Releases of the Year: 2020

 




1. Punisher - Phoebe Bridgers

Dead Oceans


This is a review I ended up holding off on, due to the sheer pressure I put on myself to “get it right.” The thing is - that’s going entirely against the spirit of what I’m writing about. Phoebe Bridgers, a 25-year-old singer-songwriter from California that exploded in popularity this year, embodies a lot of what makes a musician successful in 2020. Her music is simple without being basic - remaining accessible to a more casual listener, while still impressing more seasoned indie fan. On top of that, she’s fucking hilarious (see tweets here), and there’s just something about hearing soul-stirringly beautiful ballads being sang by a girl who you also feel like also has a really funny story behind why she doesn’t like whiskey or Scorpio men anymore. For those uninitiated, the album title is essentially a slang term for someone who talks too long to people who don’t care about what they’re talking about. The funny thing about this word is that it’s incredibly easy for genuinely interesting people to feel like “punishers,” including Bridgers herself. The title track to the album describes her feelings of closeness and yearning to know her late idol, Elliott Smith. To sum it up - “Punisher” feels like the perfect catch-all to all the themes she explores, including celebrity admiration, loving someone more than they love you, talking to god, and every other situation we enter into as humans that makes us feel like we’ve had the mic a little too long. There’s tracks that showcase Phoebe’s ability to write a catchy hit, but that doesn’t take away from the depth of the remaining tracks. The title track, “Punisher,” dips the listener’s toes into the level of emotional intimacy they’re about to enter into, followed by “Halloween,” a dark, finger-picked melody and lyrics vague enough to keep one’s emotions at bay. This switches to an absolute sucker-punch of a series of tracks - “Chinese Satellite,” “Moon Song,” and “Savior Complex.” These are some of the most vulnerable songs on the album - on the first, Bridgers grapples with her desperate desire to believe in god. On the second, Phoebe sings a hauntingly gorgeous love song about a complex relationship. “Savior Complex” continues on the same note - Bridgers refers to it as a continuation of the previous song. Speaking to Genius, Bridgers describes it as, “It’s like when you get what you asked for, and then you’re dating someone who hates themselves.” Later on, “Graceland Too,” a song that features her boygenius bandmates, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, as they tell a beautiful, country-tinged tale of the adventures they’ve had together. Last but not least, the album wraps with “I Know the End.” Bridgers has said multiple times that she loves a good, strong outro, and Jesus Christ, this song hits the mark, then speeds past it. It’s hard for a 6-minute song not to overstay its welcome, but the perfectly blended first and second halves of the songs both earn their spot on the record as a love letter to the end of the world. With this sophomore effort, Bridgers has not wasted a single note.


My favorite tracks are Moon Song, Savior Complex, I Know the End, Punisher, and Graceland Too.





2. Painting Words Into Lines - Koyo

Independent


Despite the events that have transpired, Long Island’s Koyo have had a really good first year as a band. It’s easy for things that happened prior to the events of this year to get lost in the shuffle, but they made their mark with this 5-song EP. Taking inspiration from the iconic melodic hardcore and early 2000’s emo bands from their home turf, including Somerset Thrower, Silent Majority, The Movielife, Taking Back Sunday, and more, Koyo managed to honor those influences with an authenticity that many bands have tried to achieve. However, this is one of the few bands that has actually managed to nail that sound without completely ripping off their mentors. As vocalist Joey Chiaramonte put it in our interview from earlier this year, “People these days really confuse doing worship bands and having a band with strong influences. … We didn’t just rewrite a bunch of songs from bands we liked.” Besides that - as I’ve often said in the past, I love EPs that feel like they were curated with some kind of intention. Each song has its own personality, with Chiaramonte giving us his perspective on heartbreak, growing up, friendships, and all the lessons you learn as you enter your 20’s. As one of the faster-paced, catchier tracks, “Hanging From Grace” makes a fantastic introduction. “Song For Anthony” switches gears towards their melodic hardcore roots, with the track “Dreaming in a Wasteland” following in a similar vein. “Heaven So Heavy” and “Translucent” both lean further into their emo influences as the softer tracks on the EP, while still making their mark with memorable hooks and Chiaramonte’s honest, confessional lyric style. With the powers of their talent, nostalgia, and ever-growing fanbase, this band is going to go places. After a debut this promising, I couldn’t be more excited for them to be able to play shows and release more music. 


*Bonus: If you’re interested in hearing some of these tracks done acoustically, check out Short Beach Sessions, which they also released in 2020!


My favorite tracks are Heaven So Heavy, Hanging From Grace, and Song For Anthony.




3. Flesh, Steel, Victory… - Seed of Pain

Plead Your Case Records


South Florida is known for their massive hardcore scene - especially after the mid-2010’s boom of bands like Bind and Blistered - but I’ve been waiting for a band to strike with that same kind of ferocious metallic hardcore for a minute. Luckily, here comes Seed of Pain with their sophomore record to save the day. Speaking of Florida - Seed of Pain features an all-star cast of members of bands that include Moment of Truth, Ecostrike, and Envision. One of the things that takes a hardcore band from good to great, in my opinion, is their passion. That passion has been apparent in every previous project they’ve done. A lot of modern bands and hardcore kids these days aren’t as enthusiastic to be hardcore kids as generations past. However, with tracks like “Back Again” and “Hardcore Pride Never Dies,” these guys are not afraid to admit their pride for what they do, and that makes me want to support them even more. Regarding this record, in previous interviews, the band has cited heavy influence from bands like Ringworm in the past. This time around, they’ve aimed to make things a little more personalized, but those Cleveland and East Coast 90’s influences still come through strong. As a bonus, the album art (done by Dead At Birth Fanzine’s Kyle Niland) is badass - and it really suits the vibe of the record. All in all, as a listener, I can tell a lot of care went into crafting Flesh, Steel, Victory... It fills a gap in current hardcore I didn’t realize was there. Seed of Pain is one of the best metallic hardcore bands to come out in quite some time, and this is a really solid release from them.


My favorite tracks are Leadbelcher, Damned to the Trenches, and Hardcore Pride Never Dies.




4. One Scene Unity Compilation - Various Artists
From Within Records

As one of the records I listened to most in 2020, I had to include this compilation. Carter Holmes, owner of From Within, did something amazing - after the first 24 hours this was out, for the first time in a long time, nearly the entirety of the internet was talking about hardcore in a positive way. The events of 2020, as well as the lack of shows, have made it hard to be excited about hardcore for a lot of people - but this comp boosted a lot of people’s spirits for a bit. This was a two-way effort - while comps can tend to be a label offering up a selection that says, “Here, take the most popular song from every band we have,” it’s clear that Carter picked each band with care. On the other hand, the bands did not hold back in any way - many of the tracks on here are some of the best material the bands have put out. None of these tracks come off like album throwaways, and they all give you an awesome idea of each band’s sound. Additionally, there’s a ton of different subgenres represented here. Bands like Last Straw and Restraining Order represent the more punk-influenced side of things, while others like MH Chaos and Seed of Pain lean towards the heavier side. Still, there’s bands like Shackled and Hangman that hang out somewhere in the middle. There’s truly something for everyone, making this a fantastic way to showcase how alive and well modern hardcore truly is - the One Scene. Check it out and find yourself a new favorite band.


My favorite tracks are Overcome by Shackled, My Kind of Hate by MH Chaos, One By One by Envision, and Deserters Pay in Flesh by Seed of Pain.




5. No Blame… Just Facts - Pain of Truth

DAZE


Hands down - this is one of the best new bands to come out all year. Featuring members of legendary Northeast bands like Hangman, Rain of Salvation, Life’s Question, and more, Pain of Truth is comprised of an awesome team. Echoing back to 90’s New York hardcore bands like Biohazard and Billy Club Sandwich, this is straight-up heavy hardcore that cuts straight to the chase - no bullshit. Speaking of which - this EP is loaded with features from some of the best vocalists in hardcore today, including Billy Club’s very own Martin Gonzalez. Others include Life Question’s Josh Haynes, Year of the Knife’s Tyler Mullen, King Nine’s Dan Seely, and Simulakra’s Dom Pabon. If you’re skeptical of that many guest vocalists, don’t be - each one fits perfectly and adds something unique without overwhelming the songs. There’s a lot of heavy bands in the world. You could fill playlist after playlist with the amount of incredible 90’s beatdown bands that already exist. However, in my eyes, Pain of Truth are one of the few bands that come near the energy of the greats. Give it a listen.


My favorite tracks are The Test, Two Choices and LINYHC.




6. Actualize/Radiation Reel and Two of a Kind - Excide
New Morality Zine

I had a hard time deciding which of Excide’s EPs to put in my top 10 - and I’m taking the liberty of merging the two EPs together for this entry. While the band has only released 5 songs total, the sheer amount of times I listened to both justifies Excide’s spot as one of my favorite new bands from this year. When I heard their first EP, Two of a Kind - I was instantly hooked. This is a band that’s fully occupying their own lane in hardcore right now, as opposed to chasing what’s trendy - and I’m super into it. The 90’s influences, like Snapcase and Quicksand, are definitely pretty clear here, but the band has managed to put a unique twist on a classic sound. Newer hardcore kids who come in through bands like Turnstile will definitely be into Excide - there’s no lack of breakdowns and mosh parts here, but there’s just as many groovy parts to dance and sing along to, echoing back to their older, more 90’s-influenced material. I’m really excited about this band, and I can’t wait to hear these songs live when the time comes.


My favorite tracks from both EPs are Actualize and Come Clean, respectively.




7. From the Leaves of Your Garden - Modern Color
Other People Records

At this point, I feel like comparing a band to Title Fight is a writing cliche. Referencing them as an influence can often function as a catchall to those who don’t know how to categorize the shoegazey alt-rock bands that can sometimes accompany hardcore bands on show bills. However - from the first few songs, I was already noting the resemblance (particularly Hyperview). Modern Color wasn’t yet on my radar with their last release, Time Slips Behind Us - and if your knowledge of them began with that record, then this might be a change of pace for you. While their older material leaned heavily towards post-hardcore, From the Leaves of Your Garden signifies the band stepping in a new direction. Moving into dreamy, twangy alt-rock, the band has reinvented themselves, maturing without alienating past listeners. They’ve maintained the edge from their past material, while also proving their ability to write catchy choruses, full of expressive lyrics sung with emotive vocals, and instrumentals that channel a range of different emotions. Pick a rainy day and give this record a listen - you won’t regret it.


My favorite tracks are Invisible Ink, On & Off, Pale, Head Change, and Smiling Face.




8. Demo - Fleshwater

Independent


Through the amount of times I listened to this, I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of Fleshwater. The band features a talented group of people with many of their own separate projects - vocalist Marisa is typically better known as MIRSY, an ambient songstress from California. Opposite her on vocals and instrumentation are Vein vocalist and drummer Anthony DiDio and Matt Wood, respectively. Fleshwater exists outside of anything else the trio creates, which is what makes it so exciting to hear. The band meets somewhere in the middle of dream pop and 90’s alternative rock. The influence that comes to the forefront is definitely Deftones, but these ethereal, dreamy tracks take that influence and turn it into something entirely theirs. I’m not sure if this band plans to make any more music, but it would be fantastic news if they did. 


My favorite track is What Was Really Said.




9. Old Data in a New Machine Vol. 1 - Vein.FM
Closed Casket Activities

I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love Vein (now relabeled Vein.FM), so, for me, this release was definitely one of the most exciting things to come out this year. This is a compilation of re-recorded songs, remixes, and demos. I won’t pretend I know exactly what to call it, but if you’re familiar with vocalist Anthony DiDio’s solo work as death_fm, you have a good idea of the mood that the compilation follows. “20 seconds : 20 hours,” is an acoustic reimagining of “untitled,” with an acoustic alternative rock vibe that differs from the rest of the record. Regarding the re-recorded songs - which include hits from their earlier material like “Ripple/ripple+” and “Terror’s Realm/TR+” - the structure of each song is preserved, but the reimaginings are more in line with their newer sound - they’ve definitely taken a trip through the Errorzone, so to speak. Still, the remixes are even more different from everything else - there’s jungle mixes and more. This is a well-rounded, interesting release that really showcases the band’s creativity and range, without taking a single moment for granted.


My favorite tracks are 20 seconds : 20 hours, TR+, and paincanbetrusted - rough mix.




10. A Drip is All We Know - Fake Eyes

New Morality Zine


A lot of people in hardcore bands have dabbled in alternative/shoegaze-y projects. However, Fake Eyes has to be one of the best. Vocalist and guitarist Paul is typically known for being somewhere on the run with Magnitude, but this project shows his versatility. The band released their initial 2-song demo in 2018, making this their first full EP, as well as their first release with NMZ - and it’s an awesome venture into what Fake Eyes is about. A true homage to 90’s alt-rock, the band bears a heavy resemblance to bands like Hum and Mineral. Hazey instrumentals float perfectly over dreamy, imagery-heavy lyrics, creating a beautifully nuanced, nostalgic feel to their sound. They’re one of those bands that I could go on forever about in a poetic vein, but if it sounds like they could be your thing, I highly recommend you give Fake Eyes a listen yourself.


My favorite tracks are Subsystem Recognition and Illuminate.



Other albums, EPs, demos, and singles (no order)


Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) - Kali Uchis


Best track: “fue mejor” (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR) and “¡aquí yo mando!” (feat. Rico Nasty)

Good Days - SZA


(single) 

Petals For Armor - Hayley Williams


Best tracks: “Simmer,” “Dead Horse”, & “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” (feat. Boygenius)

Nectar - Joji


Best track: “NITROUS”

Ivy - Charmer


Best track: “Wolf Fang Fist”

Down Through - Gleemer


Best tracks: “Brush Back” and “TTX”

Paint My Memory - Somerset Thrower


Best track: “4:22” and “Drifter”

How I’m Feeling Now - Charli XCX


Best track: “claws” and “7 years”

Evermore - Taylor Swift


Best track: “gold rush” and “no body, no crime” (feat. HAIM)





Weight of the False Self - Hatebreed


Best track: “Cling to Life”

Good News - Megan Thee Stallion


Best track: “Freaky Girls (ft. SZA)”

Between Life - Typecaste


Best track: “Traverse” and “Under the Wreath”

Loyalty at All Costs - Gridiron


Best track: “Faceless Enemy”

Hit Different - SZA ft. Ty Dolla $ign


(single)

Promo 2020 - One Step Closer


(single + cover)


Demo - Carbonite


Best track: “Shell”

Demo - Scrutinize


Best track: “N.G.C”

The Seven Levels of Happiness - X. Kubrick


Best track: “X.A.V.I.E.R.”

Demo 2020 - Reality Check


Best track: “Spineless” and “Colonizer”

Spreading the Love - Gadget


Best track: “Running Wild” (feat. Abby Rhine)

Chewing Cotton Wool - The Japanese House


Best track: “Something Has to Change”

This Thing of Ours… - Out For Justice/Sector


Best track: “HV KICKBOX STYLE” and “KNOWYAPLACE”

Most Dangerous Game - Kharma


Best track: “Guilty by Association” and “Slave 2 Society”

Spring Demo - Enervate


Best track: “Target Off My Back”

Life on Earth - Summer Walker


Best track: “SWV ft. NO1-NOAH” and “White Tee (ft. NO1-NOAH)”

songs - Adrianne Lenker


Best track: “zombie girl”

Warn Me - Tigers Jaw


(single)

Endless Noise - The Fight


Best tracks: “Their New Aesthetic” & “Two on Every Corner”

Thanks For the Well Wishers - LUCKYSEASON


Best track: “Miss U Lowkey”

In Times of Desperation - Rain of Salvation


Best track: “October Sky”





To put it simply - if you had a hard time finding new music to listen to this year, you weren’t looking hard enough. This was an amazing year for creativity, and an even better one for the hardcore community. Even without shows, we managed to keep things alive the best we could.


Despite the difficulties of 2020, Resonating managed to work with more artists than any year prior - thank you to Dylan and Jake from Shackled, Mikey and Will from Never Ending Game, Anchit and Beaver from MH Chaos, Joey from Koyo, Dylan from Typecaste, JT from On Sight, Matt from Purgatory, Anthonie from Constrict, Adam from Orthodox, Job from Rule Them All, Jordan from Kharma, and Matt from Hatebreed for making it happen.


Additionally - thank you to everyone who helped make the Chicago Hardcore Popup in November awesome - New Morality Zine, Zero8one5, Rocio Cadena, Sick Nails By Sof, Purgatory, MH Chaos, Sector, Grounds of Execution, Mind in Chains, and Zeltzin Vazquez.


Last but not least - thank you for reading. I hope to bring you even more interviews, articles, zines, and more in 2021.


-Angie



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