Yeah, 2020 was a thing, and I don't think anyone was entirely happy with it. Still, there was a lot of good music that came out. Obviously, we'd all want to be going to shows to support these things, but it's cool that they still made it out during this weird time.
Rated X - United Front
This one seemed to come out of nowhere. I mostly recall
Painkiller dropping some stuff on Bandcamp, and the cover of this record caught
my eye. It just looks cool. Luckily, this record sounded just as good.
I wish I was more studied to know the reference points. It's a classic hardcore
sound, but feels really fresh. I think it's the same people (person?) that did
Deadlock (and a bunch of other UKHC stuff). That band was clearly an early
USHC-worship band, and Rated X sounds like an homage to the next wave.
It's fast, but stompy at the same time. I imagine much circle pitting. This
album really moves. There are a few shredding guitar solos sprinkled in, and
they add some flair. And lyrically, very straight edge.
This list isn't really ordered in any meaningful way, but I think would
confidently say this is my favorite release of the year.
Change - Closer Still
I love Betrayed. They were huge for me. I really dig Aram
as a vocalist and a lyricist. When I heard he was creating new music and
fronting a new band, I was much excite. It didn't disappoint.
It's hard not to think of Betrayed when listening to this; it is still Aram's
voice. Musically, it's not too far off. I think I might be the slightest bit
more aggressive, but in the more melodic parts, there are similarities.
This is a very youth crew record, even down to some Cappo-esque vocals at parts.
There's still a lot going on though. I think the most talked about thing is the
reggae/ska breakdown in the song "Beyond." It feels a little bit askew at first,
but it stands out in the best way. The bass playing on the album is excellent,
too. It's not Matt Freeman noodling, but there are some bass-driven parts that
set a nice groove.
I have a feeling this might have been overlooked because it is kind of an "old
man" band. For me (an old man), there is a bit of nostalgia, but it's also
just a good record.
CB Radio Gorgeous - EP
Thrilling Living Records
I first heard this band on MRR Radio. It was just
kinda random that I chose to listen, but I guess it worked out because it
introduced me to a cool band.
The song I heard was "Decline." It's fast and catchy. That's probably the best
way to sum up this 7". Just fast punk, jangly sounding guitars, and vocals that
are full of character. I kinda thought that this would be the type of band that
had one fast song that I love, and then some eh and not fast songs. But I was
more than pleasantly surprised. The more mid-tempo songs are still really
driving and full of energy.
This is punk that you can play for your friends and they won't be scared or
turned off probably. Kind of a surprise hit for me. For sure a band I'll keep an eye on.
Gulch - Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress
Closed Casket Activities
I think this was one of the most hyped records of the year? It seems like Gulch had a lot of steam coming into 2020. They were just being cool playing with no shirts, and then they sign with Closed Casket, and then there was something about a Hello Kitty hoodie. And then this record drops kinda suddenly, and it definitely
Gulch is a band that has a little bit of everything. There are some blast beats, but they're not grindy. The guitars are very metal-inspired, but it's not really metal. The fast parts have a good stomp to them. The vocals are extreme, but not too extreme (and the grunt game is on point).
I'm not saying they are sonically similar, but listening to Gulch kinda gives me the same feeling when I listen to Nails. It's abrasive and aggressive, but there's the slightest bit of, I guess, catchiness to it. These songs just sound really good.
Drain - California Cursed
I think Drain also had a fair amount of hype going into this record. If Gulch is like the scary extreme band, then Drain (having shared members), is like the laid-back fun band. Except this isn't really a laid-back record.
I got into Drain thinking they had more of a crossover sound, and there is some of that at times. There is a lot of mosh too. I think there's a decent balance of fast and heavy on here, and they do it well. I was trying to hone in on what this reminded me of. I couldn't really come up with direct comps, but focusing on the music, it reminds me a bit of late 90s/early 00s metalcore maybe.
I think Sammy's vocals are a real strong feature of this band. It's kind of a wild style that's right on the fence of something I probably wouldn't enjoy, but it manage to be palatable. There are a lot of memorable parts. I tend to sing "I'll show you how it feels" to myself quite often.