From its origin in the mid 1970s and onward, punk music has had a knack for speaking truth to power through its raw energy and anti-establishment sentiment. Related genres such as post-punk, post-hardcore and riot grrrl have all carried on this tradition in their own right in the time since. It makes sense then, that in a year as chaotic as 2020,  many of us will turn to punk to help ourselves make sense of the world.  Here we’ve listed the 25 best punk and punk derivative tracks that have helped us to get through 2020.

 


 

Protomartyr - Best Punk Songs 2020

1. Protomartyr – Processed By the Boys

In the opening lines of “Processed By The Boys,” Protomartyr frontman Joe Casey wonders how the apocalypse will arrive. Will it be a “foreign disease washed up on the beach?” Or maybe “a cosmic grief beyond all comprehension”? He eventually decides these cataclysmic scenarios are unlikely, concluding instead that “reality has a far duller edge.” The real threat is the creep of authoritarianism at home, whether it is the omnipresence of massive corporations in our lives through technology or the increasingly militarized and brutalistic police across America. Reverb heavy guitar and pounding drums create the perfect soundscape for such dystopian musings from Casey, while the addition of a woodwind section to the track adds another element to Protomartyr’s sound.  Although the track was written before the start of 2020, the track is an almost eerie encapsulation of the dire predicament we find ourselves in at the present moment. 

RIY (Recommended If You Like): IDLES, Iceage, Ought, Gang of Four

 

 

 

Fontaines D.C. - Best Punk Songs 2020

2. Fontaines D.C. – I Don’t Belong

On “Big,” the opening track from Fontaines D.C.’s debut album Dogrel, Grian Chatten exclaimed “my childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big.” While the line was intended to carry more than a bit of sarcasm behind it, Chatten’s prediction has come true in ways he never could have imagined when he first uttered the line.  A little more than a year after the release of Dogrel, Fontaines D.C. released their sophomore album A Hero’s Death, which ended up in a surprise battle with Taylor Swift’s album Folklore for #1 spot on the UK charts and earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.  Among the standout tracks on the album is “I Don’t Belong,” a song which Chatten has described as “almost like the anti-Big.” Over a brooding guitar, Chatten contemplates his desire for independence (and “not belong”) while also pondering the alienation and isolation that comes with this lack of belonging.  For a band whose music has focused on chronicling the gritty realities of life in working-class Dublin, “I Don’t Belong” is in a way once again prescient, as they will now have to deal with the transition to fame, and the claustrophobia and alienation that come with it.  

Recommended if you like: Joy Division, Gang of Four, Ought, IDLES

 

 

 

Porridge Radio - Best Punk Songs 2020

3. Porridge Radio – Don’t Ask Me Twice

The feelings of isolation, paranoia and anxiety are so palpable on Porridge Radio’s “Don’t Ask Me Twice” that anyone who has spent time quarantined will feel an immediate familiarity to the track even if they’ve never heard it before.  The song’s lyrics mirror the thoughts of a person who has spent far too much time trapped in their own head. At one point lead singer Dana Margolin snaps and screams “Oh fuck, there goes my fucking head again.” Then, in the song’s chorus Margolin repeats the line “I don’t know” almost to the point of delirium. The production in the post-chorus allows you to feel the thoughts bouncing around Margolin’s head as her reverb drenched vocals swirl amid a haze of guitar and drums.  Despite the intensity of the emotion on the track, Margolin finds a certain catharsis in the madness, saying “For me it’s about embracing the chaos because you can’t escape it….. scream ‘I don’t know what I want’, it feels good.” That’s something we could all stand to benefit from this year.  

Recommended If You Like: Sorry, bdrmm, Dehd

 

 

Jeff Rosenstock - Best Punk Songs 2020

4. Jeff Rosenstock – N O D R E A M

If you were hoping that the numerous horrors of the past four year were all a dream, Jeff Rosenstock is here to remind you that they are all very much real on “N O D R E A M”.  And just in case they weren’t already burned permanently into your brain, Rosenstock begins the track by reeling off a list of them.  A little after the two minute mark though, the track picks up with pounding drums and fuzzed-out guitar, and Rosenstock turns into a human alarm clock, yelling “It’s not a dream” until he’s absolutely sure that the listener is awake and fully aware of the present situation.  He then launches into a screed about contemporary capitalism over a blast beat, yelling “The only endgame for capitalism is dystopia.” Yet for all of his anger, he can’t see a way out as he laments in the end “we all know about it, but we don’t know what to do”.  

Recommend If You Like: PUP, Joyce Manor

 

 

 

HTMLTD - Best Punk Songs 2020

5.  HMLTD – LOADED

It’s been a winding road for HMLTD (short for Happy Meal Limited) to get to the point of releasing their debut album, and they’re more than happy to tell you all this journey on their song “LOADED.” Not so long ago, HMLTD were signed to Sony Records, who had promised to make them the biggest band in the world. The band was on the fast track to stardom, until they cut ties with the record label over issues of creative control. So when lead singer Henry Spychalski grumbles on “LOADED” that “I sold my soul to the devil, and I’m pretty fucking poor” there is no mystery what he’s talking about.  Much like the rest of their debut album West of Eden, “LOADED” features polished production as the band dabbles in glam, post-punk and rave to soundtrack their story.  Even if the band has been to hell and back just to release their debut album, the results are pretty damn good.  

RIYL: David Bowie, Crack Cloud, Devo

 

 

Viagra Boys - Best Punk Songs 2020

6. Viagra Boys – Creatures

The synth-heavy production on Viagra Boys “Creatures,” the latest single from their upcoming second album Welfare Jazz, marks a change from the grungier production from their debut effort Street Worms. However, if fans were worried about a corresponding change in the gritty yet bizarrely comical social commentary from the band, then they have little to be worried about.  Lead singer Sebastian Murphy embraces the role of the loser on the track, telling NME “I’d rather write a song about being defeated, which usually comes from a real place and says a lot.” In the chorus of the track he wails “We are the creatures way down at the bottom,” wholeheartedly embracing his status as the outcast.

RIYL: Fontaines DC, Shame, Girl Band

 

 

 

Guerilla Toss - Best Punk Songs 2020

7.  Guerilla Toss –  Human Girl

Guerilla Toss’ disco-infused punk-funk single “Human Girl” teleports you to an 80s nightclub in New York City. Hand percussion, funky bass and punchy drumming create a pulsating base, with blasts of 80s sparkles layered over the top sending the track into overdrive.  Even Kassie Carlson’s vaguely existential musings (“How can I be living, if I know no feeling?”) can’t stop the good time on this banger.

RIYL: The B-52s, HMLTD, The Orielles, Crack Cloud

 

 

 

Bacchae - Best Punk Songs 2020

8.  Bacchae – Hammer

DC’s own Bacchae caught our attention when they dropped their album Pleasure Vision back in March. Among the standout tracks on the album was “Hammer,” on which lead singer Katie McD details her efforts for self-improvement. The lyrics reimagine self-improvement as a process of physically molding the body with lines like “I took a scalpel to my heart” and “in my hand I took a hammer, brought it down and made it better.” The scratchy, upbeat guitars and McD’s melodic, sing-song vocals make the emotionally burdened process of self-improvement sound almost fun to the listener.

RIYL: Bully, Beach Bunny, Dehd, Porridge Radio

 

 

 

IDLES - Best Punk Songs 2020

9. IDLES – A Hymn

IDLES, known for their raging political anthems, took a break from dissecting society to look inward on the very existential “A Hymn.”  Lead singer Joe Talbot’s sharp-witted lines like “I played happy until my teeth hurt” and “I find shame in a bag gripped tight like your withering fame” offer a glimpse into his insecurities and anxieties even after his band has achieved almost every success possible to them.  The typical battering ram of sound that IDLES use to get their point across is replaced by a more delicate arrangement of atmospheric guitars and a driving drum beat on the track.  “A Hymn” adds a new and contemplative element to IDLES already formidable brand of political punk.

RIYL: Sleaford Mods, Protomartyr, Fontaines DC

 

 

 

Sorry - Best Punk Songs 2020

10. Sorry – Perfect

Sorry first caught everyone’s attention with their hedonistic anthems “Right Round the Clock” and “Starstruck.  It didn’t take long for them to pick up where they left off on “Perfect,” as Asha Lorenz immediately wonders “Oh devil where have you been?” to open the track.  What follows is the dissolution of a relationship set to playful yet grungy guitars, as Lorenz goes back and forth with co-lead singer Louis O’Brien.  The track concludes Lorenz leaves the decision to O’Brien, conceding “It’s your choice, just know I adore you”.  

RIYL: Porridge Radio 

 

 

 

 

PUP - Best Punk Songs 2020

11. PUP – Nothing Changes 

RIYL: Jeff Rosenstock, Slaughter Beach, Dog

 

 

 

TV Priest - Best Punk Songs 2020

12. TV Priest – Decoration 

RIYL: Protomartyr, Fontaines DC, IDLES

 

 

 

King Krule - Best Punk Songs 2020

13. King Krule – Stoned Again  

RIYL: DIIV, Ariel Pink

 

 

 

Shame - Best Punk Songs 2020

14. Shame – Snow Day

RIYL: Fontaines DC, Sleaford Mods, IDLES

 

 

 

Beach Bunny - Best Punk Songs 2020

15. Beach Bunny- Good Girls (Don’t Get Used)

RIYL: Charly Bliss, Bully, The Beths

 

 

 

Touché Amoré - Best Punk Songs 2020

16. Touché Amoré – Limelight 

RIYL: Title Fight, La Dispute 

 

 

 

Bully - Best Punk Songs 2020

17. Bully – Where to Start

RIYL:  The Beths, Camp Cope, Speedy Ortiz

 

 

 

Crack Cloud - Best Punk Songs 2020

18. Crack Cloud – Ouster Stew

RIYL: Talking Heads, Devo, Girl Band

 

 

 

Nation of Language - Best Punk Songs 2020

19. Nation of Language – The Wall & I

RIYL: New Order, Depeche Mode

 

 

 

Tropical Fuck Storm - Best Punk Songs 2020

20. Tropical Fuck Storm – Heaven

RIYL: Guerilla Toss, Iceage, Sorry

 

 

 

Walt Disco - Best Punk Songs 2020

21. Walt Disco – Cut Your Hair 

RIYL: HMLTD, The Orielles, Guerilla Toss

 

 

 

The Psychedelic Furs - Best Punk Songs 2020

22. The Psychedelic Furs – Wrong Train

Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure

 

 

 

Sleaford Mods - Best Punk Songs 2020

23. Sleaford Mods- Jobseeker

RIYL: IDLES, Shame, Viagra Boys

 

 

 

Sports Team - Best Punk Songs 2020

24. Sports Team – Here’s The Thing

RIYL: Porridge Radio, Shame 

 

 

 

Cloud Nothings - Best Punk Songs 2020

25. Cloud Nothings – Am I Something

RIYL: Wavves, DIIV

 


Stream the full X playlist below and follow us on Spotify to listen to the rest of our Best of the Year series.