Punk is alive and kicking in 2016 and witnessing some serious growth. Not only did the old incendiaries—The Descendents, NOFX, and Green Day—return to form, newcomers like PUP, Touché Amoré, and White Lung took up the torch and burned white hot, pushing punk’s limits to new arenas.
No matter what walk of punk you come from, here are 6 great punk albums from 2016 that kept our bodies thrashing and our heads banging.
The Dream Is Over by PUP
“The dream is over.” That’s exactly what PUP frontman Stefan Babcock’s doctor told him after revealing the extensive damage Babcock’s vocal cords had sustained since the band’s formation in 2013. Hearing the news, PUP vowed to continue with their rigorous touring, performing hundreds of shows worldwide in the time since. The Dream Is Over, their sophomore album, is ferocious in its playing and screaming—as fun (“DVP”) as it is self-destructive (“Old Wounds”). Across ten tracks, the four Torontonians channel all their frustrations and passions into tight riffs and urgent lyrics about Canadian cold, dead pet chameleons, and Hawaiian red fruit punch.
Stage Four by Touché Amoré
The fourth album by L.A. post-hardcore group Touché Amoré, Stage Four refers to vocalist Jeremy Bolm’s mother, who was taken by cancer in 2014. Lyrically, it’s often heartbreaking, yet balanced by pleas to appreciate what and who listeners have while they still have them. Bolm doesn’t even try to be melodic in his raspy shouting, making the album feel like a trip through his still-raging thoughts nearly two years after his loss. Sonically, Stage Four reflects its vocalists spiking emotions—Touché Amoré bounce between raw hardcore thrashing and calculated, melodic breaks, making for a more fluid, weaving sound rather than a simple ‘emotional rollercoaster’. In all senses, Touché Amoré spill their guts for this album.
Paradise by White Lung
Formed in 2006 and hailing from Vancouver, White Lung have often been labeled as a feminist punk band due to frontwoman Mish Way-Barber’s abrasive lyrics about dismantling feminine codes and conventions. For White Lung’s fourth album, Paradise, Way-Barber brings a less shrill and more structurally dynamic sound, backing up her challenge to the supposed punk belief “where it’s somehow uncool to become a better songwriter.” Now, Way-Barber sings (and still shouts) about her own perspective of femininity, while the distortion-laden instrumentation has been sanded down to a more accessible, cohesive wash of rock.
WORRY. by Jeff Rosenstock
Thirty-four year old Long Island resident Jeff Rosenstock has had his feet firmly planted in punk soil for over two decades, whether in fronting ska bands (The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Bomb the Music Industry!), producing for other punks (The Smith Street Band), or even forming his own pay-what-you-want record label, Quote Unquote Records. He’s something of a hero to the punk scene. Understandably, his solo career (starting in 2012 with his album I Look Like Shit) has gathered much momentum. Most tracks begin with Rosenstock and stripped back folk-punk instrumentals before escalating to a full, amped up band and gang-shout choruses, creating a friendly atmosphere laced with DIY philosophies. That isn’t to say the album is toothless—lyrically, WORRY. shows Rosenstock isn’t afraid to critique himself and the scene around him, on topics ranging from technological dependence (“To Be A Ghost…”), hypocrisy (“Festival Song”), and creative immobility (“Bang On The Door”). Jeff Rosenstock has seen the punk scene from many angles, and his experience shows in WORRY.
PKEW PKEW PKEW by PKEW PKEW PKEW
While much of the punk scene is committed to various political agendas, Toronto’s PKEW PKEW PKEW is devoted to having a good time. This self-titled album is their second after Glory Days (2013), and considering some of the tracks are recycled, PKEW PKEW PKEW seems like an intended fresh introduction. The 11 tracks, mainly concerning things like eating pizza, skateboarding, and making loud music, are almost entirely delivered with group-vocals that are clearly coming from a roomful of friends. Even when they’re singing along about how much the perceived assholes around them suck, the record is refreshingly optimistic, immediately enjoyable, and consistently fun. PKEW PKEW PKEW keep it simple in all the right ways.
Trans Day of Revenge by G.L.O.S.S.
This one deserves a special entry. Though just a five-track EP running in at a cool seven minutes, G.L.O.S.S. are one of the most pure continuations of the punk mentality. An acronym for “Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit,” G.L.O.S.S.’s debut self-titled EP last year caught attention for it’s breakneck instrumentation and enraged lyrics about trans-rights. Their ultra-hardcore sound was so popular that they were offered a $50k record deal by Epitaph—which they turned down. Sticking to their small-time punk ethics and attitude, G.L.O.S.S. announced earlier this year that they’re breaking up. What we’re left with, then, is their sophomore EP, Trans Day of Revenge, another uncompromising rip through all that’s taboo. This is hardcore punk at its fastest, angriest, and most passionate.