BEST OF 2023 The Best Punk of 2023 By Kerry Cardoza · December 13, 2023

As another dark year comes to an end, may I recommend unwinding with some essential punk releases? Sometimes when the world around you seems a little too Orwellian, the best thing you can do is let off some steam with some irreverent post-punk (a la Glasglow’s Dancer) or some raw early punk (as in Peru’s Autopsia). Maybe you can even find some reason for hope, as Montréal’s Uzu sings, “My soul and my body/ Will not be stolen […] No matter if the path is uncertain/ No matter if the obstacles are insuperable.”


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This unprepossessing five-song demo from the new Budapest-based trio Pletyka is a refreshing take on synth-driven post-punk. The lead vocals—which detail living with depression and being eternally tired—are cool and subdued, often echoing around swirling or eerily cryptic synth lines and steady, simple bass and drums. The intense “ÖRÖKÖS FÁRADTSÁG” is a standout, with layers of vocals and a synth that buzzes like an annoying insect. The closing cover of The Wire’s “The 15th,” sung in English, is another delight, all warbling keys and Marine Girls-esque vocal delivery.


Following an explosive 2021 EP, Montréal’s Ilusi​ó​n has filled out musically, with a powerful new vocalist. This new release, featuring four new tracks and two freshly recorded older ones, is loud, aggressive hardcore, sometimes veering into thrash. The drums drive the melody forward, particularly on the pummeling title track; the echoing vocals are wielded like an ax, an evil cackle thrown in on “Metiche” for good measure. The ultrafast “La Sangre En Tus Manos” boasts a mosh part with a wild, metallic guitar solo. Recorded with pristine clarity, Ilusi​ó​n is a release you don’t want to miss.

Blues Lawyer
Sight Gags on the Radio

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7" Vinyl

Just a few months after their third full-length release, Oakland’s Blues Lawyer dropped this gem of an EP. Beginning with the upbeat, new wave-y “Have Nots,” the band establishes their big guitar sound—driven home here with a gnarly solo. “True Love’s Only Name” is another banger, similar in sound to The Hazmats, with sweet dual vocals, while “Our Divide” is the most rocking, with a ’60s girl group vocal style. A loud, distorted guitar drives the earnest closing track. Sung by Elyse Schrock, the song is a bittersweet ending, as it was recorded right before the drummer left town due to the exorbitant cost of living. What will become of Blues Lawyer?


Montréal trio Uzu play dark melodic hardcore, with poetic lyrics delivered in Arabic. Featuring members of Ultra Razzia and Bosque Rojo, the band pairs doom-y guitar riffs with a strong bassline and wavering, Jello Biafra-style vocals. “Taïf” is a particularly strong track, with group vocals that give way to a spooky, sparse bridge, while “Aswad” uses phaser-laden guitar to disorienting effect. The band members hail from Algeria, Colombia, and Canada, and their lyrics hint at the dispossession and melancholy that can come with being separated from one’s homeland.

Don’t Eat Food!

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Vinyl LP

The short-lived Osaka four-piece INU (Japanese for dog) formed in 1979, undergoing several lineup changes before disbanding shortly after this record was released in 1981. But their energy and unique no wave-meets-post-punk sound has solidified their place in Japan’s punk canon. Thanks to this reissue, now the wider world can also enjoy INU’s wild sounds. Fronted by Machida Machizō, the future novelist, no two songs here are alike. Veering from experimental punk on “Don’t Eat Food!” to Devo-esque post-punk on “Old Man, Old Woman” to catchy, angular post-punk on “Light Cider/Right Sider B (The Refreshing Road to Hell).”

As Well

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“I need to chill out,” vocalist Gemma Fleet wails on “Chill Pill,” a fitting summation of what it feels like to be sentient in late 2023. This Glasgow quartet—featuring members of the stellar Nightshift—specialize in funky, sharp post-punk with irreverent, offbeat storylines. (“Pulp Thriller” details the strange actions of a BBC disc jockey.) The disarming “Love,” a love song of sorts, is sweeter fare, with lilting guitar that builds into moments of euphoric emo. EP closer “And Jesus Wept” has a walking blues pace and buzzy keys. Weaving a tale about Jesus with a splinter, the tense instrumentation gives way to Fleet reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Curious indeed.

“sistema y poder demo” LP

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Vinyl LP

Formed in 1984 in Lima, Peru by a group of four young punks intent on having their say, Autopsia make incredibly scrappy, raw punk. The guitar has an at times tinny overdrive sound, the growled vocals are intensely shouted; the recording gives the sense that you’re in the room with the band, hearing them live in all their imperfections. The song titles offer up a sense of the atmosphere in Peru at the time (“Cuerpos Quemados,” “Sociedad Podrida,” “No Mas Líderes”). “Ruptura Anárquica” is especially hard-hitting, while the opener dabbles in Oi! and the titular track barrels forward at a punishing pace. Band members were later part of bands such as Ataque Frontal and Feudales, but Autopsia set the parameter for greatness high.

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