(L-R) Pale Waves, Kenny Hoopla, Phoebe Bridgers
Niall Lea, Frank Ockenfels
Pale Waves, “Change”
Pale Waves lean heavily on the Avril Lavigne songbook for a song examining the gap between love and lust. Heather Baron-Grace sounds broken as she sings “Just wishing you would change/It’s no surprise you’re still the same,” showing that romantic relationships are often complicated. “Change” will feature on the band’s new album Who Am I?, due in February.
Kenny Hoopla feat. Travis Barker, “ESTELLA//”
Machine Gun Kelly got the headlines but Kenny Hoopla is the artist making the most exciting pop-punk with Travis Barker in 2020. “ESTELLA//” practically bounces with romantic possibility.
Soul Glo, “29”
A highlight of the Philadelphia hardcore band’s vital new EP Songs To Yeet At The Sun, “29” is a brutal and stark PSA to young people whose need to purchase SSRIs outweighs their opportunity to afford them. “Microbudget all your 20s, not just the bills,” Pierce Jordan shrieks as guitars that sound like air raid warnings go off around him.
Phoebe Bridgers, “If We Make It Through December”
Phoebe Bridgers truly loves to deliver piping hot content. Whether it’s a Goo Goo Dolls cover, teaming up with another famous Phoebe, dropping a stripped back EP, or this Christmas song there has been a lot of from camp Bridgers this past month. Originally by Merle Haggard, “If We Make It Through December” is the centerpiece of a new holiday-themed EP, proceeds of which will be donated to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles.
Glitch Gum, “Kyoto”
Speaking of Phoebe Bridgers, this hyperpop cover of her hit “Kyoto” is a lot of fun.
Girl in Red, “Two Queens In A King Sized Bed”
For anyone who found Happiest Season’s queer festive representation a little lacking is this v.cute new Girl In Red song.
Dogleg, “Gannon Main”
There’s a lengthy backstory to this cover of Florida band Worst Party Ever’s “Gannon Main” but tl;dr - 2020 hasn’t stopped Dogleg making music that sounds like Japandroids and Cloud Nothings sprinting for their lives at the punk sports days.
U.S. Girls, “Santa Stay Home”
Meg Remy advocates for a rethinking of the festive period on her new anti-Christmas song. She’s talking about Santa Claus when she says “I can’t have you coming in my house/ I don’t know what you’re all about” but is also offering up perfect pandemic advice, too.
Anjimile, “Waverly” (Samia cover)
Two under-the-radar albums to check out this end of year season are Anjimile’s Giver Taker and The Baby by Samia. Naturally then, Anjimile covering a song from Samia’s album is a real treat. They transform the original, a dream-like ode to a partner once famously courted by a Hollywood star, into something altogether more intimate and heartfelt.
System Of A Down, “Protect The Land”
“Protect The Land”, SOAD’s first new music in 15 years, was released to raise funds for the Armenia Fund with the band putting personal differences aside to help provide for Aremenians affected by violence from Azerbaijan and Turkish forces.
Dry Cleaning, “Scratchcard Lanyard”
British post-punks Dry Cleaning shrink everything down to mini measures for their excellent new video. Vocalist Florence Shaw is quite literally a face in the crowd as she talks of “a woman in aviators firing a bazooka” in a deadpan style while her band ratchet up the tension around her. A band to watch in 2021 for sure.
If you love Sheer Mag’s glitzy take on dive bar punk, then check out new Australian band Romero.
Shame, “Water in the Well”
There are no points for calling out a Talking Heads influence on a band in 2020, so let’s skip straight past that and shout out Shame for taking their agit-punk sound and adding a healthy dose of funk into the mix. “Water In The Well” is set to appear on the British band’s second album Drunk Tank Pink, due on January 15 via Dead Oceans.
Puma Blue, “Opiate”
Puma Blue takes a simple concept (the idea of a smell lasting long after a person has left) and turns it into a vibey late night workout. His long-awaited debut album In Praise of Shadows is set for release on February 5.
The Weather Station, “Tried To Tell You”
The Weather Station have undergone something of a sonic makeover ahead of their new album Ignorance (due on February 5), moving from a stripped-down folk sound to something a little more plugged in and rhythmic. “Tried toTell You,” per a statement, is a beautiful song about “reaching out to someone; a specific person, or maybe every person, who is tamping down their wildest and most passionate self in service of some self (and world?) destructive order.”