By now, you’re probably sick of “Best of 2016” lists, but bear with me as I show off a little hometown pride. Our underground punk scene might not be as recognized as other parts of North America, but for me, I’ve been obsessed with Montreal’s music for the past ten years. There’s something for everyone in this city, so my picks for the best albums of last year are clearly subjective. I only hope you find these releases as mind-blowing as I did.
#5: Death Proof- Haunted
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This album came out in early December, so I didn’t give the songs enough time to soak in like the others on this list, nonetheless, I was still impressed on first listen. Death Proof is an all-girl trio who play a mix of grunge, punk, psych and deathrock. While their first album was more on the glam side, Death Proof took a much darker approach on their newest project, lyrically and musically. What’s great is every instrument can be heard clearly, the bass is particularly prominent and not mixed out or overpowered by the guitar.
Favourite Track: “J-Lo”
#4: The Omegas- Power To Exist
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Montreal old-school hardcore warriors are back with a powerful follow-up to 2011 album Blasts Of Lunacy. Power To Exist has everything I’ve come to expect from a hardcore record. It kicks off with a rolling drum line and next thing you know, the singer is wailing directly into your ear. It makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of a sweaty moshpit in someone’s living room. Out of the 15 tracks on this album, very few clock over a minute and a half. Perfect for our attention-deficit generation!
Favourite Track: “Dog By Day”
#3: Hashed Out- Cosmic Pessimism
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Somehow, Hashed Out has gotten heavier. Just when you thought they couldn’t get any crustier, they unleash a storm of blast beats, growls and down-tuned guitars sure to fill you with existential dread. The album ends on possibly the most brutal line I’ve read in years: “And you can sift our ashes into the sleeves of our Discharge records. Until we’re dead and in the dirt.” If you go onto Hashed Out’s Facebook page, you can see a series of pictures of people holding up the record cover to their faces, check it out if you need a good laugh after listening to this depressing masterpiece.
Favourite Track: “In the Dust of this Planet / What a Shame”
#2: Fuck Toute- Fuck Toute
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Back in 2015, I said that Fuck Toute had one of the best demos of the year. For their debut full-length, they upped their production and pushed their brand of angry punk to dangerous new levels. They even injected a little humour on the 20-second song “Ascenseur.” Unfortunately, this is the only French-language release I paid attention to this year. I don’t know if it’s because I’m out of touch with the francophone scene or because few musicians choose to write in French. Then again, it’s hard to make out what’s being said over the drawn out screams and squealing guitar feedback. Fuck Toute got a lot of attention this year because of their name: they were featured on Vice News and performed on the Mike Ward Show, with hilarious results.
Favourite Track: “Dematerialisation mononucleaire”
#1: Dig It Up!- Bad Water
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Dig It Up almost flew under my radar with their long-awaited sophomore album. Bad Water is a super fun listen and packs a hard punch, and has all the elements that I loved from their first album, Manners. It encapsulates the energy Dig It Up is known to have at live shows, complete with blistering solos and shout-a-long choruses. The whole album gives off a sense of urgency, with song titles like “Get Out Quick,” “Keep Away,” “Danger,” and “Be Ready To Defend Self.” Warning: listening to Dig It Up will create the urge to grow a beard, cut off the sleeves of your jean jacket and launch your Pabst Blue Ribbon across the room while head-banging violently.
Favourite Track: “Bad Water”
Honourable, Not-So-Punk Mentions:
Mountain Dust- Nine Years
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A very cool stoner rock band with organs and lap steel slide-guitar. Mountain Dust’s bluesy-riffs and over-the-top vocals hearken back to the early ages of heavy metal, yet simultaneously draws up a blueprint of the shape of rock n’ roll to come. Though the album is only seven songs long, it still clocks way over most of the albums on this list.
Favourite Track: “Evil Deeds”
Bats in the Belfry- Hounded
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Another all-girl trio, though more concentrated on folk punk. The three girls play ukulele, guitar and mandolin. I’m not normally a fan of acoustic music, but the Bats’ songs are catchy and their joined harmonies almost bring a tear to my eye on each listen. The amount of talent and emotion that goes into each song is incredible. Worth a listen!
Favourite Track: “Drive”
Chris Aitkens is a punk music nerd born and raised in Montreal. When he’s not putting off writing assignments, he’s singing in a crossover metal band and hosting a weekly radio show on CJLO 1690AM.