So a few words about format. For the sake of brevity without this just being a total listicle I opted for a top 10 overall and some pseudo-specific categories to talk about some of the other highlights in the music that was punk and punk-adjacent in 2019 which, good grief, was it ever stacked. We saw everything from straight-ahead, raw punk fury to sweet ditties about love and loss and everything in between. There was such a wide variety available to punk fans this year that we can’t really do it all justice but I’m going to take a swing at it anyway.
The WUP Top 10 Albums of 2019
Dead Bars – Regulars
La Dispute – Panorama
Clowns – Nature/Nurture
Zeta – Mochima
Bars of Gold – Shelters
Petrol Girls – Cut and Stitch
State Faults – Clairvoyant
Nightmarathons – Missing Parts
Cold Wrecks – This Could Be Okay
Makewar – Get It Together
After a long inner debate about how to assemble my top 10 for this year I landed on the above for a few different reasons. First, I wanted to highlight the exemplary albums from bands that maybe weren’t expected to be here at the end of the year or deserved a bit more shine. Were there other albums that have done better, so far, commercially or received a much wider, louder swathe of praise in the genre? Perhaps. Are those albums also great? Absolutely. So I found room for them in other ways.
This year, though, there were albums that ran neck and neck for tops on my list, most surprisingly for varied reasons. Dead Bars takes the top spot because Regulars just never left my rotation. And it still hasn’t. La Dispute’s Panorama is a breath-taking and emotionally turbulent sonic journey as it is a post-punk album of enormous yet intensely personal scope. In a way, these two albums represent the way this list broke. Infectious albums of pure punk rock or those that stretched boundaries in remarkable ways. Clowns, Nightmarathons, Cold Wrecks, and Makewar fell more into the former while Zeta, Bars of Gold, Petrol Girls, and State Faults all marked out their own territory in the latter. All are worth your attention.
Too Big to Fail
Titus Andronicus – An Obelisk
PUP – Morbid Stuff
The Menzingers – Hello Exile
So, as it says on the tin, these are the bands who released new albums this year that have rightly been feted by audiences and critics in equal measure. The new Titus is some fantastic rock n’ roll. PUP does PUP things, bigger and better than ever on an album that should top any number of end of year lists. The Menzingers came back this year with another album of memorable melodies and lyrics to tug at your heart strings in that way that only this Pennsylvania band can do. I love these albums and you probably do as well. Or you should. They landed here in my evaluation because they met and/or exceeded what we’ve come to expect from these three stalwart bands.
The Emeritus Section
The Get Up Kids – Problems
Say Anything – Oliver Appropriate
Strung Out – Under the Western Sky
Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers
One of the encouraging things we saw this year was the re-emergence of some, for lack of a better term, legacy acts with potent collections of new material. The above four acts fall into this category. Problems has the Get Up Kids sounding as good as ever and arguably better than when they last left us. Both Strung Out and Good Riddance provided ample evidence that they are as virulent, pissed off, and tuneful as ever. I fully expected to love both of these albums and I do but there was one surprise in this category. That was the apparent swan song of Say Anything. If this is truly it and we are never going to experience this music again, Oliver Appropriate gives us the emotional send-off that seems only, well, apropos considering the checkered story of the act’s existence.
Billy Liar – Some Legacy
Dave Hause – Kick
Tim Barry – The Roads to Richmond
Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – Routine Maintenance
For the most part these are the guys with guitars who kicked ass in their own respective ways. I’ve gone on at some length about Billy Liar being the heir apparent, in a very deep field, to Frank Turner. Dave Hause, on the other hand, continues to crank out anthems filling the void left behind by Gaslight Anthem. Meanwhile, Tim Barry, the frontman of legendary Richmond, VA punks, Avail, returned with another set of solemn solo acoustic songs as he continues to improve with each new release. Last but not least, I’ve shoehorned in the latest from Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, which was more a straight up indie rock record than a typical acoustic punk album. However, the emotional depth and the performance on Routine Maintenance made it anything but routine for those who gave it a whirl this year.
More Fun Than Tacks on Your Chair
Dinosaur Pile-Up – Celebrity Mansions
Devon Kay and the Solutions – Yes I Can’t
Hippie Trim – Cult
The thing all three of these bands have in common is that they’re emblematic of the undercurrent of bands that still exist in the punk/indie/alt-rock scene that haven’t lost sight of having fun with their music. While Dinosaur Pile-Up have been doing their thing for close to a decade now, on Celebrity Mansions they sound more focused and fun as ever proving themselves a worthy soundtrack for your parties into 2020 and beyond. Devon Kay and the Solutions, on the other hand, go more for self-deprecating humor and tongue-in-cheek jokes about handling breakups and a variety of daily life problems with the kind of bounce that will have you gleefully laughing and bounding around your room at midnight contemplating how it all went wrong. Germany’s Hippie Trim, however, go the route of making music the way I go about putting together IKEA furniture by fastening whatever seems to fit and then marveling at what comes out of being more than the sum of by-the-number parts. Saying the band are stylistically all over the map hardly does it justice but that’s exactly what makes Cult such a fun release that shouldn’t escape your gaze simply because it came out at the tail end of the year.
Too Live, Too Lit
Yes, these are all going to be culled from the Fest but I wanted to take yet another opportunity to urge you to not only check out the following bands’ recorded work but to also mark your calendars for any live appearances these artists make anywhere near you in 2020 and beyond. First, Gillian Carter. The only word that is apt for this band’s live show is piledriving chaos. Go check out our write-up about the band on our Best of list.
Pity Party was one of my big surprises at the Fest. Potent, powerful, tuneful, and extremely vital for their ongoing contributions to emo-tinged pop-punk and mental health advocacy, if you like punk music and progressing the scene definitely go see this band rip it up live.
Last but definitely not least, I can only repeat my call to go see Dead Bars live. Regulars is our number one this year for a reason but it’s the band’s raucous live show that sealed the deal for their top spot. So go have a “pink drink” and shout your lungs out at a show by Seattle’s finest in 2020.
Our EOTY Playlist
There were so many memorable moments in punk music this year. Whether it was complete surprises such as Denzel Curry’s spot on take of a Bad Brains classic, Brutalligators’ “Crows” (my #1 of this year), and Floorboards’ “Low” or expected gold from bands like Torche (“Admission”) or the Menzingers (“Strangers Forever”) there is more than enough room for a variety of styles within the genre to earn a place in your own personal playlists. So give ours a spin and see if there’s something new to add to yours.