album is a massive improvement from the band’s previous album from all the way back in 2013. They already had magic, and now, after years of touring and fighting with labels before releasing this LP on bassist Ally Einbinder’s Get Better Records, the trio has distilled their art down perfectly. Each track is so deliberate that I couldn’t help but get an “of course!” feeling on each track, like they’d cracked the mystery of punk. Abby Weems’s vocals are so direct that each phrase feels like a hard pop in the nose. It’s impossible to not pay attention.

LAGWAGON – Railer LP (Fat Wreck)
This is a return of the fun-having, quick-draw writing Fat Wreck originals of the ’90s. Where the last couple release found LAGWAGON more focused and dedicated to making something “meaningful,” this time they seemed like they just wanted to have fun while showing they’ve still got it! This is maybe the most pure fun album on my list. It’s equal parts nostalgia and liquor infused deja vu.

HEY, CHELS – 12″ (A-F / La Escalera / Wiretap)
The guitars, drums, and keyboards on this debut of punk ballads are perfectly wonderful. They bring joy with no difficulty. However, you would be forgiven if they got lost to you while under the hypnotic spell of Jacque Mendez’s vocals, a true contender for the most powerful vocal performance of the year. The beautiful screen printing on the blank side of this clear LP may also make it one of the best looking physical releases of the year as well. They apparently have a full-length on the way, and it should not be missed.

WIMP – Life as a Threat CS (self-released)
This queer/trans punk trio from Boston has squeezed pure anger into this cassette, and it’s not to be missed. Just a little under two years after their Vengeance EP, they show a significant improvement. While the energy and message remains steady, their ability to present their art has been going directly upwards. “TERF War” is the standout anthem here.

SLOW CRUSH – Ease LP (Holy Roar)
This quartet from Belgium via all over is revitalizing shoegaze and making it relevant again. The singer’s vocals penetrate the heavy blanket of guitars like a screwdriver stabbing through a thick fog. It’s like she’s delivering the happiest murder right to your face, and you can’t wait for it. The four live tracks are the real stand out here, showing massive growth in just a couple years of existence. It’s like the band found SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE and MINERAL and said, “nah, we can do it better.”

MATERIAL – Leather LP (self-released)
Vancouver, BC’s MATERIAL is a little independent band with a sound that fills any space and makes it sticky. They wear their politics on their sleeves while pumping out pulsing, melodic punk jams with just enough dance club keyboards to keep your arms in the air. Every track is super tight, leaving a feeling that removing one track would cause this intricately designed tapestry to fall apart. This is an album that requires being played front to back and over again.

MINERAL – One Day When We Are Young: Mineral At 25 10″ and book (ARRCo / House Arrest)
Coming 20 years after the band last released original material, these two songs in thirteen minutes show that the band never lost a beat. This 10” record would have been popular had it been released during the band’s original run, but now it feels like a special treat for people who never let go. “Your Body Is The World” is the perfect emo song from when that word still meant “post-punk” more than it meant commercialism and yelling at your dad. The retrospective book is a nerdy delight as well.

MÖWER – LP (Splattered)
This is pure MOTÖRHEAD worship from Pittsburgh. This Japanese version of the band’s debut is the definitive, must-have edition. For one, they up the artwork 1000% by adding Death riding a motorcycle and proudly declaring themselves “Motor Speed Punks from Hell”  in both Japanese and English. The two added live tracks are also the perfect enticement to grab this as soon as you find it.

RUSSIAN GIRLFRIENDS – In the Parlance of Our Times LP (A-F)
This band is a unique mishmash I didn’t know I wanted. Musically, this isn’t far off from the first couple RISE AGAINST albums, but the vocalist could be a dead ringer for the country twanged singer of DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS but singing harcore. It makes no sense on paper, but in practice, it’s something special. This is fast, angry punk for the truck stop that still has chicken wire hung in front of the stage.

DAVE HYDE

Dave Hyde is a civil servant residing in The Bronx, NY. Over the decades, he has contributed writings, interviews, reviews, photos, and artwork to Maximum Rocknroll, Terminal Boredom, and a series of self-published zines to no acclaim. He can be found online @cheaprewards

I find some comfort in this world by indulging in the brilliant artwork put forth by like-minded loners, miscreants, and weirdos. Here are some of the bits that have made the world a little more tolerable during the last year.

SAM RYSER – Welcome To Dripper World book (Sacred Bones)
An astounding amount of the art collected in this volume has been the tapestry for the last decade of life in the NYC punk scene. Emblazoned on fliers, t-shirts, and record sleeves, his images are ubiquitous. In my apartment, I have a framed screenprint of one of Sam’s masks, a scarf with his design permanently hung on a door. I literally have not gone a day without one of these images in years. Seeing them compiled in one place reframes the art and focuses on how substantial and singular a body of work it is.
Bonus: In celebration of the book release (or at least coincidentally timed), Sam created a window display at Desert Island Comics and a gallery exhibit at The Arm Studio, presenting his work in person to the masses at these amazing local institutions.

XV – LP (Life Like)
The debut release from Detroit trio XV, who introduce themselves to the word with an album full of urgent, unique songs crudely caught on four track. It sounds at times as though the recordings are being made as the songs are written, a moment of hesitation here and there from one of the players that wouldn’t happen with another couple of practices, but which I wouldn’t trade for the world. The songs are blunt and powerful—they make their point, then end. Sonically, there are references to UK DIY, BLACK FLAG (who are covered here with the same unrivaled spirit that the SILVER covered “Do You Wanna Dance?”), K Records tape comps, and HALF JAPANESE without sounding like a copy of anything. As original and memorable as one could hope for.

STEFAN CHRISTENSEN – The Upcoming Flame LP (Bruit Direct Disques)
The latest album from this New Haven artist, his last release in a prolific year, which closes out a prolific decade. Home recorded musings, weaving guitar frenzies, sparse introspection, and sound manipulations coalesce to form a fascinating album.

KALEIDOSCOPE – After the Futures… LP (Toxic State / La Vida Es Un Mus)
After the Futures channels a UK anarcho-punk aesthetic that has been transplanted to gritty New York, where even public transportation pits the working class against the cops and every aspect of life can be a fight. KALEIDOSCOPE play inventive, outside the lines hardcore, and their debut LP is full of sharp, political lyrics paired with stark black and white aesthetics that carry the themes of the music into the visual. An amazing package and essential release.

NO FUCKER – live in Albany, NY
Back from hell and as mad at the world as ever, NO FUCKER has reformed once again. This current mutation took to the stage in Albany, NY this September and unleashed one of the more relentless sets of hardcore that I’ve witnessed in ages. I suppose the band must have felt good about the set since a pair of one-off gigs has become an active winter schedule. After nearly a decade of inactivity, NO FUCKER are back, the only American D-beat band.

TAIWAN HOUSING PROJECT – Sub-Language Trustees LP (ever/never)
Vicious, confrontational music from the City of Brotherly Love, TAIWAN HOUSING PROJECT lure you in with their heavy grooves and enchanting percussion before unleashing a freeform cacophony of feedback, sax, and shouted vocals. At the New York record release gig, singer Kilynn mentioned from stage that her workplace had just that day voted to unionize. Workers unite, this is the soundtrack for our socialist future.

WEEPING ICON – LP (Kanine)
Second album (or was the first an EP?) from this NY trio that has spent the last few years building a portfolio that melds noise, punk, video, projection, and visual art into a distinct voice. This album is full of memorable riffs, atmospheric noise, hushed vocals followed by wails of distortion. A real gem.

CHRONOPHAGE – Prolog for Tomorrow LP (Cleta-Patra)
I was at a venue early this year when “Double Suicide” played over the PA in between bands. Like in a movie, the chaos around blurred and the song became my primary focus. It was perfect, a melancholy pop post-punker with deadly hooks. I spent the night trying to figure out what I had heard, expecting a hunt for an old classic unknown to me, and was amazed to find it had only just been released.

Desolation Center film (Dir. Stuart Swezey)
Even now, in the twilight of my life, I am still turned on by a dangerous performance. What if someone gets hurt? overwhelmed by This is thrilling! even if my body screams Can we stand over here where it’s safe? Desolation Center is a documentary about a series of shows in Southern California from ’83–’85 that were designed to upend the routine show-going experience and add an element of danger. They brought gigs to unexpected locales including a boat and, repeatedly, to the desert where the promoters would bus punks out to an undisclosed location to see performances from the likes of SAVAGE REPUBLIC, MINUTEMEN, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, and Survival Research Labs (who brought actual explosives). This film recounts the history and ideology of Desolation Center and is packed with amazing, inspiring footage.

CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE – This Is Real Life 12″ and Religion On The Outside / (Float) Don’t Take Care 45 (Eastern Prawn)
In a blur of productivity over the last year or two, Portland, Maine’s CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE have released a half dozen (maybe more) gems of free and wild unadulterated rock madness. Howling without abandon, it is wild stuff that is more invigorating than your typical garage punk.

IRON LUNG RECORDS

Jensen Ward, a guy in a garage. Too much task, not enough minute. 

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING – All In Good Time LP (Castle Face)
My favorite record of the year. EDDY CURRENT is one of those bands that just has that unexplainable magic that all the classic bands have. It’s not a tangible thing you can explain. It’s a timeless gut feeling that is always right. And speaking of time, it took them a good long stretch to make a new album but it is 1000% worth the wait. This record feels great. It feels like a new pair of socks. It’s feels like when you come home from a long tour and just throw your bag on the floor and collapse in your own bed. It just feels right. Feels like home.

PORNOGRAPHY GLOWS – 12″ (Violent Pest)
Refreshingly honest shamble punk in the vein of the beloved VAST MAJORITY and the URINALS, two of my all-time favorites. Whilst discussing current music in Chicago, one friend reckons this band was terrible live and they hated it. Another friend at the same table said the exact opposite. Hahaha. I love a divisive band. That’s real punk. Can’t wait to see them with my own eyes some day.

ARMOR – Some Kind of War EP (11PM)
Aggro meat punk from depths of who cares… this fucking rips! Would like to see these freaks in a street fight. I bet it’s nasty.

NOSFERATU – Solution A LP (Media Disease / Todo Destruido / La Vida Es Un Mus)
Absolutely raging KORO style hardcore never gets old to me and when a band does it as well as NOSFERATU then count me in! This thing is over before you know it and that’s exactly the right amount of time it should play. It’s like a punch in the Adam’s apple, it’s fast, hard and will knock you the fuck over.

HETEROFOBIA – Queremos Ver El Mundo Arder LP (Drunken Sailor)
This LP is dripping with attitude and atmosphere. Defiant of all convention and exploding with opposition. Beyond the excellent songwriting and wild use of effects, the art on this record is fucking beautiful. A striking debut that burned me all the way to the ground.

BRAIN TOURNIQUET – Shot Dead EP (Painkiller)
Relentlessly pounding blast beats played at CROSSED OUT speeds mixed with hard ass breakdowns to keep it spicy. Tough music the way I like it.

L.O.T.I.O.N. – World Wide W.E.B. LP (Toxic State)
They’ve managed to make the perfect disco record for crusties. Just enough pop influence to keep ’em snortin’ and shakin’. Just enough grime to keep the squares in Times Square. My, how things have changed…

LOW LIFE – Downer Edn LP (Alter / Cool Death / Goner)
Hearing LOW LIFE grow as a band over the years has been a constantly rewarding experience and this newest LP is them reaching full adulthood. It has all the presence and craft of a fully formed idea exquisitely executed. Something to be said for bands that stay together and really make something special.

PINK GRIP – Hedera Helix EP (Anxious Music)
Maniacally raspy hardcore that conjures an image of Leeds’s MOB RULES taking on the DIE KRUEZEN model without the bothersome technicality. Wicked and abrasive.

IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO – Civiltà Idiota EP (Static Shock)
This thing sounds like mental patients off their meds in the rage wing of the hospital. One of the best live bands I’ve seen, too.

LUCAS VALENTE

Lucas Valente aka Cabu is a visual artist from São Paulo, Brasil. He runs an art/music label called Rolo Seco and plays in the band DUPLO.

UZI – Cadena de Odio LP (Adult Crash)
Another hardcore-punk bomb from Bogotá. Colombia #1! Ximena the singer also plays in FINAL (must hear).

EXILIO – CS (Rattrap)
Another hardcore-punk bomb from Bogotá. Colombia #2. The band was formed in Bogotá with people that moved from Venezuela plus locals.

CANKRO / VIDRO – split CS (self-released)
Split cassette from the motörcharged São Paulo hardcore punks CANKRO with Sweden’s finest VIDRO. VIDRO is a super energetic hardcore punk band with shreading guitars and amazing vocals and  features ex-members of seminal HEADCLEANERS, while CANKRO plays that classic São Paulo punk style like OLHO SECO at a D-beat speed. On LP in 2020 by Byllepest.

ACRUZ SESPER – The Cell 12″ (Assustado / Rolo Seco / Submarine)
Indie/lo-fi/post-punk one men project of Brasilian DIY legend Alexandre Cruz aka Sesper.

PRONTO – Pop y Basura CS (Musica Desechable)
Electro-punk with members of PURA MANIA made in Mexico.

HANK WOOD AND THE HAMMERHEADS – Heads CS (self-released)
These may be my favorite HANK WOOD songs ever released. First song “You Could Have It” is more funky than ever and “I’d Rather Be With Me” shreds with a killer guitar riff, both less yelled and more sung. Makes me curious to see what’s up ahead.

PINOCCHIO – My Time Vol. 1 EP (Toxic State)
Sick vocals and theatrical performance from the singer of CC DUST. Ex members of CRAZY SPIRIT, ANASAZI. Love the clap beats.

SHEER MAG – A Distant Call LP (Wilsuns Recording Company)
Pop perfection with confessional lyrics and that unique vocal tone that I like so much. “Cold Sword” is my favorite with a beautiful melody for really sad lyrics.

FOC – demo CS (self-released)
First demo of FOC, a hardcore punk band from Barcelona playing that classic italian hardcore sound with its own twist and sexual related themed lyrics sung by a woman. Members and ex-members of GATTOPARDO, ULTRA, MENTIRA and ABSURDO.

FATAMORGANA – Terra Alta LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Patrycjia and Louis play danceable minimal wave with echoing vocals. The light blue color on the cover makes a perfect package for the music; it’s not dense, it’s the opposite, it’s so light that makes me float to dreamy natural landscapes. Musically it could remind me of something like a more danceable YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS but comparisons are not enough to explain the appeal.

VIKTOR VARGYAI

Viktor Vargyai is a columnist for MRR. He lives in Budapest and plays in NORMS.

STAGNATION – !!! EP (Hardcore Survives)
Due to some subconscious training I conditioned myself to always buy STAGNATION 7”s when I encounter them. Even when there is no risk in spending money on their releases this EP has shocked me. Punk is crazy, but the level of sonic freedom that is practiced on this record is still surprisingly rare. The structureless noise, how songs are not finished, the screaming that is not screaming, how it is a complex stream of constructed chaos, the hardcore that is nothing but an experience that reflects extreme human conditions, the adventure it offers. This record is beautiful because it’s purposeless, it’s dumb, dangerous and joyful. Tell NASA to send this to space so alien intelligence will get a better understanding of humans and stay the fuck away from this planet.

RIGOROUS INSTITUTION – Penitent EP (Black Water)
I’m not a big fan of atmospheric crust, I like noise and primitive tempos, not the fucking fog. RIGOROUS INSTITUTION sounds as they are based on the previously dishonored type of crust that I do not care about, although they play it with next level tricks which make it fucking work. It sounds spooky—not in a Scooby Doo gimmicky way—and has melodies but maintains a heavy sound and a threatening vibe that this world is a warzone for many. Soundtrack for those punx who were harassed by Robocop. It not only revitalizes the genre but carries the mania which suggests: these people are in love with what they play, which is always nice to hear. They convinced me that keyboards have a valid role in today’s punk and I love the doomsday preaching-feel of the vocals. For some reason I would love to hear a full-length by them.

IGNORANTES – Con La Camiseta Puesta CS (Byllepest)
Twenty-seven minutes of primitive punk. So primitive it is beyond having limited skills, rather it is intentionally limiting skills to cherry-pick the bare minimum that is enough to write killer songs. Yet nothing is missing! The linear, repetitive notes fill the whole soundscape and the flow is engaging enough that it can take me to the filthiest depths of any scumland. There is a good possibility for the same exact song to reappear three or more times on this record but their constant groove is capable of breaking the threatening monotony. Is there even any monotony in distortion? It is a brave mission but I have an ass big enough to sit through this almost half an hour of brain pounding and after all the formula they apply is decent enough that I don’t mind hearing it over and over again.

KALEIDOSCOPE – After the Futures… LP (Toxic State / La Vida Es Un Mus)
A great record wants more than acceptance. There are cool LPs that effortlessly fill out the templates of hardcore. Even that can be enjoyable. But After the Futures sounds like a craft work that tears every template into little pieces. It has been made for the future, as an exploration of what punk can do, how far it can go. We as listeners have to go with the band, it is not diluted to our picky taste. This is not a crazy, hard to digest record but it is well thought-out and interesting, while remaining true to the sound we all love. It contains a great energy that pushes each and every song into our damaged brains. The more I listen to it the more layers I realize and love. Keep it in rotation!

ENZYME – Howling Mind 12″ (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Future crust. The alienating sounds of collapsing metropolises. The pedal orgies that the riffs are thrown into are pretty smart and make it worth listening only to them through a full play of the LP. I like how the bass sound references the dumb, barely distorted classic Japanese solution, although it is groovier than its predecessors were. I like noise that is coming from people as it is a channel for their frustration. ENZYME sound like they can play whatever they want yet they choose to play noisecore. This takes away the risk and danger and replaces it with a lot of work to create such a forward thinking record. It is no longer about teenage problems neither it is dad noise. But still sounds like it comes from humans. The whole package is beautiful too.

POBREZA MENTAL – Ya No Me Pertenezco EP (Toxic State)
Coming from New York and sounding like everything but USHC. While Pobreza Mental has a unique sound they make me think of scenes and compilations filled with amazing bands. They do not sound like a collage of sounds but like a band of obsessed heads of international radical hardcore. This is a whirlpool of raw, noisy, innovative and radical sounds influenced by Italian, Finnish, Mexican, Colombian, Brazilian, etc. bands. Even though it refers to a complete history of radical rock’n’roll they still sound as restless as a band made by young kids writing songs against the world and not for the conditions of a subculture. The guitars sound amazing, the pace changes are well placed and the overall it sounds so evil and angry, it is rare and refreshing.

URIN – Incydent EP (Erste Theke Tonträger)
URIN toke ignorant hardcore and experimental noise, huffed a bottle of rush and made this 7”. It’s a powerhouse of irresistible noise, with great guitars that are convoluted enough to break the hegemony of back and forth tugged riffs. As an international band their possible multiple references turn the music into a pool of different madness. It’s a short and consistent 7” that like bombs are exploding in my mind per second every time and I love it.

ÉSZLELÉS – Középtempó Radikále EP (Megvető Kiadó / Pizza Days)
ÉSZLELÉS is included here not because they are locals though I am lucky that we live in the same town. They play groove heavy, slamming punk somewhere between a slower NO TREND or more evil KBD and a lot of the Texas LSD punk scene mixed with Hungarian everyday frustration. They use toy-ish wind instruments with an art-brut “what the fuck is this” approach, that keeps a good distance from any ridicule. But they are funny in the best possible way. They think about how punk can be fucked up while staying within the limits of authenticity. It’s a non-shock rock brain bombing and you need this!

SEX DWARF – Sensou Hantai EP (D-Takt & Råpunk / Konton Crasher)
SEX DWARF is a band you can trust. It is just fucking noise that grows on you. For me the main reason why I love them is because their singer released records 33 years ago and instead of slowing down and clearing the channels, he plays this fucking madness that sounds fresh, angry, ugly, and smart. This gives me so much inspiration. We need people who grab our attention and take us out from our known and boring environments to somewhere challenging. Although it is not difficult for me to accept this cacophony, I still love it.

NATHALIA VICCARI

I’m Nathalia Viccari aka Natha. I’m from São Paulo, but I currently live in Buenos Aires. I played drums in Rakta, Pessimists and in my first band called Vitima. In 2017, I started researching the first South American punk bands with female participation, but I stopped because of the difficulty of knowing the history of punk in countries that are currently in crisis, such as Bolivia and Chile. This year I was more focused on understanding the chaos here in South America, so I confess I did not follow new releases as much as I used to, but I still appreciate the invitation. Here goes my Top Ten of the year!

HANK WOOD AND THE HAMMERHEADS – Heads CS (self-released)
I remember the first time I heard HANK WOOD and how impressed I was with the aggression along with the keyboard and percussion. Since then, all the albums they release are automatically in my Top Ten. So sad it only lasts two pleasurable songs.

CANKRO / VIDRO – split CS (self-released)
Listening to this split this year really made me feel like I was missing out because I am so far away. Saudades de São Paulo and all the fucking chaos.

SHEER MAG – A Distant Call LP (Wilsuns Recording Company)
The album is not my favorite but still not out of my favorites of the year for some songs that stayed in loop for weeks in my head.

INSEPARABLES – Demagogia Rock Estadio digital (Moscu Estudios)
Simple, Ramones and more Argentinean impossible!

TANNING BEDS – On The Assembly Line Of Heads LP (Twintoe / Uzi Lovegun Rob-O-Matic Cool Cat Tommy T)
I really like URANIUM CLUB, like a lot, so I’m always looking for bands that are similar, and this band really caught my attention this year.

LUX – New Day EP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
This last release is sooo good, maybe even better than the LP they released last year, Barcelona forever.

UBIK – Next Phase 12″ (Iron Lung)
The demo was superb! I already liked the demo a lot, and I think this album surpassed my expectations.

DARK THOUGHTS – Must Be Nice LP (Drunken Sailor / Stupid Bag)
Ramones type again! I can’t get enough! Right before the end of the year another jewel is released.

DESPERFECTO – Quanta Gerra EP (R&A Schallplatten)
Perfect punk from South America, especially coming from Chile.

PELADA – Movimiento Para Cambio LP (Pan)
The only way I can get into the techno beat and seeing her play is even more impressive.

ERIN YANKE

Erin Yanke is a longtime MRR shitworker and a host of Life During Wartime on KBOO in Portland. She was an editor of this year’s massive DEAD MOON book and plays in NOXEEMA.

Now Songs for Now Times. I’m not counting reissues here in my Top 10 of 2019, or we’d be swimming in RAW POWER, the COMES, MERCENARIAS, POLO PEPO, LOST SOUNDS, etc. The new versions of the old songs are just too many, and while I appreciate the releases, I don’t think they should be on 2019 top tens. This includes what would be my number one record this year the RATS In a Desperate Red LP (Mississippi/Water Wing).

The order of the alphabet seems best for this list, as the records that are best changes by my need for catharsis or fun.

ANDY HUMAN AND THE REPTOIDS – Psychic Sidekick LP (Total Punk)
I liked the 7″s, sure, but this record stayed on my turntable as my spring soundtrack. They lock it in to the deep grooves that DEVO and others have made in my heart, but keep it unpredictable. Great vocals. “You Like Your Job” is my favorite.

CONTROL TOP – Covert Contracts LP (Get Better)
CONTROL TOP shouts about things that I shout about! I feel comradery and also catharsis from this record.

FRENZY – 12″ (Distort Reality)
Noisy and frantic! This is my soundtrack when I can’t keep up with myself and the shitty world. I love the speed, the riffs, the vocals that are just so pointedly there—not yelling at me, but for me! They transmit the fun part of the spikey punk life.

GONZO – Do It Better Again LP (Anti Fade)
Australian punk that just scratches that rocknroll itch. They’re a rock band visiting us from an alternative timeline where rock wasn’t corrupted by major label bullshit politics, beauty standards, connections and shady shit.

HARAM – Where Were You on 9/11? EP (Toxic State)
This record is so important! I appreciate the visceral soundtrack to surveillance culture and Islamophobia, the people’s art where for so long the mainstream narrative has suffocated out the alternative views. Rad as in awesome and radical. Rad as in total resistance. This is why we are the punks.

HETEROFOBIA – Queremos Ver El Mundo Arder LP (Drunken Sailor)
The same ingredients to make the best of rippin’  hardcore, but with depth of rage that makes this even better! Fully alive and fully realized.

PHYSIQUE – The Evolution of Combat 12″ (Distort Reality) and The Rhythm of Brutality 12″/10″ (Distort Reality / Static Shock)
I can just repeat myself from last year: PHYSIQUE is incredible. Magnetic. Palpably changing the people in the room from stiff self-conscious spikey punks to participatory comrades. I’m all in, especially after the live shows. This record is a reminder what we’re up against, and whose side I am on. The Evolution of Combat has had more time to win my heart, but I think The Rhythm of Brutality will be its twin, and I refuse to choose between the two at this point. Ask me next year.


PREENING – Gang Laughter LP (Digital Regress)
Preening gets more interesting as the years go by, the tightrope balance of punk freedom of doing what you want with noise freak out skronking and seeing what happens, while not getting Too Free and leaving the listeners behind.

SCRAP BRAIN – A Journey Into Madness LP (Drunken Sailor / Thrilling Living)
Ah, I love this album! Some true freak scene expression! Weirdo punk freedom, gritty and tough and fearless and in your damn fucking stupid face! This inspires me to reach deeper to all the parts of life, the ugly and the transcendent and the true of our damn times.

THE UV RACE – Made in China LP (Aarght!)
The genius continues! Murder! They write for all the bad moods and sly romance vibes and the other emotions and experiences that don’t get songs written on the regular. Sparse and loose but not too loose. Mr. Blame! Plus catchy! Act Like Them! I just can’t get enough. Exuberant! Awesome!