2020’s Best Psych & Punk Tracks

Art by Alan López for Remezcla

This year’s best psych & punk tracks made way for introspection, reworked classic elements of recognizable sounds and more. From Las Nubes’ hazy single to Asimov’s chronicling of a nightmare, here’s our top 10:

Las Nubes – “Tararear”

In 2020, Miami garage rockers Las Nubes stepped up their game by touring through Mexico and the US West Coast at the top of the year. They then secured a high profile booking at III Points Music Festival and released a buzzy split record with fellow Floridians Palomino Blond. That release included “Tararear,” possibly their strongest single to date in which hazy, droning guitar riffs become a gloomy canvas for the disaffected ruminations of singer-songwriter Ale Campos. Uncertain about where the world went sour, Campos’s lyrics about climate change and feeling lost in the world reflect a sense of mundane discomfort that has become universal. —Richard Villegas

El Shirota – “RTL”

While El Shirota’s debut album Tiempos Raros found the band implementing melodic hooks where once garage punk rage and experimentation reigned supreme, they were not to take to taming their sound, and their 12-and-a-half minute “RTL” attests to that. Repeating itself in a trance-inducing fashion, the track grows fuzzy and skronky before breaking into a sea of feedback. By soothing rather than assaulting the listener, El Shirota proved that music like this could showcase more than one kind of emotion. —Marcos Hassan

Mint Field – “Contingencia” 

On Mint Field’s second full-length album Sentimiento Mundial, the Mexico City band follows its signature shoegaze and post-punk sound heard on 2018’s Pasar de Las Luces with hermetic experiments in rhythm. “Contingencia,” buttressed by a krautrock motorik beat and the churning pulse of its guitars, is among the record’s more frantic peaks. But, even in the crush of its dense, instrumental waves, the band never loses control over its calculated measures of force, quiet and loud. “Contingencia” ricochets between the two, matching the emotional logic of its contradictions with singer Estrella del Sol Sánchez’s soft, sublime reminder: “No puedes vivir/Ciega de lo que puedes ver.” You can’t live/Blind from what you can see. —Stefanie Fernandez

Triángulo de Amor Bizarro –“Ruptura”

Triángulo de Amor Bizarro delivered one of the best albums of their career so far with oɹɹɐzıqɹoɯɐǝpolnƃuɐıɹʇ, and songs like opener “Ruptura” are what makes it so successful. Released as the album’s first single, “Ruptura” finds the Galician band sounding their most primitive, stripped away from their signature distorted guitars and any recognizable melodies, and embracing more industrial sounds to channel the collective anxiety of our times. The song takes us on a vertiginously fast ride, without any brakes, forecasting an imminent explosion and bringing with it an unshakeable fear of what’s coming—feelings that are all too familiar nowadays. —Cheky

Chini.png – “Plan C”

Chilean artist Chini Ayarza, formerly of Chini and The Technicians, unleashed her new solo project Chini.png with a four-track EP titled Ctrl+Z, with “Plan C” being a clear highlight. Split in two clear sections, the song is Ayarza’s reflection of love’s purpose. On the first, wilder part, love could be about finding comfort in a loved interest; on the second, gentler one, it could be a way of forgetting our own mortality. She makes us dance, rock out, trip out, and sends us into introspection in just under four minutes, and as soon as it ends, we want to do it all over again. —Cheky

Los Cogelones – “Danza Del Sol”

True originals are hard to come by, so when you encounter a band as authentic as Ciudad Neza, Mexico’s Los Cogelones, you have no choice but to align yourself with them. Fusing their rock, urbano-indebted, garage punk sound with influences from Aztec culture, this song brims with hooks and menace to make something melodic that’s warped in a psychedelic way. “Danza Del Sol” shows that the ancestral ways of rock hold a key to invoke wild, game-changing rocanrol. —Marcos Hassan

Tagua Tagua – “Só Pra Ver”

To think of Arctic Monkeys or Strokes as rock bands for grownups can be frightening for early millennials who just reached their 30s. Slinky guitar riffs, call-and-response phrases and melodic choruses with falsettos are nostalgic traits of some pop music today. And yet, these are the most refreshing sounds in “Só Pra Ver.” But they are not served plain, as a raw meal. Felipe Puperi, the person behind Tagua Tagua, masters both music writing and production. He has glazed over the second track of his first album with multi-grained filters and a reverberating fuzz, revamping his 2000’s rock foundations into indie music for the 2020s. —Felipe Maia

Las Luces Primeras – “Savia Roja”

The sound of “Savia Roja” starts with a War of the Worlds radio, prank-like tuning that pierces the listener from one ear to the other. It then delivers a wavy guitar riff followed by a bouncing bassline swayed by the sound of a Hammond organ. The song is the namesake to Las Luces Primeras’ latest album. The song is the score to an extraterrestrial’s outcast journey; one where it syncs to the myriad of towering ecosystems Argentina´s wine district, Mendoza, has to offer. Mariano Peccinetti, the band’s front-man, shows no trouble transcribing his trippy 70’s National Geographic collages into music. Paulo Srulevitch

Black Pantera – “A Carne” 

Popularized by the visceral interpretation of the almighty Elza Soares, “A Carne” was born as a Black manifesto in Seu Jorge’s first album, Moro no Brasil. Such a powerful story carved by legendary Brazilian artists would be enough to daunt any attempt to revisit this song. Still, the power-trio Black Pantera took their chance—and they succeeded. The overdriven guitar riffs, power chords and guttural voices provide a new, insurgent mood for the rage already explicit in the lyrics and, particularly, the chorus: “The cheapest meat in the market is the black meat.” —Felipe Maia 

Asimov – “Tara”

“Tara” is as gentle and devastating as shoegaze can be. Guatemalan band Asimov debuted in late 2019 with Todo Lo Que Buscamos Es Desaparecer, an EP full of dream-pop that makes you wonder how a bunch of 20-year-olds can craft music like it’s still the ‘90s. This song chronicles a nightmare in a world that ran out of flowers and cities were destroyed to pieces. When all of this happens “what will they say?” asks a timid female voice. Lyrics aside, “Tara” is a great companion if you just wanna feel your feelings and immerse yourself in their tragic melodies. —Carlos Soto