Ears Against Doomscrollia – 2023
So then, ‘A Year in Ear: A 2023 List’. Hello, it’s been a while hasn’t it? Today with a dual focus on both expedition and also the intention not to facilitate you pissing away too much of your precious time, I’m casting some words into the infinite warrens of Doomscollia with some musings on what I have enjoyed musically this year.
Despite, admittedly and shamefully I suppose, being somewhat removed from the loop comparatively speaking this past annum, I have still consumed some audible excellence from (mostly) the independent and DIY music scenes. Obligatory disclaimer forth, then. I have obviously absorbed additional audible treats beyond the soon-to-be below, but here are the names that slid slick and seamless to the front row upon little thought.
The following are sorted into two lists (mostly comprised of albums and EPs) with the former derived from those personal favourites that saw me taken aback, followed by those that I would be utterly foolish not to mention; because they unambiguously slap in their own incontestible right.
Exploding Head Syndrome – Victims
Norway’s Exploding Head Syndrome in my opinion at least, within the realm of modern Hardcore, should be huge. Historically, an indomitable foundation of intelligent and thoughtful Skate and melodic Punk-infused clout proceeds a 2023 effort that both honours and utterly outruns its predecessors.
Victims perfects a vein of dynamic and rhythmic Hardcore Punk best described as “melodic” Hardcore without being “Melodic Hardcore”. Whether that means anything to you or not, this album is indisputably required for your 2023.
Swear Jar – Swear Jar II
Of all the forms Skate Punk and Melodic Hardcore continue to take, who knew that the choice accompaniment in 2023 would be derived from a perfect volumetric wash of Pop-Punk and Emo. Vancover’s Swear Jar, apparently.
With a voice you will recognise from the band Rest Easy, Swear Jar’s fast, evocative and purely anthemic melodies are truly enveloping. Up the mighty three-piece! This is a release you will play well into 2024.
Bar Tape – Bar Tape
(Punk-Rock/Skate Punk/Classic Pop-Punk)
Sometimes, riffs, grit, alternating voiceboxes, underpinning chaos and a good dose of fucking around can be quite the concoction. In a good way, that is, via Dublin.
One Of Us – One Of Us
(Skate Punk/”Skate Thrash”/Melodic Hardcore)
Even if my mathematical ability was but a nugget more than “shit.shit recurring*”, I would not be able to recount the sheer amount of times I have listened to this album.
Whether it’s the abject poignance of its opening statement (‘Hundred Years’) or that of its mid-point (‘The Force’), the debut from Winnipeg’s One Of Us is a master-stroke of contemporary fast melodic Punk.
Akin to a few on ‘A Year in Ear: A 2023 List’, One Of Us is another I have dissected before in more detail if your interest is especially piqued. Which it should be; but fast.
Finally, and also at some considerable tempo, I’ll leave you with not only one of my favourites but one that contains perhaps the finest skate-punk thrash refrain of the year.
Riskee & The Ridicule – Platnium Statue
(Riskee & The Ridicule)
I’ve never been hit by a sledgehammer, let alone one that prospectively, would leave me (physically) unscathed and yet entirely enthralled. And yet, for whatever reason, this shakey analogy is to the letter how I would honestly articulate what this album renders my response as.
To unpack this release wholly, I feel, would take an age. So, for now, I will say this. Platinum Statue is the apex of such theoretical sledgehammers, comprised not of cold steel but of emotional conviction across the board, equating the very force of its swing.
Riskee & The Ridicule are insurmountable on Platinum Statue.
Scowl – Psychic Dance Routine
Where do you even start with Scowl? Most of us have grown up hearing stories the result of an apparent catapult that sprung the big names of Punk and Hardcore forward to ubiquity and beyond. The bands that set about catalysing, metamorphosing and defining eras as much as they did their own legacies. – Is such a thing still possible?
Well, concerning Scowl’s meteorological rise to what in the best way possible can be described as some sort of groove-imbued, multi-limbed poster child, I’d argue that their own trajectory to notoriety suggests that it is and that said catapult, if it ever existed, is now in a state of utter disrepair.
I suppose, they could just be some sort of “industry plant”, though. Which, is entirely plausible if you’re also partial to thinking that the world is flat.
Thousand Oaks – On A Wing and A Prayer // Remnants
(Skate Punk/Melodic Hardcore)
In March and to expedited surprise, Thousand Oaks carved a triumphal arch of melodious instrumental complexity and emotionally gut-punching lyricism into the fast-opolis. On A Wing and A Prayer proved itself a maestros’ opus in such a scene and fortuitously, wasn’t all the band would release in 2023.
In another addition to a timeless back-catalogue, Thousand Oaks released a compilation titled Remnants, enriched with off-cuts and previous EPs compiled into more unequivocal evidence as to why they are such a crucial aspect of the modern Skate Punk scene.
I had too much to choose from, so, I went with my welcomely bruised gut.
Making Friends – Fine Dying
Skate Punk may not be as popular in the UK as it is in Europe or on the American continent but that doesn’t mean the former doesn’t contribute some of the amorphous styles very best. Fine Dying by Making Friends, in UK and beyond, codifies the band’s place as a true rising star within the scene’s entirety.
Impeccably segueing between both mid-’90s melodic Punk-Rock and the tightly wound assault of the late ’90s and early 2000s, Making Friends’ existential fast Punk organically captures the appeal of why such took hold.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that had they been around in those seminal years, that it would be their name plastered all over everyone’s chest some thirty-something years later.
Samiam – Stowaway
(Masterful Melodic Punk)
Though I was initially late to the party with Samiam, it didn’t take me long to become enamoured. So, as you can imagine then, when Stowaway was released, my jaw swiftly settled into its new home on the floor, after a previous visit seeing the band’s flaw-jaw rendering presence in Camden a few months prior.
At the end of November, a friend at a bar I used to run appeared across my phone screen to tell me that the band were the highest-played artist on the bar’s ‘Spotify Wrapped’. It was released on the 31st of March and I left on the 31st of August.
Buggin – Concrete Cowboys
It’s a purely redundant notion to even attempt to contest the health of the greater Hardcore scene in 2023. This amorphous yet recognisable and ever-widening spectrum has produced some of the very best of itself in 2023 and with yet another succinct(ish) exclamation, I will say this is of Buggin‘s contribution.
Concrete Cowboys is an unmitigated and faultlessly furious example of the modern Hardcore crop at its absolute apex. Here’s a song that epitomises the last fifteen years of my life in Retail and Hospitality, up until the 31st of August that is; when I finally escaped.
Look after those who work in customer service, it’s not as simple as it seems.
Melonball – Breathe
A band I heard discussed and saw plastered on t-shirts before I’d heard but-a-sound of, Germany’s Melonball would go on to unleash a perfect force of streamlined, anthemic and harmonious Skate Punk-Rock in 2023.
Another album favouring and indeed refreshing a more classic sound, one that isn’t simply focused on overclocked tempo (though there is plenty), Melonball’s intrinsic rendition is dynamic, thoughtful, riff-heavy and fronted by one of the most powerful and soulful voices in the game.
Teresa Banks – It’s Already Yesterday
(Skate Punk/Melodic Hardcore)
Being based in far-flung Finland has done little to mitagate the explosive force that emanates from Teresa Banks-brand Skate Punk and their 2023 effort does little to defer from their anthemic, precision-cut formula.
Whether it’s at high velocity or heavy-set, thumping mid-tempo or even somewhere comfortably in between, Teresa Banks boast a carefully measured speed as they lean closer to bouts of Melodic Hardcore and otherwise, all the while still honouring their slick, technical fast Punk and soaring melodies.
In fact, amidst a heatwave (in the UK) that was CLEARLY very normal and not in the least bit worrisome, It’s Already Yesterday and its twenty-six-minute take was blasted time after time as I slowly metamorphosised and succumbed to my new life as an extremely dehydrated, sentient raisin-man.
Big Laugh – Consume Me
(Hardcore Punk/Metallic Hardcore/Crossover Thrash)
Though I went into more detail here, the short version of anything said of Milwaukee’s Big Laugh and their first full-length after the excellent 2020 EP Manic Revision, is that their unquestionably innate and writhing blend of modern Hardcore is an absolute requirement for 2023’s ‘core harvest.
There isn’t a moment where they lapse on Consume Me. Whether you experience it sequentially or through an arbitrary shuffle of its fantastically forceful, all-encompassing freneticism, this record’s presence cannot be denied.
Colorsfade – Built From The Wreckage
(Skate Punk/”Skate Thrash”/Melodic Hardcore/Post-Hardcore)
The quality-assured trajectory of Colorsfade was obvious after 2018’s In Real Time but even so, 2023’s Built From The Wreckage still upped the ante with such a determined alacrity anyway. For the genre buffs, Skate Punk heads or even those who simply appreciate complexity, this ten-track slice of intricate tech-punk is vital.
It’s another I broke down in more detail elsewhere (among some other great releases) if you’re partial to some pacey-nerdery but if not, I cannot help but reiterate how much this album, with its powerful, fast Punk compendium of sorts is an absolute must.
Crime In Stereo – House & Trance
Whether my attempt at categorising this album is in vain or not, is immaterial. Truthfully, it’s just so incredible to have Crime In Stereo back. Although they may have (stylistically) left the Hardcore scene behind some time ago, Crime In Stereo have utterly obliterated the fated obstacle of deviation to a point of irrelevancy.
Though this isn’t the first album from the band to send forth its explorative tendrils, it’s arguably the best one to do so. Sonically brilliant and beyond comfortable, the indisputable latter would be nothing without the symbiotic imagery so beautifully crafted and so well rendered in the cranium of the beholder.
A Punk album for the modern age.
Agassiz – Pulse 1D
Regarding the obvious, my penchant for Instrumental music from Post-Rock to Post-Metal has confused more than just a few people over the years. However, if I were to audibly quantify why and give an example that would save me the words, Agassiz’s opus for 2023 would be that very release.
Not only are they a testament to the brilliance of the three-piece format, a model in which they dwarf, but individually, each of the Agassiz-three are unstoppable. Akin to their previous work but in a fashion by no means derivative, the amalgamative Post-Rock displayed here is driven, powerful and enthralling to the last note.
Propagandhi fans may recognise one-third of the stylings of this enwrapping noise from Supporting Caste and Failed States, just saying.
Hike The Peak – Only The True Fly Free
(Skate Punk/Melodic Hardcore)
In somewhat of a bonus entry, in that this “album” (the second of its kind) has been released in sets of two singles for each word of its respective title since 2022, Only The True Fly Free is a release from a project that I am beyond elated has continued to blast way beyond the now shattered confines of its lockdown inception.
Hike The Peak is a dedicated, multilimbed and carefully curated scene-spanning beast at this point. Its modus operandi to champion the voices of a scene at its very best has in turn yielded the very premier of it, which, is an accolade that I cannot state enough.
There is a physical release set for 2024. Walking uphill never sounded so good.
With Honor – Boundless
(Hardcore Punk/Melodic Hardcore)
I don’t know how many people will read this list but I should think within the number that do, there will be those who will resonate with the feeling you get when you dive into a band far later than you’d think you’d be fated to.
A feeling best described as a hybridised, occupational hazard at its finest in a world with such abundant audible escapism, comprised of a triumphal and yet bountiful regret, that sets upon you as you discover a band whose archetype is nigh-on perfectly aligned with personal preference.
Although dumbfounding and indeed bewildering at times, there’s nothing quite like that rush.
With Honor and Boundless showcase Melodic Hardcore at its finest.
You’d Be (Utterly) Nutritionally Devoid Without
Outright – Bury Us
(Hardcore Punk/Crossover Thrash)
Whether these three tracks are an EP or a “single” in release terms is up to the music police I suppose but, for the sake of this round-up, said three are an undeniably high-octane entry to such a plentiful year.
Offshoots of the Keep You Warm (2022) sessions, itself one of the finest Hardcore albums of that year, Bury Us heads a commanding and line-breaking three-track “swine’s head” charge into whatever faces it. Such a puncturing ten and a half minutes does nothing but prove that without a doubt, Outright are one of Australia’s finest exports when it comes to Thrash-imbued Hardcore Punk-Rock.
Wrong Life – Wrong Life
All those who create music ultimately craft imagery in the minds of those who absorb it but some truly excel. Be it live, through the headphones soundtracking daily mundanity or perhaps away from all that, in those precious moments in revered personal sanctums.
Given the skill at which the EPs that would go on to comprise The Early Working of An Idea (2022) did so, it is of no surprise that any further music from Wrong Life would be any different.
The project’s eponymous 2023 effort expresses its existential and relatably Emo-washed melodious Punk with such slick delivery that each listen plants you fully within its grasp.
Pest Control – Don’t Test The Pest
Outside of a few mainstays, a multitude of Skate Punk bands plying it with ardent melodicism and innumerable Hardcore bands sliding in and out of its grinning, maniacal embrace, Crossover Thrash, at least it seems to me, isn’t as commonplace as it should be in the UK DIY scene.
Pest Control, whether intentionally or not, writhing and emanating pure abrasion, destroyed the very fabric of such a gap in 2023. In fact, the band did so in such a wondrously lacerating fervour, that any start-to-finish listen of Don’t Test The Pest will leave you completely devoid of any epidermas whatsoever.
NUKKE – Virtue Signalling
(Crust Punk/Crossover Thrash)
This year, Portugal’s NUKKE released what they self-describe as – ‘A bleak outlook on the ever-growing oppressive condition that has been accelerated by the events of the past four years’.
I cannot help but default to the horse’s mouth there.
Infusing a more Crossover-centric sound into an already volatile bedrock of eerie yet beckoning Hardcore Punk, NUKKE’s always obliterating and often “blackened” ‘Bleak Metal Punk’ is at its best on this wild six-track barrage.
The Last Mile x Pezz – Split
One part Canada and one part US, The Last Mile x Pezz Split LP has been creeping more and more into my rotation as the year has unfolded. The former’s cross-section Punk-Rock continues to hone and ply the more melodic route from their previous full-length with further vocal variety (tracks 2, 4 and 5 in particular) as a simultaneous and classicist Post-Hardcore backdrop drip drip-feeds its dynamism at will.
Pezz command the later half of the LP with what is perhaps best monikered as a writhing union of gritty gusto, angular riffs and abandon coalesced as what I would imagine Hard Rock to sound like had it wholly been spawned from the timeless sound of ’80s Post-Hardcore.
Whether it’s the minutiae of similarity or the opposed contrast that draws people to split releases, in such a fluidic fashion, together, The Last Mile and Pezz beckon both.
The Bollweevils – Essential
The exact definition of “Chicago Punk Rock” is anyone’s guess, whether it’s the characteristically tuneful Pop-Punk, the darts of fervent yet melodic Skate-adjacent Punk-Rock or even the impassioned bouts of back to basics Hardcore, it is safe to say that The Bollweevils are a name worthy of the long list of bands that have purveyed this sound to the world.
Long sentences aside, Essential is an album by yet another band I wish I had discovered at a younger age. The Bollweevils’ latest captures the serious, the silly and that oh-so-familiar timelessness that inspired countless others.
Fake Names – Expendables
When the right seeds are present, a certain super-bloom of Alternative Rock is inevitable. So, in 2023, when an already impressive cross-pollination including alumni that will ensnare many upon utterance alone*, was joined by the essential strains of Fugazi and Rites Of Spring, a second LP unfurled leaves derived from Punk but set to thrive beyond it.
Expendables builds upon a foundation of such seminal expression and wealth yet also reaches for glossier sensibilities, set, in their hands, to juxtapose as much as coalesce. Fakes Names‘ second LP boasts gleaming leads, infectious, back-to-basic melodies and Punk-Rock rhythms that soundtrack that “neverland” discussion on our existential development.
*Minor Threat, Bad Religion, Dag Nasty, Beach Rats,*DEEP BREATH* SOA, Embrace, Refused, INVSN and The [International] Noise Conspiracy.
Ocean Districts – Phantom Islands
When discussing Post-Rock et al in 2023, the immensity of Estonia’s Ocean Districts is undeniable. With each release pertaining to a concept, the band’s investigative traversal is seamless, beautiful and illustrative and this is none more so than on 2023’s Phantom Islands.
‘A Phantom Island is a purported island which was included on maps for a period of time but was later found not to exist. They usually originate from the reports of early sailors exploring new regions and are commonly the result of navigational errors, mistaken observations, unverified misinformation, or deliberate fabrication. Some have remained on maps for centuries before being “un-discovered.”‘
At times the journey is more melodious, in others, it echoes the thick, doom-laden riffs of previous work and elsewhere, is comparatively up-tempo but in every case, you can’t help but feel that all is as it should be. What sets this album apart from its contemporaries, however, are the multiple additions of guest vocals that do well to reinforce the consistent, but not overwhelming forays into Prog-Rock territory on top of what the band already excel at.
Notably on the LP version of Phantom Islands, you can find instrumental versions of ‘Frisland’, ‘Vulcan’ and ‘Fata Morgana’ adding further depth to a record that gains more with every voyage.
The Raging Nathans – Still Spitting Blood
(Punk-Rock/Skate Punk/Classic Pop-Punk)
The prolificacy of Ohio’s The Raging Nathans has never been in question and, I would argue, based on the fact the last three sequential releases have come in the same number of years, neither is the stability on which they pound their feet.
Still Spitting Blood is the shortest album of the band’s career and though no track transcends more than 02:45, The Nathans’ have optimised and cut every groove to capacity. Be it the keenly refined, tried, tested and scrappily adrenalised Ramones-Day-core they are built on, forays into serrated Skate Punk or cathartic, candid blasts of older school Hardcore Punk, the work of the sleepless shark has paid off.
Time X Heist x Without Love – Split
(Hardcore Punk/Melodic Hardcore)
It’s been a bountiful year in ear for Hardcore and this six-track split is yet another brilliantly arranged contribution showcasing two sides to the Melodic Hardcore coin.
Denver’s Straight Edge five-piece, Time X Heist, come at their three tracks with uninhibited alacrity and unshakeable candour, riled with PMA-imbued Youth Crew Melodic Hardcore against the backdrop of our contemporary woe.
With each band covering a gem from Hardcore history, Time X Heist close their hopeful three-track half with ‘My Better Half’ from the short-lived post-Rites Of Spring project One Last Wish.
Though just as melodious, Without Love counter the streamlined former with a contrastingly riff-heavy, darker and weighted cautionary tale. The speculative far-from fiction of ‘Worthless’ utterly dismantles the notion of adherence to a system of destructive wealth, notably, with a little help from one Rikki Vanderpol of Dying For It fame. ‘Chosen Few’ then plants you but a few steps back in real-time, to view such destructive privilege.
As for their cover, the band pull another bout of historical defiance into view with ‘Redemption’ via Inside Out.
Tripsun – Kill The Dream
Based on the singles alone, I don’t think anyone in the UK Punk scene expected anything other than quality when it came to the long-awaited debut full-length from Tripsun. An album of immense emphatic clarity and unbridled emotional depth, Kill The Dream shines as it shows off the development of a band devoted to wearing nothing by themselves for the duration of their lifetime.
Sonically, there’s no bringin’ it backwards but the Tripsun bedrock is still honoured as they expand forward, pushing their hallmarks further on the back of faster, dynamic tempos and a heavier approach symbiotic to the anchor that Kill The Dream is.
Spot the easter eggs.
The Dead Krazukies – From The Underworld
(“Metallic” Melodic Punk/Skate Punk)
It’s safe to say that after 2020’s Icarus, The Dead Krazukies set quite the benchmark. In 2023 however, instead of soaring to equate such an altitude, they chose to rip through the earth, tunnelling downward in a frenzied, relentless fury straight at the unforgiving deep in search of their next chapter.
From The Underworld calls to the surface with the familiar gliding melody the French five-piece are known for but album-wide, this time, whether doing so via their powerful Skate Punk, riff-heavy melodic Punk or even momentary steps toward Hardcore, a ubiquitous, foreboding and dynamic metallic fervour grins manically behind it all.
Seven Crowns – ‘Chopper’/’Knock Knock’ 7″
Romantically, I suppose, Seven Crowns were the first DIY band I properly beheld. A band that would irreparably blow my then nineteen-year-old mind to oblivion in the basement of a now-distant Pub venue tied to memory. In that crypt, I was met with an insurmountable barrage of ’80s-inspired Hardcore Punk that would set on my way.
To this day, Seven Crowns are still one of the most relentless bands I have witnessed and with the last few releases twisting their limitless power toward a more Psychedelic-take on their underpinning Punk, 2023 saw a new hardware version of the band push that further with a warped, pummelling double A-side.
WYRES – Nothing Like Your Idols
(Melodic Punk/Alternative Rock/Post-Hardcore)
The first time I heard WYRES was live upon a good friend’s recommendation and I spent most of the set doing the “this slaps” face back at some at others doing the same.
Only later, upon digesting both of the band’s releases this year in their entirety, though admittedly with more attention focussed on the above, did the gravitational force of Wyres really take hold. Though the UK melodic Punk scene is healthy enough in its own right, WYRES’ viscous amalgam of sinuous, Post-Hardcore-spun melodic Punk and formidable Alt. Rock is exactly what it was missing until now.
Bruise Control – Useless For Something
(Garage Punk/”Dischord” Post-Hardcore)
Bruise Control hit like a twitching grin unable to contain itself for reasons immaterial, perpetually charged with nothing but their own accumulated merrymaking on or off stage. Free-flowing, Indie-Rock-ish Manchester-isms merge with rambunctious candour, seemingly akin to, intentionally or not, the timeless grit of Garage Punk cut with that all-important, Dischord-brand Post-Hardcore Punk and the potent legacy that still proves its relevance after all this time.
Or something like that. That was Bruise Control and Useless For Something in three sentences (not this one) for no reason other than that’s where my mind went with it.
Zero Again – A Deep Appreciation Of Suffering
A Deep Appreciation of Suffering is a weaponised observation of our time, one sustained with a perpetually agonizing attrition and further compounded with a sepsis of debilitating disappointment that is set to fester as long as it is left to do so. As bleak as that sounds, Zero Again are transfixing in all the right ways.
The sound of this bludgeoning leviathan is one of scope. D-Beat runs at rage, riffs ply tempo changes with groove without turning too close to Metal and yet lift their heavy limbs through the ooze of viscous Sludge. Spoken Word-jaunts and longer instrumentals juxtapose the faster tempos of the norm and elsewhere, smatterings of ’80s Post-Hardcore add dissonant, eerie melody when whirling, distorted Crust lines aren’t lacquering the gloom in the own.
Zero Again are a band from Bristol and A Deep Appreciation of Suffering is essential to 2023, and beyond.
Our Lives In Cinema – It Has To Be A Steinway
Contrary to popular belief, Pop-Punk has potential far beyond that of cliche and when expanding at least one hundred and eighty-two feet outside of said archetype, it’s capable of resonating so much further. From emotively leaning on harder melodic Punk as a matter of organic and characteristic necessity to forever honouring the early 2000s Post-Hardcore of their beginning, Our Lives Cinema are one of London’s best DIY secrets.
From the infectious former, to lyrics you’ll spend as much time unpacking as you will enjoying and rinsing over and again and finally, the gleaming production that allows this EP to be everything it’s supposed to be, Its Has To Be A Steinway is another of this year’s worthwhile ear-worms.
As always, I hope you discovered something you like and for those who created all of the above; thank you.