A few weeks ago, famed .gif pusher and all things 90’s lover BuzzFeed published a list titled “36 Pop Punk Albums You Need to Hear Before You Die”. All things considered, the list was almost exactly what you’d expect it to be: tons of albums from early 2000’s with all the big names, such as Green Day, blink-182, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Saves the Day, and Good Charlotte. But then things got weird with the inclusion of albums by Rancid, Operation Ivy, NOFX, and The Offspring. Not bad bands, by any means, but hardly what one might consider “pop punk”.
Naturally, the internet responded with lists of their own. Specifically, JadedPunk and Mitch Clem. And now, we here at DyingScene have responded too, because what’s more pop punk than following examples set by others?
DISCLAIMER: The ordering is purely arbitrary, although it’s almost certain some won’t see this and argue about why Album X should be listed at least five spots higher.
Read the full list here.
36. The Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About
I don’t want to spark a debate between what constitutes “pop punk” vs. what constitutes “emo”, but do want to go on record here and say that if you’re going to consider Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American as a defining pop punk album (come on though), you’d be a fool to not mention The Get Up Kids’ second album. Without albums like Something to Write Home About, most of the pop punk and emo bands of the early 2000’s probably wouldn’t have existed.
35. F.Y.P – Toys That Kill
Much more “punk” and “pop”, F.Y.P’s final album was also their most polished and melodic to date. While the album lacks the small DIY budget of the band’s earliest works, Todd C’s melodies and hooks are bigger and more pronounced on this album, paving the way for his later bands, including (but not limited to) Toys That Kill and The Underground Railroad to Candyland.
34. Less Than Jake – Losing Streak
While primarily considered a ska-punk band by the masses, those of us in the Scene know better than that. Less Than Jake may have utilized their brass section and upstrokes to the fullest in the 90’s (the jury is still out on their more recent output), but at heart they’re a pop punk band. Thanks to the lo-fi punk aesthetics, the pop punk aspects on Losing Streak aren’t as refined as they are on the band’s later releases (Hello Rockview, or Anthem, for example), but listen to a song like “Sugar In Your Gas Tank” or “Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore” and you’ll see that the foundations were already there.
33. The Ataris – End Is Forever
I’m sure people will argue that if I had to include an album by The Ataris that I should have gone with either Blue Skies, Broken Hearts… Next 12 Exits or So Long, Astoria, and they might be right. But End Is Forever is still worthy of a listen or two, balancing itself evenly with broken-hearted love songs (a la Blue Skies), and with more introspective songs, something they took even further on So Long, Astoria. But even in the midst of all that angst and nostalgia, Kris Roe still knew how to make fun of himself, penning lines such as “life ain’t all that bad, even if Henry Rollins is your dad”.
32. Stephen Egerton – The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton
The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton was an ambitious project helmed by the Descendents/ALL guitarist. He wrote and recorded all the music by himself, then invited sixteen friends to his studio to write and record lyrics for the tracks he recorded. Featuring guests that range from Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath and MxPx’s Mike Herrera to Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano and Less Than Jake’s Chris DeMakes, The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton contains a whole buttload of pop punk goodness. Oh yeah, and Milo sings one of the songs, making it the closest thing we’ve gotten to a new Descendents song since 2004.
31. The Gamits – Endorsed by You
There were a lot of pop punk bands during the mid-90’s to the early 2000’s. So many that it was kind of hard to keep track of them all, and a few just slipped through the cracks. The Gamits were one of those bands that got constantly overlooked, which is weird because the band balanced nice, meaty hooks with plenty of introspective lyrics much like many of the more celebrated bands of the era. Their entire discography is solid, but their debut, Endorsed By You is probably the best place to start. Just a single listen to the album and you’ll understand why the Gamits were once touted as “America’s best / hidden pop punk secret”.
30. The Unlovables – Crush Boyfriend Heartbreak
When people think of female fronted pop punk bands, often people think of Paramore as the prime example. The Unlovables sound nothing like Paramore, owing their sound more to the likes of The Queers or Descendents, with speedy and light-hearted love songs with plenty of whoas and hooks.
29. Various Artists – The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore
Okay, so this is a compilation and it occasionally breaks out of the pop punk genre (Night Birds!), so I’m probably breaking some unwritten rules by including it. But have you heard this comp? Larry Livermore, of Lookout Records, handpicked each and every one of these bands. This is the man who signed Green Day, Screeching Weasel, The Mr. T Experience, and The Queers and turned them into household names (relatively speaking). Why would you not trust his judgment on what makes a great pop punk band?
28. Lipstick Homicide – Isn’t It Glorious?
If the Unlovables are a little too sweet for your tastes, you might prefer the more snotty Lipstick Homicide. Isn’t It Glorious? jumps back and forth between sweet love songs and vicious and bitter punk ditties almost seamlessly. The production quality jumps around a bit on the album, but with songs this good it’s easy to get over it.
27. Broadway Calls – Good Views, Bad News
Even though their self titled debut had a lot more to offer sonically, Good Views, Bad News is a consistent joyride through some of the most melodic and polished pop punk without breaking into mainstream or “Defend Pop Punk” territories. Just listen to those hooks in “Midnight Hour” or “To The Sheets”, or the call-and-response vocals of “Be All That You Can’t Be” or “Tonight’s Alive” and you’ll be singing along in no time.
26. Mixtapes – Even on the Worst Nights
Mixtapes are a weird band. They kind of just appeared out of nowhere and now they’ve become one of the biggest names of the genre. Known equally for their shit talking and for their personal and reflective lyrics, it’s hard to know where to place them on the pop punk spectrum because one moment during Even on the Worst Nights they’re doing a duet with Grath Madden of House Boat and the Steinways, and the next moment they’ve got Dan “Soupy” Campbell of The Wonder Years getting a guest verse. Not many bands could pull something like that off so successfully, but Mixtapes do it with ease.
25. Even In Blackouts – Myths and Imaginary Magicians
Even In Blackouts played acoustic pop punk and featured former Screeching Weasel guitarist John Jughead. Melding frontwoman Liz Eldredge’s vocals with Jughead’s signature guitar playing, Myths and Imaginary Magicians was the start of trend that still hasn’t fully picked up yet.
24. Nobodys – Short Songs for Short Attention Spans
Produced by Joe Queer, the Nobodys’ Short Songs for Short Attention Spans collects 21 songs that roughly average 90 seconds. If that isn’t enough to entice you, the song subjects include self loathing, masturbation, girls, and apathy. Now get listening.
23. Lemuria – Get Better
Sometimes playing more like an indie rock album than a pop punk album, Get Better collects cutesy love songs (“Pants”, “Buzz”) and pairs them up with forceful bitter numbers (“Dog”, “Dogs”), leaving plenty of tunes to ponder the great mysteries of life to in between (“Yesterday’s Lunch”, “Wardrobe”). While guitarist Sheena Ozzella gets a majority of the limelight as far as lead vocals go, the harmonizing between her and drummer Alex Kerns provides an extra dynamic due to the differences in their singing styles.
22. ALL – Mass Nerder
Sometimes I think that people forget that ALL exists. Which is a shame, because a lot of their output is equal to a lot of the stuff that the Descendents have released- Milo Goes to College, the entire B-side of I Don’t Want to Grow Up, “Cheer” and Everything Sucks notwithstanding. While ALL’s earliest works follow in the same vein as the experimental stuff as ALL-era Descendents, the band’s later works began to show a more developed sense of melody… much like the reformed Descendents. Mass Nerder is a perfect example of ALL’s work as a pop punk band, and it’s too bad that it doesn’t get the same kind of recognition as Everything Sucks.
21. The Muffs – Blonder and Blonder
Don’t be fooled by lead vocalist Kim Shattuck’s harsh vocal approach- while her ability to transition between snarling and screaming may be reminiscent of the grunge era, her songs are very much rooted in melodic punk rock. If you’ve ever wished that you could find a female equivalent of Green Day during the 90’s, look no further than Blonder and Blonder.
20. Radon – Metric Buttloads of Rock
Radon is one of those groups that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of nerdy punk rock bands. They really shouldn’t be though. If you like your punk rock from Gainesville and haven’t listened to Radon yet, do yourself a favor and check them out now.
19. Motion City Soundtrack – I Am the Movie
This might be un-punk of me to say, but I absolutely love every song on this album. Taking more cues from Weezer and Ozma than Green Day or the Ramones, Motion City Soundtrack’s debut album is filled with raw emotion and plenty of sing alongs. This album, alongside Matchbook Romance’s Stories and Alibis, may have marked the beginning of the downward period for Epitaph Records, but what a way to kick off your fall from grace!
18. Off With Their Heads – From the Bottom
Ryan Young’s gruff vocals and the raw production of the band’s earliest releases might throw a few people’s perceptions of “pop punk” off for a bit- but just a single listen to From the Bottom reveals the band’s true nature. Catchy choruses about getting drunk and wanting to die keeps this album firmly at home alongside your Alkaline Trio and Bayside albums.
17. Riverdales – Storm the Streets
Ever wonder what the world would’ve been like if the Ramones had kept their signature sound instead of recording End of the Century? The Riverdales’ entire discography is essentially like that. With plenty of fist pumping sing-alongs from “Mental Retard” to “Riverdale Stomp” to “Blood on the Ice”, Storm the Streets cranks the anthems up to 11.
16. Masked Intruder – Masked Intruder
Incorporating some heavy duty pop sensibilities, Masked Intruder contains some of the most sugary punk tunes this side of The Queers’ Don’t Back Down. For a band that plays heavily on a gimmick, Masked Intruder kidnapped the hearts of punks around the world with their self titled debut last year, and definitely deserves a listen if you haven’t checked it out yet.
15. Discount – Ataxia’s Alright Tonight
Allison Mosshart might be a big rockstar now and hanging out with Jack White, but back in the late 90’s she fronted the oft-forgotten gem of a band known as Discount. Whereas a lot of pop punk is rooted in writing humorous songs to get messages across, Discount took another approach by being upfront and honest, all while still being entirely fun. Ataxia’s Alright Tonight, the band’s debut album, comes with zero of that indie rock pretension and tons of pop punk goodness.
14. The Steinways – Missed the Boat
Featuring 20 songs (well… 19 songs and one sample from Wet Hot American Summer) in 21 minutes, Missed the Boat should be required listening for anyone interested in the post-Lookout era of pop punk. Extremely tongue-in-cheek lyrics about girls and always being alone, The Steinways mock nearly every stereotype of the genre while also knowingly playing into them. A real stroke of genius right here.
13. Rivethead – The Cheap Wine of Youth
Rivethead just might be the most important Midwestern punk band of all time (or second most important depending on how much you like Dillinger Four). You just might not know that because they broke up before ever officially releasing a full length. Members of Rivethead have gone on to play in bands such as Banner Pilot, Dear Landlord, House Boat, and Off With Their Heads, so that’s something to keep in mind as you give this 12” EP a listen and discover your new favorite band.
12. Descendents – Everything Sucks / Cool to Be You
You really can’t go wrong with any Descendents album (except for maybe half of Enjoy!), but as far as pop punk is concerned the best place to look at the band’s discography is their Epitaph and Fat Wreck output. Having gotten all the weirdness out of their systems with ALL and the first few ALL albums, when Bill Stevenson, Stephen Egerton, and Karl Alvarez regrouped with Milo, the band opted to write songs with a huge emphasis on the melody. It’s hard to pick which of the two albums is better, so I just listed them both.
11. Teenage Bottlerocket – Total
While all of Teenage Bottlerocket’s albums are regularly consistent (right down to the album artwork), Total was the first album that really cemented the band’s sound and saw them coming into their own. This was largely in part due to ex-Lillingtons frontman Kody Templeman joining on second guitar and vocals, but the step up in production also adds a new level of enjoyment to the songs.
10. The Copyrights – Learn the Hard Way
There’s no such thing as a bad album by The Copyrights. Much like Teenage Bottlerocket, the band’s output has generally been very consistent, but there’s no wasting of any time when it comes to the fast paced nature of Learn the Hard Way. From the moment the album begins to its last seconds, the album is essentially a shot of adrenaline in aural form.
09. The Bouncing Souls – How I Spent My Summer Vacation
One of the best things about pop punk is how little bands attempt at making some kind of grand statement and how much emphasis is put on having fun. With How I Spent My Summer Vacation The Bouncing Souls not only created an amazingly fun album, but also dropped plenty of lines that, however seemingly simple, could be reflected on during lazy summer nights. We’ve all had a “That Song” to call our own, The Souls just gave us a new way to sit back and think about it.
08. Ramones – Ramones
Hear me out before you jump down my throat for this one. Think about what this album is at its core: Sweet bubblegum melodies, lyrics about wanting to be a girl’s boyfriend, and cover songs about just wanting to dance? Even though they didn’t intend on it, the Ramones had a huge influence on the pop punk subgenre.
07. House Boat – The Delaware Octopus
House Boat is essentially a more fully realized Steinways. The songs are still short and contain plenty of satirical humor mixed with a self awareness that so many pop punk bands lack, but in addition to former Steinways members Grath and Ace, the band also features Mikey Erg and Zack Gontard (Rivethead, Off With Their Heads).
06. The Queers – Love Songs for the Retarded
What’s more punk than aping the Ramones? Aping the Beach Boys, of course! Love Songs for the Retarded marks the beginning of the band adopting their signature laid-back sound, although their aggressive punk stylings aren’t completely gone either, finding a sweet balance between the two styles. This album also contains “Fuck The World”, one of the best pop punk love songs ever (for the retarded, or otherwise).
05. The Dopamines – Expect the Worst
Whoever said that The Wonder Years are the closest thing to a really good pop punk band in 2013 clearly hasn’t heard of The Dopamines. Expect the Worst is, hands down, the best pop punk album of the last five years. Just shut up, because you’re wrong if you say anything different.
04. The Ergs! – Dorkrockcorkrod
The Ergs! took the pop punk formula- mostly the Descendents route, writing songs about nerdy things and girls- and mixed it up with fantastic musicianship. Dorkrockcorkrod keeps it simple while also being complex (by the genre’s standards). Only two out of sixteen tracks surpass the three minute mark and that’s just because one of them contains a hidden track. If there is any reason why pop punk is still alive and kicking today, there is a good chance that it is because of this album.
03. Screeching Weasel – My Brain Hurts
Say what you will about Ben Weasel, but the man’s songwriting in the early 90’s was unparalleled. Weasel’s lyrics tackled some really heavy issues, such as trading heroin addiction for methadone addiction, or being the abuser in an abusive relationship, and even when juxtaposed with the band’s upbeat sound, the songs would sometimes almost come off as tongue-in-cheek but never as dismissive of any of the subjects at hand.
02. Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady
While the Ramones get a lot of credit for being a huge inspiration on legions upon legions of pop punk bands to the point where “Ramones-core” is technically a subgenre, the Buzzcocks should really be getting more recognition. Unlike the Ramones, the Buzzcocks deliberately blended punk rock values with pop hooks, creating some of the first “true” pop punk tunes. Yes, Singles Going Steady is a singles compilation rather than an album, but it’s still the best starting point for anyone unfamiliar with the band.
01. The Lillingtons – Death by Television
Heavily inspired by a healthy dose of the Ramones and Sci Fi and Horror B-movies from the 1950s, The Lillingtons’ second album takes the three chord formula and injects it with tales of aliens and murder and Communists at every corner. It might not sound like much being written down like that, but it’s quite the experience when you’re actually listening to it. If you can’t take my word for it, listen to Fat Mike. He’s called Death by Television the “best pop punk album of all time”. Surely that’s a credible enough source for you.