The 10 best Twin Cities punk albums of 2013
Ponx at the Total Trash Tape Release
Every year the doomsayers and cynics crawl out of the woodwork and grumble that the Twin Cities punk scene is dead. But if you subscribe to that bullshit in 2013, it's pretty clear that you're old, narrow-minded, or simply not paying attention. True, it might be a little harder to find, but that's because many bands have gone underground, returning to their roots in basements and eschewing the now-standardized social media blitz. What's left is a tight-knit but incredibly diverse scene, separated by style and intensity but united by purpose and an enduring commitment to the DIY values our community has always been known for.
A quick word on format: this is not a ranked list. It's in alphabetic order, because D-Beat Crust and bubbly pop-punk are nearly impossible to compare. Also, for the purposes of this list, an "album" must by at least 4 songs long. Check out the Honorable Mentions section at the bottom for some of the year's best singles, and a few that didn't quite make the cut.
Courtesy of Diver Dress
Diver Dress - The Silence EP
Diver Dress have been a bit of a slow burn, gaining some attention with a strong 7-inch back in 2011 before taking a break for things like school and baby-having. The four-piece returned this year with a strong showing in the form of their 6-track Silence EP. Engineered and produced by Ali Jafaar of Hollow Boys fame, who's been on a hot-streak this year, at his Ecstattic Studio, the 8-inch record is full of fuzzy, garage punk goodness. Their sound mixes left-coast lo-fi with a dash of angular noise and riot-grrrl aesthetics when bassist Angie Kilcher takes her turn on the mic.
Courtesy of Kitten Forever
Kitten Forever - Pressure
While they've been college radio favorites around the Twin Cities for a decent while now, Kitten Forever finally made their defining statement of purpose with their second album, Pressure. Still a three-piece, but now more flexible in their instrumentation, all of the women in Kitten Forever now take turns on vocals, although their voices mesh extremely well together. Another awesome release from Ecstattic Studios, the LP finally nails the propulsive minimalism of the band's live show while still sounding presentable for airplay. Fans of local faves like Babes in Toyland and feminist punk definitely need to give this one a listen.
Courtesy of Kontrasekt
Kontrasekt - End of Destruction
Kontrasekt specialize in a style of bone-crushingly heavy Blackened Crust sometimes referred to by its signature machine-gun drum sound known as D-Beat. With their insane tempos and guttural screams, Kontrasekt fit right in with our burgeoning Crust scene here in the Twin Cities, but their unique usage of heavy reverb and screeching industrial noise have drawn comparisons to the hardcore weirdness currently popular in Japan. In fact, Kontrasekt does their take on the pulverizing genre so well that this record was picked up by the legendary MCR label, something like the Japanese version of SST, which rarely releases American bands, let alone ones from our corner of the nation.
Artwork by David Watt
Much Worse - Macrocosm is a Wash
God bless groups like Much Worse for keeping the hardcore flag flying high in the Twin Cities. This is the kind of uncompromising, blisteringly fast record that sounds like it could've come straight from the '80s DC punk scene if it weren't for the brutal, contemporary breakdowns. Released on local label Forward!, purveyors of all things heavy, this full-length LP is a breakneck race to this finish, with not a single track breaking the three-minute mark. Recorded by Mat Castore of Condominium at his A Harder Commune studio, the mix is crystal clear without a hint of polish. Technical and ferocious, Macrocosm makes it impossible to sit still.
Photo by Suzy Sharp
Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band - Promises to Deliver
While his current project probably stretches the definition of the word, Nato Coles is a true-blue punk journeyman for the ages. Veteran of a handful of stellar pop-punk groups based in Milwaukee and Minneapolis, Promises to Deliver sees Nato and his current group embracing the epic, melodic textures of Thin Lizzy and the Boss. But even on the album's mellower, more contemplative cuts there's a restless, rebel spirit that puts this defiantly outside of classic rock cheese. If there was any justice in the world, Nato and the BDB's excellent songwriting would put them in the Gaslight Anthem's place at the top of the rock charts.
Courtesy of Serenghetto
Serenghetto - S/T 7-inch
Weird and wonderful, Serenghetto resists easy categorization. The aggression of basement-honed hardcore is present, but the deliberate tempos and spiky riffing push things towards the weirder end of X's surf-punk in places. Add a healthy dose of feedback squalls and general freakiness reminiscent of Butthole Surfers and you've got a wholly unique band reflective of our scene's cross-pollination. Recorded by Matt Castore (again), and originally released as a 9-song CD to promote the group's tour of the DIY circuit last year, Serenghetto trimmed the fat to fit the entire 5 song EP comfortably onto a 7-inch this May.
Cover by BrainBox Art & Design
Sundowners - The Larger Half of Wisdom
Originally hailing from the wild lands of Northern Minnesota, Sundowners are torchbearers for the kind of darkly melodic, heavy pop-punk that put Twin Cities punk on the map. While their debt to Dillinger Four is evident, the four-piece is charmingly hooky with strong chops and sing-along choruses that just don't quit. Their second full-length gives the group plenty of room to stretch their songwriting, taking a few unexpected turns towards vulnerability before finishing strong with the incredible "Dig Deeper" and "Revolving." Out on New Mexico-based label Dirt Cult Records, home to national acts like Big Eyes and Crusades, these iron-range boys finally have an appropriate platform for their perspective.
Artwork by Dustin McChesney
Total Trash - You Don't Try and I Don't Care EP
Springing from out of nowhere to make a hell of a lot of noise, the punk prodigies in Total Trash get the "hustle" award for 2013. Touring like mad and releasing their recent 7-inch I Don't Care along with their "full length" (not quite 15 minutes long) tape You Don't Try, Total Trash have already been turning influential heads on the national scene. Guitarist Dustin McChesney and singer Jessica Katz have a white-hot chemistry that's palpable, even on record, and his frantic shredding hammers her banshee screams into your eardrums. The newer EP adds the bass-playing talents of Hannah Kathleen and sees the group altering course slightly from west coast hardcore towards icier post-punk sounds.
Courtesy of Tree Blood
Tree Blood - One Take Tape/Self-Titled
Ramshackle, heart-on-the-sleeve sloppiness has always been a celebrated quality of TC rock 'n' roll since back when Suicide Commandos were just getting started, and while Tree Blood is a newer group, they've got buckets full of that same shaggy charm. Flirting the line with the indie melodicism of groups like Japandroids and Titus Andronicus, Tree Blood veers harder towards punk with throat-shredding vocal intensity and more grounded songwriting. This EP, done as a two-piece and recorded from start to finish in a single take, was released by local cassette label MJMJ. The band's super-saturated guitar and minimal but punchy drums made this July release the perfect end-of-summer headbanger.
Courtesy of Wild Child
Wild Child - S/T EP
Deranged Records, based out of British Columbia, is vanguard for quality punk and hardcore and it's no surprise they picked up our local basement-destroyers Wild Child for a 7-inch EP released in March. Wild Child is the kind of group that challenges traditional definitions of hardcore with a raw, manic and totally batshit kind approach that folks tired of braindead macho-core will find extremely refreshing. Never seeming to settle into a single rhythm, the five songs on Wild Child's EP are a scattershot of nihilistic urges manifested into incisive two-minute screeds. With a run-time comfortably under eight minutes, you'll want to put the 45 on repeat so Wild Child can fry your eardrums again.
Honorable Mention/Not Long Enough:
The Slow Death - No Heaven
Ponx Attax - Bad Ponx 7"
Deepcuts - Fable
Ex-Nuns - Dead of Zero
Condominium - Carl (ON SUB POP!)
Stereo Confession - First Communion
Casual User - Demo/Third Time's a Try
Deleter - 56789
Eleganza! - Bed Rock
Real Numbers - Only Two Can Play
France Camp - S/T
Reckless Ones - S/T EP
Narco States - S/T EP
Frankie Teardrop - Tough Guy EP
The Modern Era - The Swag EP
Sleepyhead - Never Trust a Label
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