Top 10 Albums/EP’s That DID NOT Suck in 2020

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It doesn’t matter how shitty things are, the music never suffers. In fact it thrives! The past year was, of course, the ultimate test for this theory and once again it’s proven true. That’s the thing about punk and punk-adjacent music; the harder things get, the more vital this stuff becomes. It’s always been there, tying tethers around the ankles of the toxic giants and, if we’re honest, we barely cause a ripple in the ocean of poison that fuels this planet. Don’t ever let anyone tell you we never change anything though, because what this music is doing is building a mentality. A mentality that grows stronger with each generation. We will never back down. This shit is unrelenting.

It’s been a weird year, a tragic year, a depressing year. Next year, with any luck, will be a little more “normal”, but whatever happens, the spirit of this music will never waver. It will live on far in to a future where kids are playing glow in the dark lazer flutes and brainwave-controlled moon drums. They’ll be playing that shit hard though. You’re gonna feel the pain and the rage and the love. No matter what it sounds like, it will always be punk.

Onward to the top ten!

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street sity surf where i live nowStreet Sity Surf – Where I live Now  🇺🇸 Portland, ME
Typically these lists are in no particular order but, between you and me, this is my favourite release of 2020. I knew it would be since I first heard the opening track all the way back in February. Remember February?! Haha oh how innocent we all were back then.

cursetheknife thank you for being hereCursetheknife – Thank You For Being Here  🇺🇸 Oklahoma City
Jumping from February all the way to November. Oh how defeated we all were by then. Who would have thought nine months could deliver such a whooping to our collective ass. That’s right we’re all in this together and we all share the same ass. This album actually came out in two parts which I find irritating so I downloaded both of them and combined them to make one sensible album.

gatsu inner struggleGatsu – Inner Struggle  🇨🇱 La Florida, Chile
Gatsuuuuu! Man this thing jumps. It’s not often these days you hear a hardcore record with such relentless vocals. Relentless is maybe an understatement. Does this guy even breath? Does he require oxygen at all? He probably needs to lay down and take a short nap after every song when they play live. I’m not mad at that at all. There should be more napping at hardcore shows.

alright im doing this to myselfAlright – I’m Doing This To Myself 🇺🇸 Charlotte, NC
As far as rad bands putting out rad music goes, North Carolina had a good 2020. I can think of at least three albums from that state that blew me away this year. This one has to be my favourite though. These songs really stick to the head. How does a band sound so fresh and so classic at the same time? The guitar riff in “Lapse” is like masturbation for your ears, and you don’t even have to feel guilty about going to hell or anything.

fossil arm in bad declineFossil Arm – In Bad Decline 🇺🇸 Austin, TX
There is not so much as a hint of positivity on this album. Most of these songs are about being brutally crushed by the weight of the world. Isn’t that wonderful! If you’re not currently in bad decline, these guys can certainly get you going in that direction. It’s strange though, because the band themselves are not in bad decline. They are anything but. They only disseminate the declination that is bad. They are the vendors of the bad decline. Get it while it’s hot.

laverne lack of vocationLaverne – Lack Of Vocation 🇨🇦 Vancouver, BC
I’ve been singing the praises of this band for a while now. Their first full-length Yarrow was my number one album back in 2018. Obviously I was pretty hyped when a new one came out. This sort of behavior often leads to disappointment. I’m not the type of person to just automatically like an album because it’s by one of my favourite bands. I do genuinely like this album though, a lot. I’m still not sure how to describe the guys voice. I’ve been going with “sarcastic”. I don’t know if that’s accurate though. Anyway it’s just dripping with attitude. Oh fuck I described someone’s voice with the word “dripping”. This is disgusting.

deaf chonky harshDeaf Chonky – Harsh 🇮🇱 Tel Aviv, Israel
What do you call it when a bands name is kind of the best way to describe their music? Some sort of musical onomatopoeia? I don’t know but I think you’ll agree this band, if not deaf, is most definitely chonky. And the album is called Harsh, which is also an accurate description. It’s not harsh-noise though. Maybe this is getting a bit confusing. Let’s just stick to chonky. It’s just chonky ok. That is the most clear and non-confusing way anyone could possibly describe this music.

fake eyes a drip is all we knowFake Eyes – A Drip Is All We Know 🇺🇸 Charlotte, NC
The new Hum album came out in June to great acclaim and a month later this little EP dropped and I was like “Hum who?”. Sure that’s a big statement and the new Hum album is pretty amazing but I’m telling you, these guys can hang. I strongly advise you to keep an eye on them. Watch, now that I said that they’ll never release anything again. Thanks a lot Fake Eyes. Another one of those killer releases out of North Carolina btw. What is in the water there? Hold on, I’ll look it up.. Ah ok, hexavalent chromium and vanadium, that’s what’s in the water.

old moon past livesOld Moon – Past Lives 🇺🇸 Lyme, NH
When it comes to new wave and it’s surrounding genres I’m pretty picky. It has to be dark but not too dark. It has to be moody but not too moody. Ok it can be too moody. Has to be guitar driven. Has to have the right style of vocals. Has to have some post-punk or shoegaze vibes. Has to sound like what walking in the rain and/or fog would sound like if you put it into a machine that converted it into music. And it has to invoke feelings of nostalgia, wistfullness and melancholy. In other words, THIS.

the yaupon holly bandThe Yaupon Holly – Self Titled 🇺🇸 Gainesville, FL
I recently learned from a friend in Florida that a Yaupon Holly is some kind of shrub or bush. I saw a picture of it and I gotta say, as far as holly goes, that shit is kind of uninspiring. I mean the leaves aren’t even prickly. I hate to be a holly-snob but I was raised to grade a holly bush based on how prickly it’s leaves are. LISTEN! If you’re a holly bush.. right.. RIGHT? and you haven’t a single prickle ON YOUR LEAVES.. What in THE ACTUAL oohhh.. Ok I’m gonna take a little break and come back to this. . Ok I’m back. We’re good. They may not be what a holly tree should be but they are exactly what a post-hardcore band should be. I heard they only had one show and then covid happened. Here’s hoping they come back.

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Well.. That’s it my loyal reader(s). These are the best relatively lesser-known albums of 2020. I mean as far as my opinion goes they are. If you’re not satisfied with this list, you should make your own. You should always keep digging for new bands. There’s literally thousands of them popping up every year. Be careful though. Most of them are fucking horrible. If you want to skip the part where you listen to all that bad music, you can check out the SCRAP HEAP where I try to weed out all the duds. Anyways, happy hunting everyone. Keep on fighting the good fight. I hope your 2021 is normal af. Follow me on twitter @SteveDoesnt and join the Doesn’t Suck Facebook group!

Top 10 Albums/EP’s That DON’T Suck [AUGUST 2020]

alright im doing this to myselfAlright – I’m Doing This To Myself
(indie-punk) (fuzz)
Charlotte, North Carolina 🇺🇸

heckdang fine just thinkingHeckdang – Fine Just Thinking
(emo) (indie-punk)
Charlotte, North Carolina 🇺🇸

glue horse self inflictedGlue Horse – Self Inflicted
(shoegaze) (grunge)
Massachusetts 🇺🇸

chimes of bayonets archiverChimes Of Bayonets – Archiver
(punk rock) (math)
Ithica, New York 🇺🇸

cabeza de juarez cdjCabeza De Juárez – CDJ
(lofi) (indie)
Mexico 🇲🇽

help 2053Help – 2053
(noise) (hardcore)
United States 🇺🇸

tuning defining the purposeTuning – Defining The Purpose
(hardcore) (emocore)
Oakland, California 🇺🇸

catsick conflicted splitCatsick/Conflicted – Split
(punk) (hardcore)
New Zealand & Russia 🇳🇿🇷🇺

narrow head 12th house rockNarrow Head – 12th House Rock
(shoegaze) (grunge)
Houston, Texas 🇺🇸

feels fine gripFeels Fine – Grip
(emo) (indie)
Toronto, Ontario 🇨🇦

Borders are scary. You make a border and the people on the other side become “others”. Even within my country I feel an innate degree of estrangement from the people in the province next to mine. There are 195 countries on planet earth (and counting) but even if we did away with all the borders, we would still have the imaginary ones in our minds because we’re disgusting. Tribalism is at the core of our nature and, until we un-do it, we’ll always be the joke of the galaxy.

In other news: I really half-assed the top ten this month. You’ll notice the SCRAP HEAP is a little light compared to other months. Life has just been a tad chaotic for me lately but I still managed to scrounge together ten killer releases from August for your enjoyment motherfuckers.

Pardon my language.

In more other news: I have been suspended from Facebook. Those of you who are members of the Doesn’t Suck Facebook group may have noticed the lack of my presence. Apparently Facebook insists that all it’s members use their real identity on the site and they don’t believe that Steve Doesnt is my real name. They wanted me to send a photo of my ID to prove it, so I sent them a picture of a hamburger. I’m still waiting to hear back from them, but for now my account is suspended indefinitely. I’m the only administrator of the group too, so it’s a fuckin free-for-all now isn’t it. Fuck it! Carte blanche for chaos! Have fun you guys. If they don’t re-activate my account I may start a new one but who knows if I’ll ever feel like doing that. For now you should follow me on twitter and join in the conversations there.

Yeah bye.

Throwback 13th (#007) – David Dondero

aaron cometbus add toner punk flyer

“Better leave before it blinks. I think the sky, it’s a sudden open eye”

A lot of musicians have paid their dues. A lot have earned their stripes. Most of them have gone on to achieve some level of notoriety, but there’s one who, after 25+ years grinding it out, is still, grinding it out. Is it for lack of talent or for lack of interest? Me thinks it’s the latter. Sometimes you just don’t win the musical-success lottery and I don’t think David Dondero gives a shit. I do think you should know who the hell he is though.

I’ve been reading a book called Add Toner by Aaron Cometbus. It’s his second collection of assorted Cometbus zines from the 90’s & 2000’s. It’s an enjoyable read but not as good as his original omnibus called Despite Everything. They’re both great, but what can I say, I like rating stuff. There is a really cool section in Add Toner though, about the time Aaron spent living in Asheville North Carolina. While residing there he helped cultivate a little punk scene by running an all ages venue called Oh My! and by designing show flyers. A lot of the flyers are featured in Add Toner and I was so incredibly thrilled to see the one pictured above.

In the early 90’s David Dondero lead a punk band called Sunbrain out of Clemson South Carolina. Their first album, Perfection Lies, has been cited by Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes as one of his foremost musical influences. Infact, I think it’s fair to say, Dondero invented the vocal style that Oberst has had so much success with. Conor and David actually collaborated later in life on a Deseparecidos song and one of David’s solo songs. You can hardly tell their voices apart. Perfection Lies is truly a masterpiece of an album, and Sunbrain probably should have been in the same conversation as a band like Jawbreaker, or maybe an entirely separate conversation of their own. They were innovators of a sound that was never fully explored. And so the grind continued.

After Sunbrain, Dondero probably did some other stuff, but I’m not a fuckin’ biographer so I can’t speak to that. He eventually ended up drumming for the infamous Florida folk-punkers, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb. The band (unintentionally) responsible for 2 bomb scares. I think he did vocals for them too cuz I’ve heard songs that sound exactly like him.

After Pipe Bomb the real grind began. David embarked on an arduous solo career that continues to this day. The weird thing about this show flyer though, is that both David Dondero and This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb are listed on the bill. I’m wondering if David played drums in the band and did a solo set by himself, or if this was after he quit Pipe Bomb. Maybe this is the show where they met and he joined Pipe Bomb that night! Unlikely, but that would be cool. If anyone knows, please write to me.

In 2018 Dondero is still barely scraping by as a musician. NPR named him one of the greatest living songwriters, yet he continues to grind, usually as an opening act for semi-successful bands. His solo career has lasted nearly two decades. The solo albums are the ones I’ve made the deepest connection with. If you’re not familiar with them, please familiarize yourself with them immediately. Like right now. Well finish the last paragraph first and then do it you animal.

I have this thing where if I don’t get 8 hours of sleep I’m completely useless. I also have this thing where I go to a job every morning to pay my bills, so I did not see David Dondero when he was here to open for Pedro The Lion on a Tuesday night in May. I know, it’s terrible right? I feel deep distress every time I think about it. He really is one of my heroes, but I guess I’ve got to pay my rent or whatever. If you see David Dondero, if you know him, if you bump into him, shake his hand for me and tell him sorry, and tell him thanks.

(Do you guys think my blog is going to get flagged for using the words ‘pipe bomb’ so much? If you found my blog because you are a terrorist, please go away and stop doing terrorist stuff).