Bandcamp has long been a home for DIY punk and hardcore from around the world, touching all of the myriad subgenre styles and helping to translate the simple effectiveness of cut-and-paste to the digital age. For December’s edition of the best punk releases on Bandcamp, Kerry Cardoza recaps the records that made the most lasting impressions in 2018.
Temple of Angels
Temple of Angels are masters of their domain. The five-piece Austin band expertly blend gothic, synth-heavy new wave with crisp post-punk melodies. Their secret weapon is singer Bre Morell, a soprano who can soar to ‘80s pop heights or can hypnotize with her lilting delivery; her range and style recalls pop chanteuse Sky Ferreira covering ’Til Tuesday’s iconic “Voices Carry.” Morell delivers her lines coolly, with a hint of detachment reminiscent of Kate Bush; it’s almost as if she’s heard these same lyrics before, at some point in the distant past. Temple of Angels can do dancey, poppier tracks, too, like their first single, opener “Star-Shaped Eyes,” but they’re at their best on “100 Lilies,” a dreamy, layered track that glistens with a metallic sheen.
London four-piece Scrap Brain play sludgy, dirge-filled hardcore punk, brimming with angst and attitude; their weird, dissonant riffs, coupled with singer Camille Rearden’s abrasive snarl and clever lyrics, recall the group’s ‘90s predecessors, Huggy Bear. “Don’t look at me / Don’t talk to me / Don’t stand near me / Don’t think about me,” Rearden intones again and again on the second track, a useful incantation for anyone dealing with unwanted attention. The EP ends with a bang with “Scrap Brain,” a jammed-out, aggressive ode to dissociation that builds and builds—until it all falls apart.
Hank Wood and the Hammerheads
Hank Wood and the Hammerheads have received a lot of hype since they burst onto the NYC scene in 2012, and for good reason: the raw energy and swagger that singer Hank Wood brings to each song is infectious. Bold, inventive vocals can take punk bands from great to legendary, and Wood’s style is indeed as unmistakable as Bad Brains’ H.R. or Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna. To that end, the bluesy riffs, organ sounds, and scratchy howls recall the rock ‘n’ roll sounds of Murder City Devils, mixed with the explosiveness of Fear. This full-length, out via Toxic State Records, shows the band more uptempo than ever, despite the hopelessness radiating from every song. “Let me tell you about death, baby / Me and you / That’s all we got left, baby,” Wood spews, the truth of his words registering like a swift punch to the gut.
Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears
Brooklyn’s Human People do apathy better than any of their ‘90s alt-rock predecessors. On their debut full-length, the guitar-heavy quartet fuse the raspy, imperfect vocals of Courtney Love’s Hole with the melodic, deadpan power-pop of the Vivian Girls. Most songs find Hayley Livingston and Marisa Gershenhorn (who share vocal duties) griping about their crummy realities over fuzzed-out basslines. “Don’t touch me / I could crush you,” they sing on “Jenny,” a timely, somewhat fantastical reflection on the trials and tribulations of living in a body. The energetic standout “In My Speakers” is another great song dedicated to feeling shitty, a dejection that’s similarly exacerbated by the song’s addressee: “You make me feel like nothing,” Livingston sings. “I will smile when I want to / And hate myself without your help.”
The Barcelona-based four-piece Ultra play abrasive anarcho-punk with a clear NYC hardcore influence. The group, which features members of Absurdo and Anarquia Vertical, keep things quick and to the point on their latest full-length, with most songs clocking in at around a minute. But they make every second count, particularly where the reverb-heavy vocals are concerned; they’re always delivered at full throttle, so as to complement the chaotic riffs. This LP ends on a surprise note with the instrumental “Retorno,” a longer, slow-building new wave dance track built around weaving synths and clattering tambourine, overtly atmospheric but still unbelievably catchy. Clearly, Ultra have much more up their sleeves, and we can’t wait for what comes next.
This Oakland trio combine aggressive, ear-splitting vocals with minimal, DC-inspired post-hardcore. Singer Meghan O’Neil Pennie (ex-Punch), who also plays bass, vacillates between full-on screams and more emotive singing, often in the same song. Recorded by the legendary Steve Albini and released via Deathwish, their debut LP Stella delivers a steady wall of sound, even on (relatively) quieter tracks like “Falcon.” Ultimately, the record reveals the band is as tight and melodic as they were on their early singles, only with a stronger grasp on dark subject matter, and by extension, seemingly bottomless personal pain.
The first proper release from Philadelphia’s Full Bush is as funny and irreverent as you might expect from a punk band conceived over drinks. Vocalist Kate Breish delivers her lyrics clearly and with a slight twang, able to catapult stylistically from heavy rock wail to no-wave monotone. Sure, Full Bush might sometimes give off a party vibe (consider the lyrics to “Surf Song”: I hate your face / Drink a six-pack / Listen to Full Bush”). But the quartet also veer into more serious territory, such as on the powerful, grooving, late Sleater Kinney-esque “Someone,” which presents romantic relationships in all their complexity.
Featuring members of No Statik and Iron Lung, Convenience play brutal hardcore punk, complete with deep, heavy-hitting drum beats and screamed vocals that sound as if the singer is constantly on the verge of losing his voice. This 7-inch delivers nine minutes of pure, pounding animosity. That said, some tracks are broken up by interludes of spoken word, as on the slow-building closer “Invisible”—quickly-delivered ramblings which, in turn, amplify the song’s manic energy.