I’m in a plane right now, flying across the country, then across the Atlantic. I’m contemplating the last year and along with it the bands and records that left a mark on me. Do we chose music to match our mood or do we listen to music to counteract it? I would say both, though mostly I listen to music because I would go insane without it. As with every Year End Top Ten list I’ve done so far, for better or worse, I write about the records that I actually listened to constantly, and not the ones I think should be on this list. Hopefully you will appreciate the honestly. Punk is love, my undying love.
AUSENCIA – EP
This EP has been on such heavy rotation I am surprised it still plays. Something about AUSENCIA checks every box for me. The melancholy driving the whole sound is what gets me the most, whether that is found in the riffs, the vocals or the lyrics, which are sung in Spanish and which, especially on the self-titled track, literally make we well up with emotion. This is coming straight from the depths of existence—simply poignant.
BARCELONA – “Extremo Nihilismo en Barcelona” 12”
With some of the most gruesome vocals in hardcore right now, this gives all the tough boy acts out there a run for their money. Unrestrained raw hardcore energy, heavy and pounding, some tracks on here have a certain transcendent effect on me, transforming the listen into something deeper—it’s almost like experiencing a primitive ritual. Engrossing and hostile, Extreme Nihilismo en Barcelona sounds like a testament to the chaos that envelops us a little more each day. Pouring that aggravation into their instruments, BARCELONA channel something pure and expel something frightening and filthy—and the record cover also manifests that perfectly. Supreme!
(La Vida Es Un Mus)
CIUDAD LINEAL – “Nuevo Hombre” LP
Probably the record I effectively listened to the most this year; at home, at work, on my bike, when I needed something to match my mood and also when I needed something to counteract it—a rare trait in a record you must admit. From beginning to end, every track is well-crafted and highly contagious minimal wave masterpiece. It sounds simple at first but, with every listen, I discover more ways in which they’ve given this thought and attention, making it a highly addictive, multi-layered record. The structural development of the songs and the beat repetitions make it comforting, the lyrics and artwork support the conceptualization driving the sound, while the synth melodies and nuanced electronic details just enchant me. Tracks like “Horizonte,” “Máquinas,” “Industria,” “Los Olvidados” and “Impulso” (my most played track of the year, for sure) have woven their way into my heart, transforming Nuevo Hombre into a haven to go back to. Count me in as an über-fan.
(La Vida Es Un Mus)
DIÄT – “Positive Energy” LP
Sometimes you hear a song and you know it’s going to play in your brain from now until the end of time. DIÄT’s first full-length was well worth the wait, as they deliver a fine-tuned platter that encapsulates the band’s spirit like few other releases this year. The attention paid to detail, the cohesion to the aesthetic, lyrics and production, the originality to the songwriting and execution, all point to DIÄT becoming a true post-punk force to be reckoned with. Not many bands manage to channel the bleak existential realities of modern life into something as captivating as Positive Energy (even the name is brilliantly conceived) but DIÄT manage without even breaking a sweat.
LA MISMA – “Kanizadi” LP
An absolute banger from start to finish! Packed with riffs, hooks and some of the most passionate vocals in punk right now, LA MISMA have unleashed a record that is as shambolic as it is forceful. Brimming with enough energy to melt your speakers, this record hits hard without losing any of its ability to stick in your head like a splinter. Best riff of the year goes to Kanizadi opener, a perfect homage to CRISIS for which I am most grateful. A tour de force that puts LA MISMA at the forefront of the exciting NYC scene right now.
MUERTE – LP
Arriving just in time to get on to this list, I simply adored their demo tape and this follow up LP is certainly a magnificent next step for my favourite band from Mexico right now. MUERTE abide by no rules and, much like their tape, they fantastically blend a mix of dark punk melodies, hardcore D-beats and black metal atmosphere, without getting too heavy on any one of those elements, but instead forging a new sound that is unique and fresh. I believe it was Robert Collins who described it as “death punk” and that’s a definition I endorse. Adding a couple more mid-tempo tracks to the action, they balance them out with darker, faster songs that remind me of why I fell for this band to begin with. Melodic and despairing with exceptional vocals, guitar hooks and riffs that are as spine chilling as they are catchy and enraged, drumming that highlights and propels the sub-styles in a most appropriate manner and a final production that may not be as noisy as their demo, but certainly as loud and as chaos-inducing. MUERTE do what they do unapologetically and I could not be happier!
ORDEN MUNDIAL – “El Nuevo Sonido Balear” EP
Are three songs enough to make you spin a record over and over? Of course they are and this tour EP is so fierce I fear a nosebleed every time I jam it at top volume. ORDEN MUNDIAL have proven why they should be considered one of the best hardcore bands on the planet right now and this EP only furthers that theory for me. Sharp, aggressive and furiously fast, El Nuevo Sonido Balear feels like an alignment of forces so powerful they’re almost jumping out of the speakers. A fierce beast, truly incomparable, in terms of both sound and realization. A mind blowing band.
(La Vida Es Un Mus)
RIXE – “Coups et Blessures” EP
RIXE are the best surprise to come out of France this year! Four pogo-perfect Oi! tracks that draw from the best of classic canons, a mix of raw Oi!, burly hardcore and dirty punk. With tracks that are as empowering and fun as they are stomping and rowdy, this EP is so damn catchy it’s ridiculous. RIXE keep the tone upbeat, with the vibrant bass and agitated drums making this positively bounce with oomph. You don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel to make a timeless punk record and this is exactly that. Killer!
(La Vida Es Un Mus)
SANG – “Món Oblidat” EP
Can I just get SANG to play from the imaginary speakers in the sky every morning when I leave my house? Italy has never had a shortage of raging, vicious hardcore and punk bands and SANG keep that point proven with one hell of an EP. With massive riffs, pummeling drums and gnarly female vocals—I’m addicted to the opening vocals and drums to “Peus de Fang”—this earns my deepest esteem for its teeth-baring ferocity and serrated edge sound. Sung in Catalan, the lyrical aspect intrigues and mystifies me and I find it complements the straightforward aggression of the music, giving this an additional dimension often missing from hardcore records. “Hemp Pertut la Vida” is one of my favourite songs of the year. Get it or get out.
(La Vida Es Un Mus)
STRASBOURG – “Fruit de la Passion” LP
What a band, what a record! After last year’s superb Sex et Violence, comes another great record from Bordeaux’s STRASBOURG. Fusing minimal coldwave beats with hypnotic synths, the resulting sounds are pure poetry to my ears. Sung in French, the vocals drip with venomous seduction as the songs meander through the darker corners of human desire—for me, this is the perfect soundtrack to self-destructive hedonism. The whole record is soaked in an eerie and decadent ambience, accentuated perfectly by the violin, which comes to the forefront in the most infectious of ways. It lingers in my mind like the best of memories. Just stunning. #totalbandcrush
(Le Turc Mecanique)