There’s something striking about an album that can condense its worldview into 20 minutes or less. With filler not really an option, musicians must work fast and say what they mean. Punks, particularly from hardcore circles, know this reality well, but they aren’t the only ones. We quickly polled the Pitchfork staff on their favorite LPs under 20 minutes, across all genres, because sometimes you only have a little bit of time to listen. What else is there to say? Considering the subject matter, it would be best not to ramble.
Jenn Pelly: Los Crudos, Canciones Para Liberar Nuestras Fronteras
What could possibly sound more soul-cleansing in 2017 than Los Crudos? The throttling and breathless output of this 1990s Latino hardcore band remains essential. There had always been Latinx participation in punk—Alice Bag, the Zeros, and the Brat come to mind, as do Crudos contemporary Michelle Gonzales of Spitboy—but Crudos amplified their identity in songs like “That's Right We’re That Spic Band,” which opens their 14-minute debut. “We talked about immigration, something that was very real to us,” vocalist Martin Sorrondeguy told Pitchfork in 2015. “We didn’t have the luxury to pick and choose our politics.”
Evan Minsker: Buck Biloxi and the Fucks, Culture Demanufacturer
If you’re going to slam a full album in under 20 minutes, it might as well be loud, dumb, and aggressive. You’ll be hard up to find a more direct budget-punk poet than New Orleans’ Rob Craig, the mastermind behind Buck Biloxi & the Fucks. His records outline the battle between poor punk scumbags and condescending assholes who have their shit together. Culture Demanufacturer isn’t flashy, but who needs chops when you’ve got chunky power chord hooks, a tinny drum machine, and Craig’s repeated promises to destroy anyone in his way? He lashes out at smug church-goers in their fancy cars with some matter-of-fact couplets: “They think they’re so good and pure/I think the reverse.” The album’s cover shows a knife puncturing a football. Be the knife.
Philip Sherburne; Antioch Arrow, In Love With Jetts
How much havoc can you stuff into just under 14 minutes? When you’re San Diego’s proto-screamo kingpins Antioch Arrow, the answer’s practically astronomical. More song-like than anything their predecessors Heroin released, (though not nearly as wavy as AA’s WTF-sterpiece Gems of Masochism), 1994’s In Love With Jetts is a shuddering, jibbering clusterfuck of bracingly monumental proportions. Like a crashing car blasting Maria Callas at top volume, it’s a screeching din shot through with a laser-like beam of extreme beauty.
Jillian Mapes: Sneaks, Gymnastics
A useful trick I heard once and now live by is that you can overcome procrastination by convincing yourself to work on something for just five minutes. When time’s up, you’ll just be getting into the project and won’t want to stop. The 2015 debut from Sneaks, aka D.C.post-punk Eva Moolchan, is a little bit longer than that—13 minutes of bad attitudes and found phrases set to repeating bass riffs and drum machines—but it’s an album I regularly use to fool myself into doing small but annoying household tasks. “Just Swiffer the apartment for the length of that Sneaks album and you can go back to binge-watching ’Drag Race’” is a sentence I have told myself. It works, and sometimes when Gymnastics is over, I’ll feel motivated enough to put on Sneaks’ It’s a Myth and keep going. Thankfully, Moolchan’s follow-up from earlier this year is only 18 minutes long, keeping the whole burst of productivity relatively contained. You know I gotta get back to my “Drag Race.”
Matthew Strauss: Joyce Manor, Never Hungover Again
You can’t not get hungover. It's the body’s natural punishment for overindulgence. Never Hungover Again is Joyce Manor’s pledge to ignore consequences anyway. Barry Johnson’s sharp, critical lyrics and the rush of polished guitars that lift every song are hammered as hard as they can, for 19 minutes straight. Any longer and there’d be more questions to answer the next morning.
Quinn Moreland: Sports, Sunchokes
Sunchokes is so tight and hook-heavy, you would think Sports were seasoned pros. In just under 20 minutes, the indie rock quartet barrels through eight songs about both fleeting and lingering romances. They recorded their debut as students at Kenyon College, using the school’s radio station, and that collegiate DGAF-ness injects dark situations with a touch of humor. “You’re jerking off to Al Jazeera and making your bed, and I could be at Crossfit like you but I’d rather be dead,” Carmen Perry sings on “Clean Jeans,” her voice the equivalent of a giant eye-roll.
Kevin Lozano: Frankie Cosmos, affirms glinting
“Life is long as fuck/And I just want to stay sharp” are the first words Greta Kline says on affirms glinting, and the challenge seems to permeate the 15-minute record, released shortly after her 2014 breakout Zentropy. Not one song is longer than two minutes, but each is a well-wrought narrative, casually poetic and as heartbreaking as it is funny. Some songs, like “too dark” or “embody,” would later appear on last year’s Next Thing. So what’s particularly great about this album it feels like an invitation into Kline’s process, working out new ideas in full view.
Marc Hogan: Julian Nation, We Are All Writers
I’m sharing the confessional acoustic ballad “You Were So Scared” from this Melbourne artist’s lone album, not because it’s my favorite—though it is as disarming as it is intimate—but because it seems to be the only track available to stream. Released on CD in 2006 by the short-lived Book Club Records, Julian Nation’s We Are All Writers was only 18 minutes long, but bookish bedroom-pop sketches like “Lost Swedish Penpals,” “Appetite for Destruction,” and especially “1992” should’ve ended up alongside “Black Cab” or “Funny Little Frog” on today’s “Indie Hits: Mid-’00s” playlists. Alas, it slipped through the cracks, but fans of folks like Frankie Cosmos and Courtney Barnett might do well to remedy that. Reissue, anyone?