1. Amyl & The Sniffers – S/T (ATCO)

These four were one of the most hyped bands all year, and it was justified; it’s been a while since I’ve seen a group that brings it equally hard on record and live. The music is explosive and high-energy, and that’s the best way to describe Amy’s voice as well as her human-torpedo live performances. It’ll be fun to see what they’ll do next, no pressure, of course. Listen to “Gacked on Anger” here.

2. The Jackets – Queen of the Pill (Voodoo Rhythm Records)

Queen of the Pill put this group on a new plateau in their niche and showed that their knack for taking calculated risks on different sounds paid off. The production is crystal clear and the songwriting strikes a great balance between garage punk and psych rock. Most importantly it’s consistently catchy, too.

Jackie Torrea’s voice soars and shows different sides of her eccentric personality, either storytelling or spitting fury in the lyrics. They also show you don’t have to be over-the-top or in-your-face to consistently deliver catchy hooks, another excellent delivery for the Voodoo Rhythm label. Listen to “Losers Lullaby” here.

3. Inter Arma – Sulphur English (Relapse Records)

Twenty-ninetwwn was a big year for releases in the metal genre; this one is one of them. This band is the most crushing group from Richmond, VA, and they back that up with this release. The riff’s war drum cadence is mammoth and equally as punishing as the vocals of Mike Paparo. Just listen to “Howling Lands” and hear for yourself, trust me. That track alone is the soundtrack to Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 BC.

4. Yawning Man – Macedonian Lines (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Yawning Man don’t make the same album twice, and Macedonian Lines is very different from 2018’s The Revolt Against Tired Noises. The long-standing relationship between Gary Arce and Mario Lalli is always going to be known for their ability to make music that is nothing short of colorful, if not kaleidoscopic.

They’re always challenging each other on each release, and the songwriting here shows how truly great writers and players Arce, Lalli, and drummer Bill Stinson are. Being from a niche that gets a lot of attention due to names and affiliations, Yawning Man transcends that. Listen to “Macedonian Lines” here.

5. Richard Rose – S/T EP (In The Red)

One of the heaviest-sounding punk releases in recent memory, absolutely worth it to keep them on your radar. This debut EP is a must if you’re looking for any recommendations for great lo-fi, spaced-out, heavy rock from Los Angeles. Featuring members of Ex-Cult, OBN III, and Hoover iii. Listen to the title track here.

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