Andy Lefton’s Top 10 Punk Records of 2021
War//Plague & FOTK's Andy Lefton shares top punk picks of the year.
First off, a hearty thank you to DIY Conspiracy for inviting me back to partake in another End of Year list, it’s always appreciated. As a side note, this year was FULL of killer music. This list is in no special order, it could have easily been a top 50, but I had to whittle things down as I’m sure you’d get quite bored with my ravings.
Cutting to the chase here. We’ve been through the ringer over the past couple years and it’s been quite difficult for many of us. It seems our punk rock forefathers’ dire warnings are now coming to fruition. The optimist in me hopes this is the death kneel of the old guard and we can move onto a better place.
Thankfully, we have music and most notably the DIY underground community to keep us sane, at least to some degree. This barrage of hate, anti-science and anti-intellectualism has been center stage for far too long and I feel our arguments and struggles have gone from the online sphere to the open streets where it belongs.
The music we create has always been a cathartic release, a therapy of sorts to accept the abuse at large and confront it with absolute rage. This war for civility will continue and the struggle to claim control over a time where power and money come first sets a precedent that will take it from the stage to the streets.
1 Keretik – Studio 2021
Keretik hit me like a brick. A band with some mighty influence like Axegrinder, Killing Joke, etc, and it shows! For me, it was nice to hear this as it wasn’t straight up coattail riding, but more influence than mimic. In a world full of overly saturated clones, phasers and feedback, these folks stand out from the crowd. Give this a listen, it’s well worth it.
2 Final Dose – Dark Places EP
This London based band is excellent! Dark punk that brings a sense of energy that makes you want to slam your fist in the air while retaining a sense of melody, especially the track “Nothing Left”. I really dig these guys. They label themselves ‘blackened punk’ and that’s one subgenre I can agree with. The music is played with clarity, while some tempo changes carry a sense of enthusiasm that makes you want to dance hard. This is a definite must have, fucking love it!
3 Unsanitary Napkin – TERF War EP
I would fly to Aotearoa (New Zealand) just to see…and maybe play with this amazing band! This right here is the heart of punk rock. It’s the epitome of anarcho-punk down to its purest form. Unsanitary Napkin hit the nail on the head when it comes to the aggression and udder fucking rage that makes punk matter to me. This particular release hits transphobia with a massive target and I have much respect for their hardcore stance and using the pulpit to blast the message loud and clear. This is intense punk, fantastic production with excellent riffs that have a Scandinavian hardcore element to it, and the vocals… fuck, these vocals are great. The singer is reminiscent to Antischism at times. Buy this now.
4 Nervous SS / Rat Cage – Split 12”
Jesus Fucking Christ! We live in a world where d-beat is king, well…for some. However, no matter how saturated the d-beat market is, this record will come out on top. Raging and full speed kängpunk from both bands with an attention to the craft. Not overly hyped feedback or blown out vocals, this is proper and stands out to be one of the best releases of 2021. Two excellent bands doing the genre justice and giving the listener exactly what’s needed.
This record was also already reviewed at DIY Conspiracy.
5 MESS – Fuego, fuego, fuego EP
Switching gears to something that wouldn’t normally catch my attention. MESS are a Mexican punk/oi! band that have some serious good tunes! They don’t hide the apparent influences of Blitz or general UK82, but man, they do it great! I grew up on that sound with the likes of The Business, The Insane and The Partisans and that’s something I hold dear to me. So, if this is your cup o’ tea I highly recommend it. It brought a wave of nostalgia I haven’t felt in some time and loved every minute of it.
6 Jalang – Santau
Jalang, also formerly known as Lái 来, is the best thing to come out of the Southern hemisphere in a long time. I absolutely love this band as they fall into the realm of what punk stands for. The politics, ethos and general anger towards the world at large is very prominent with this band. I have a lot of respect for their diehard ability to stand up and fight against all the depravity with their music. For me, this is what it’s about, the intensity and full-on attack stands out as the message is clear though the music.
Also watch their performance at Flash Forward, it’s worth every minute!
7 Nightfeeder – S/T EP
OK, I need to be transparent here, these guys are close friends but regardless, everything they do is absolute hardcore punk perfection. With members coming from Deathraid, Consume and Stàte Of Feär, this lets you know what you’re getting into. This release is from their demo and thankfully was put on vinyl through Black Water Records. A combination of insane d-beat along with some mid-tempo riffage makes this the perfect cocktail of punk bliss.
8 Golpe – La Colpa È Solo Tua
This raging hardcore punk ensemble from Milan, Italy are fantastic! Sorry State Records had the fortunate opportunity to release this punk masterpiece and deserves every bit of recognition! There’s nothing fancy about this record, but the execution of some d-beat tempos while others hit mid-tempo is the chef’s kiss. Heavy production, but what stands out for me is the vocal presence, I love how thick and aggressive the vocals are without being washed out or messy. It’s a damn good record!
9 Zero Again – Revert To Nothing EP
Absolutely brilliant Peni-infused punk rock! This is refreshing, as it may take a lesson from Blinko, it’s spot on with originality and gives a sense of overall urgency that gets you off your ass and up to the stage. Clear and concise production with some heavy bass licks that dance all over the guitars while pulverizing the senses with the perfect balance of punk rock riffage. This Bristol ensemble have something great going and I hope they continue to release more material.
10 Phane – S/T LP
What can I say… this is an absolute stellar piece of charged punk rock here. Coming from Vancouver, Phane are one of the few bands that made an epic splash that will no doubt carry them onto a fantastic legacy. Well executed writing with strong lyrical content that sets a precedent on what punk is truly about. Musically they fall into the realm of English Dogs with some well thought out UK82 vibes that make the spirit of punk alive and well. I have much appreciation for bands that discipline themselves within the hardcore punk world and this album is solid proof of that. A phane-tastic album!