The 10 best Twin Cities punk albums of 2013

Erik Hess
Ponx at the Total Trash Tape Release

Every year the doomsayers and cynics crawl out of the woodwork and grumble that the Twin Cities punk scene is dead. But if you subscribe to that bullshit in 2013, it's pretty clear that you're old, narrow-minded, or simply not paying attention. True, it might be a little harder to find, but that's because many bands have gone underground, returning to their roots in basements and eschewing the now-standardized social media blitz. What's left is a tight-knit but incredibly diverse scene, separated by style and intensity but united by purpose and an enduring commitment to the DIY values our community has always been known for.

A quick word on format: this is not a ranked list. It's in alphabetic order, because D-Beat Crust and bubbly pop-punk are nearly impossible to compare. Also, for the purposes of this list, an "album" must by at least 4 songs long. Check out the Honorable Mentions section at the bottom for some of the year's best singles, and a few that didn't quite make the cut.

Courtesy of Diver Dress

Diver Dress - The Silence EP

Diver Dress have been a bit of a slow burn, gaining some attention with a strong 7-inch back in 2011 before taking a break for things like school and baby-having. The four-piece returned this year with a strong showing in the form of their 6-track Silence EP. Engineered and produced by Ali Jafaar of Hollow Boys fame, who's been on a hot-streak this year, at his Ecstattic Studio, the 8-inch record is full of fuzzy, garage punk goodness. Their sound mixes left-coast lo-fi with a dash of angular noise and riot-grrrl aesthetics when bassist Angie Kilcher takes her turn on the mic.

Courtesy of Kitten Forever

Kitten Forever - Pressure

While they've been college radio favorites around the Twin Cities for a decent while now, Kitten Forever finally made their defining statement of purpose with their second album, Pressure. Still a three-piece, but now more flexible in their instrumentation, all of the women in Kitten Forever now take turns on vocals, although their voices mesh extremely well together. Another awesome release from Ecstattic Studios, the LP finally nails the propulsive minimalism of the band's live show while still sounding presentable for airplay. Fans of local faves like Babes in Toyland and feminist punk definitely need to give this one a listen.

See Also: Kitten Forever: Half serious, half party, all punk

Courtesy of Kontrasekt

Kontrasekt - End of Destruction

Kontrasekt specialize in a style of bone-crushingly heavy Blackened Crust sometimes referred to by its signature machine-gun drum sound known as D-Beat. With their insane tempos and guttural screams, Kontrasekt fit right in with our burgeoning Crust scene here in the Twin Cities, but their unique usage of heavy reverb and screeching industrial noise have drawn comparisons to the hardcore weirdness currently popular in Japan. In fact, Kontrasekt does their take on the pulverizing genre so well that this record was picked up by the legendary MCR label, something like the Japanese version of SST, which rarely releases American bands, let alone ones from our corner of the nation.

Artwork by David Watt

Much Worse - Macrocosm is a Wash

God bless groups like Much Worse for keeping the hardcore flag flying high in the Twin Cities. This is the kind of uncompromising, blisteringly fast record that sounds like it could've come straight from the '80s DC punk scene if it weren't for the brutal, contemporary breakdowns. Released on local label Forward!, purveyors of all things heavy, this full-length LP is a breakneck race to this finish, with not a single track breaking the three-minute mark. Recorded by Mat Castore of Condominium at his A Harder Commune studio, the mix is crystal clear without a hint of polish. Technical and ferocious, Macrocosm makes it impossible to sit still.

Photo by Suzy Sharp

Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band - Promises to Deliver

While his current project probably stretches the definition of the word, Nato Coles is a true-blue punk journeyman for the ages. Veteran of a handful of stellar pop-punk groups based in Milwaukee and Minneapolis, Promises to Deliver sees Nato and his current group embracing the epic, melodic textures of Thin Lizzy and the Boss. But even on the album's mellower, more contemplative cuts there's a restless, rebel spirit that puts this defiantly outside of classic rock cheese. If there was any justice in the world, Nato and the BDB's excellent songwriting would put them in the Gaslight Anthem's place at the top of the rock charts.

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