Luke Nuttall (Editor / Writer)
5. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Crowbar
While End Of Suffering might have seen Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes mellow out considerably to rather mixed results, it can’t be denied that Crowbar was the perfect way to launch it. The fire is still there at its core, but now bolstered by a sinister, low-slung pulse that comes from a sneering central groove and Carter’s vocal performance, trading out a lot of his characteristic visceral intensity for bubbling scorn towards those who’ll try and stifle any sort of individuality for no reason other than to keep the status quo in check. It’s the chorus that sends this track into spectacular territory though, hitting as close to arena-rock bombast as Carter has maybe ever reached and drifting towards the old firebrand side with a tempering side of maturity that, at this point, feels justly earned. Even if a lot of what Carter and his band produced this year couldn’t really match up, Crowbar stands out regardless as an example of alt-rock greatness through and through.
4. Dinosaur Pile-Up – Back Foot
As the perennial occupants of Britrock’s mid-tier, it’s never really been in Dinosaur Pile-Up’s nature to shock or surprise. But regardless of all of that, here’s Back Foot, an ode to dreaming big but underachieving spectacularly, stuffed to the brim with the self-awareness and sardonic reflexiveness that fills in the humour of a track like this without tipping it into pure comedy. That’s because Dinosaur Pile-Up are smart enough to know exactly how to play up a track like this, choosing to crank up the guitars and leaning on that rafter-rattling central riff, while Matt Bigland’s snotty, sneering delivery is pretty much perfect at capturing the vibe of a stagnant burnout that might be overstating where Dinosaur Pile-Up currently find themselves, but in a track as cartoonish and exaggerated as this, wouldn’t suffice it if was done any other way. On top of that, it’s all mountains of fun, and represents a steep peak that few would’ve ever predicted this band would hit, but feels all the more satisfying to know they have.
3. Foals – The Runner
Depending on who you ask, Foals’ double album experiment this year was either a roaring success or an uneven patchwork that really didn’t come to pass, but it can’t be denied that at least a few gems were present among the two. Between them all, The Runner is the one that’s prevailed the most, taking the gruff rock snarl of initial standout Black Bull and doing so much more with it in its carved-out groove and calamitous percussion that suitably feels borne from the apocalypse. What’s more, in what is effectively another anthem to getting back up after being knocked down, there’s gusto and gumption that puts The Runner miles ahead of others in its lane, especially in Yannis Philippakis’ frayed howl that captures a desperation that hits with so much more force. It’s a level of quality that’s unfortunately not consistently present across Foals’ two albums this year, but in a sense, an undeniable rock hit like this is worth the price of admission alone.
2. Fever 333 – Burn It
As Fever 333 have continued to fill the incendiary hole left by letlive. throughout 2019, it’s become all the more evident that any shortcomings when compared to Jason Butler’s old band really don’t mean much in a much wider context. A track like Burn It feels like the ideal example of that, the sort of gnashing, rabble-rousing anthem to change and social mobilisation that aims for the jugular and rips it clean out. Butler plays the role of activist mouthpiece with incredible precision, drawing parallels with himself to important black figures in US history both to highlight the magnitude of the change that’s going to come, but also pinpoint the vitriol with which the charge he’s leading is ready to hit with. Backed by the buzzsaw post-hardcore guitars and a mix that prioritises tightness while still pushing wild firepower to the fore, and it all makes for one of the most defiantly direct and powerful missives released this year. There’s plenty of reasons that Fever 333 have been scorching through 2019 at almost every turn, and a track like Burn It remains one of the most electrifying.
1. Hot Milk – Awful Ever After
It speaks a lot to how unconventional 2019 was as a year that the best single released ended up being this, the debut release from an immediately precocious little pop-rock band from Manchester who’d wind up being one of the most electric propositions the genre currently has. But while Awful Ever After has always been a great song, in the context of the year as a whole it only continues to shine brighter, as Han Mee and Jim Shaw let loose a post-breakup expulsion of frustration and tiredness, sick of hiding behind a veil of magnanimity and just ready to be over and done with it all. Wrapped in the sort of irresistible pop-rock presentation that has polish without being clandestine and burbling darkness without falling into dourness, Awful Ever After is the sort of debut single that hits the ground running at a pace that few can really keep up over time. Hot Milk look to be managing it given everything they’ve put out this year though, and the fact that this is very much still the beginning for them makes this first hit feel all the more special.
Georgia Jackson (Deputy Editor / Writer)
5. Dream State – Primrose
Frankness about universal yet stigmatised struggles is always something to be applauded, and the stark nature of Dream State’s lyrics about addiction have always been one of their major selling points. Primose is the crown jewel of debut album Primose Path, accentuating everything there is to love about this band. CJ Gilpin is a vocal force to be reckoned with over a storming instrumental, selling emotion and internal struggle. By the time the “why do I keep falling back on myself?” middle eight comes in, you’ll be raising your fist through sheer solidarity. There’s something that bit sweeter about such a great song having such an important message behind it, and there truly feels like no better thing to sum up everything great that Dream State do.
4. Bring Me The Horizon – medicine
While That’s The Spirit was Bring Me The Horizon’s leap of faith into making pop music, amo is where the shift really took hold. medicine is one of Bring Me’s most pop-leaning singles to date, and the truly anthemic quality the track has proves the band’s worth in such territory. Melodramatic lyrics (that are completely sold by Oli Sykes’ delivery) only aid the scream-along quality of the chorus, and Jordan Fish is a master of adding electronic flourishes atop the skeleton of the song to keep things feeling fresh and interesting. The best albums of Bring Me The Horizon’s career is always a topic that sparks debate, but songs like medicine more than give legs to the argument for the radio-friendly era.
3. Foals – On The Luna
Plenty of songs from Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 change things up for Foals, and On The Luna is a stunning example of it working for them. Even more so though, it’s a display of just how tight Foals are as a band, crafting a song that builds organically as each powerhouse member yields or bands together at appropriate moments. The combination of the rhythm guitar and cascading synth line that underpins the track is hypnotising by itself, but the introduction of extra synth motifs and percussion that all ebb and flow as the track moves through sections is first-class. It encompasses the entire vibe of Everything…Part 1 all while showing off the technical skills of one of the decade’s best rock bands, and absolutely deserves its place on this list.
2. The Menzingers – Strangers Forever
Universally high expectations for a band can be a dangerous thing, but for The Menzingers, they’re something not only justified, but consistently met. This year’s Strangers Forever, a late pre-release single for Hello Exile, remains the best song on the record. A crunchy guitar riff cycles beneath Greg Barnett’s echoey delivery (which, though sometimes an odd choice elsewhere on the record, really works on Strangers Forever), and he manages to make lyrics based on Anna Karenina feel like pages from his diary. It maybe isn’t too much of a stretch to believe that Barnett’s own experiences have probably also fed into this song; there’s a cutting yet relatable quality to these lyrics that makes belting them feel different to other Menzingers songs. Definitely a song for the Menzingers hall of fame.
1. PUP – Kids
Everybody loves an underdog, and the likability that oozes from the pessimistically chipper PUP has made them the best kind. Kids, the lead single from Morbid Stuff, is the unexpected feelgood anthem of the year, and it’s a textbook example of finding joy in apathy. Real, from-the-heart lyrics about depression should be at odds with such grinning punk instrumentation, but the ability that PUP have to fuse the two and make the whole thing a party is second to none. Stefan Babcock’s spoken verses would just feel like waffle if their delivery wasn’t so full of character, charisma and genuine fun, while the chorus is a glorious, gang vocals-fuelled release and return to what the melodic side of PUP is known for being and inciting so well. Kids, and indeed Morbid Stuff, is the best reminder that PUP still know how to do what they do better than anyone else in the game.
Words by Luke Nuttall and Georgia Jackson