Knuckle Puck is not only keeping pop-punk alive — it’s saving it. The Chicago-based five-piece, after three LPs and six EPs, is continuing to grow while maintaining an unparalleled sound that continually provides catharsis, or really any feeling you need at the time, even when it might not seem possible to heal.
Frontman Joe Taylor, guitarists Kevin Maida and Nick Casasanto, the latter of whom is also a co-vocalist, bassist Ryan Rumchaks and drummer John Siorek not only created the greatest song of the 2010s (see the No. 1 pick for more information), but they’ve done something rarely found in music: been there, album after album, without faltering slightly. Knuckle Puck, though, still has some tracks that eclipse others, so it’s time to rank them.
Here is a definitive ranking of every Knuckle Puck song:
54. “Dead Wrong” (Don’t Come Home - EP)
First featured on the band’s self-titled EP before being rereleased on the Don’t Come Home EP, the 85-second track is filled to the brim with thundering regret. Siorek is bound to have broken more than a few drumsticks as he beats the drums to death while Taylor struggles to remember why he wasted a second of his time with his ex. The track is in no way bad. It just doesn’t have as much to offer as the rest of the discography.
53. “Stuck” (Don’t Come Home - EP)
Music is everything to Taylor, and it guides him through both the good times and rough patches, as he discloses on “Stuck.” While the heaviness of the production pairs well with Taylor’s intensely emotional vocals, this was early in the band’s career, and it only gets better from here in terms of execution.
52. “What Took You So Long?” (20/20)
Compared to everything else from 20/20, “What Took You So Long?” lacks the same vigor. It’s a cute message about finally figuring out what you want from life, including the type of love you think you deserve, but the guitars, as fine as they are, don’t hit as hard as usual.
51. “Everyone Lies To Me” (Shapeshifter)
Just like with “What Took You So Long?,” “Everyone Lies To Me” feels out of place on an album that’s much more mellow than Knuckle Puck fans are used to. The lyrics are absolute tea, though, as Taylor screams, “Education only taught you what you want to know” and goes on to rant about how corrupt the education system as well as politics as a whole is. The guitars will clog up your brain.
50. “Watterson” (Knuckle Puck - EP)
Talk about lyrics that will send you into orbit. The heavy guitars, bass and drums will all blow you out of the water at first, but then Taylor comes in to make your jaw drop completely: “I try my best to erase all of the mistakes I made / But I come so close to f------ up my life.” He really said everything everyone else is afraid to reveal. Next to the overbearing production, it’s a lot to handle.
49. “In My Room” (While I Stay Secluded)
Since his former friend won’t let him get out everything he needs to say to her in person, Taylor is channeling all of his anguish into song, aka “In My Room.” The track is lyrically beautiful, but the instrumentation is a bit here and there in terms of quality.
48. “Alexander PI.” (While I Stay Secluded)
Taylor is fed up with his significant other, who claims she’s over him but clearly isn’t. The guitars are sinister in a good way, and it hurts to think about how well Taylor’s throat is doing after the screaming from this track.
47. “Nervous Passenger” (Shapeshifter)
Though it’s only 91 seconds and the first 26 are a soft guitar strum alongside an announcement from a train, the track is an utter beauty. As the opener to Shapeshifter, “Nervous Passenger” sets the scene for how the impending album is going to go: Taylor is ready to let go of the past and reinvent himself, and he does.
46. “Home Alone” (single)
Basically an acoustic, shorter version of “But Why Would You Care?,” this track is a sonically soothing adventure with juxtaposing lyrics of self-deprecation that will punch you square in the face. That’s all there is to say about it.
45. “Stationary” (Copacetic)
As Taylor leaves to go on tour with the rest of the band, he’s leaving his girlfriend behind, but he trusts her with his life. The guitars are roaring, and the drums are pounding, but the track is actually immensely sweet.
44. “Stateside” (The Weight That You Buried)
Some of the tracks from Knuckle Puck’s early EPs start to blend together in terms of sound — and that’s not necessarily bad when every song slaps — but half of this EP and While I Stay Secluded sound eerily alike. Taylor is begging for his ex to reveal why she did him dirty before he leaves for tour and promises she won’t be able to forget him even if she tries: “I’m the smile you can’t fake.”
43. “Oak Street” (While I Stay Secluded)
Taylor doesn’t care that his ex is losing sleep when all she ever did is screw with his head. The guitars are blistering as Taylor warns her to stay away from the lake on Oak Street, presumably a place they used to go together. The concluding verse is eloquent and heart-wrenching.
42. “Give Up” (Don’t Come Home - EP)
The only reason this isn’t ranked lower is because of the concluding line, “You are my north star, my lighthouse — the only thing that helps me come back home.” Imagine someone thinking of you that way. Otherwise, the track is just bombastic.
41. “Stuck in Our Ways” (Shapeshifter)
The five boys are high out of their minds, making absurd observations, and beginning to wonder if their high will ever fade. Taylor’s vocals sound especially polished.
40. “Townsend” (Don’t Come Home - EP)
The pain that radiates from the track, from the intricate drumming to Taylor’s aching vocals, is almost too much to bear. Taylor knows he wasted years with a girl who may have never even loved him, and now he’s struggling “to make it through [his] first June without [her].” Ouch.
39. “Poor Excuses” (Knuckle Puck - acoustics)
This is a big reason why Knuckle Puck should consider doing more acoustic tracks. “Poor Excuses” sees Taylor reflecting on a previous relationship and how he feels like his ex isn’t the same person he fell in love with years ago. Never has an acoustic guitar stung so much.
38. “Twist” (Shapeshifter)
Neither Taylor nor his ex can sleep because of how badly things ended between them, and Taylor is taking the blame, promising to cut all ties to alleviate the pain. The bridge is ethereal, and the subtle harmonies all throughout are bliss.
37. “True North” (20/20)
This is top-tier pop-punk as the year 2020 knows it. Taylor wants to forget everything and wake up where his girlfriend is — because nothing else compares to her. The harmonies paired with the infectious drumming are unmatched.
36. “Double Helix” (Shapeshifter)
Taylor would do anything to change his genes and not be connected to his family. The track is immensely repetitive, which definitely gets the point across, but that’s why it isn’t ranked higher. The blatant emotion in the chorus is commendable.
35. “Ponder” (Copacetic)
If you thought Knuckle Puck couldn’t get any darker, welcome “Ponder” to the chat. Taylor can’t take it anymore, and the pain is comparable to that of being curb-stomped. He doesn’t want anyone to worry about him, though, so he lies and says “I’ll tell you everything is copacetic.” The guitar tone is chilling.
34. “Everything Must Go” (The Weight That You Buried)
When the guitar echoes before the chorus commences, it’s so easy to recognize and feel Taylor’s affliction. His ex is completely blaming him for the way their relationship ended, and he’s just taking it. Listeners can most likely relate to this in some aspect or another, which makes it sting even more.
33. “Miles Away” (20/20)
Taylor is finally figuring himself out and coming to terms with how his life is supposed to pan out. Along the way, he’s realized the person he’s meant to be with has been by his side the entire time, and he’s sorry for not recognizing it sooner. It’s a calmer tune, with its vibey guitars and soft vocal tone, and a beautiful closer to 20/20, showing how things are starting to look up for Taylor.
32. “Transparency” (While I Stay Secluded)
No one is the same person they make themselves out to be on social media — and Taylor isn’t afraid to call people out for it. Beside roaring guitars and pounding drums, Taylor wants this generation to change for the better and stop molding their entire lives around the internet, though he already knows it’ll be this way forever.
31. “Breathe (feat. Derek Sanders)” (20/20)
“Breathe,” with an appearance from Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders, is the emo crossover of a lifetime. The track is a much-needed reminder to take some time for yourself every once in a while amid the inevitable chaos of life. The harmonies are sublime.
30. “Wall to Wall (Depreciation)” (Copacetic)
Everyone around Taylor is growing up and moving on with their lives, but he feels as if he’s going nowhere because he doesn’t know who he’s supposed to be. The bass is nasty, and it makes for a great opener to one of the greatest albums of this generation.
29. “Calendar Days” (single)
We all know what it’s like to reminisce on times with someone we shouldn’t be missing, and Taylor epitomizes the feeling on the angsty “Calendar Days.” The guitars are robust, and Taylor’s screaming when he says “No, I don’t feel any different” is inexplicably perfect.
28. “Pretense” (Copacetic)
This track is so pretentious and wordy that it’s good. Exhibit A: “Consider this a repercussion of the actions which you were never properly punished for, due to an overbearing demeanor brought on by your own self-awareness.” Taylor is calling out his father for neglecting him, and while it seems like every lyric was pulled from a thesaurus, the heaviness is felt through and through.
27. “Sidechain” (20/20)
Taylor is finally done with letting people walk all over him. He’s confronting his ex, saying he had every right to leave when she wasn’t even sure what she wanted. The drums beat into the listener’s soul, and the echo effect on the vocals is majestic.
26. “Fences” (Split - EP)
The guitars swirl magically around Taylor’s rightfully angry vocals, as he has finally come to terms with the fact that he can’t start healing until he tells his ex there’s no chance of them reconciling. He does so, and he asks her to basically delete every memory of them together. It’s so relatable that it hurts.
25. “20/20” (20/20)
The opening track to Knuckle Puck’s new era may seem like they’re drifting into more “mainstream” pop-punk, but that’s not it. Taylor and the gang are finally becoming happier, and it’s beautiful to see. Beside gorgeous harmonies and a softer yet just as exquisite guitar, Taylor sings of how it’s better to move on than reflect on what could’ve been. We all need to be reminded of that sometimes.
24. “Into The Blue” (20/20)
Knuckle Puck really put the feeling into words: yes, sometimes we all just want to “swan dive from 20,000 feet above it all.” The track is about finding your way back to the person with whom you’re meant to be. The roaring guitars blended with the aggressive yet simultaneously soothing drums create an angsty universe while Taylor’s vocals bring us back to a calmer reality. It’s a brilliant experience.
23. “Want Me Around” (Shapeshifter)
Taylor doesn’t know what his significant other truly wants from him, and he’s begging for answers, though he already knows he’ll never get them. The guitar line just sounds like it was meant to be part of Taylor’s vexed pleas.
22. “RSVP” (20/20)
Rumchaks, thank you for that bass. Taylor is letting his former friend know they're better off staying in the past because he’s finally realized just how toxic they are and how he deserves better. For good measure, he adds “I won’t miss you.” We love to see growth.
21. “Indecisive” (single)
The feelings the harmonies evoke are unreal. Taylor knows he can apologize profusely, but that will never undo the damage that was done. His significant other needs answers, and he’s trying to put everything he needs to say into this three-and-a-half minute track. The guitars against that piano are pure magic.
20. “Your Back Porch” (The Weight That You Buried)
It should be known the acoustic version trumps the original. Taylor hasn’t felt anything since he and his girlfriend cut all ties, and he’s finally pouring out all his intrusive, chaotic thoughts. It’s some of the saddest content in music to this day, and when it’s paired against a desolate acoustic guitar, it’s almost unbearably depressing.
19. “Wait” (Shapeshifter)
Taylor can’t find the beauty in the world anymore — because she ripped his heart out and left him. The drums are crashing everywhere, yet they’re tranquil at the same time. The bass and guitar in the intro almost depict a changing of the seasons, and it’s lovely.
18. “Woodwork” (Don’t Come Home - EP)
Taylor knows he needs to look forward to mending his own heart, but he can’t help but reminisce on times when he was with his girl and actually happy. The guitar line is emo ecstasy, and when all the voices join together to plead “I’ll never let my youth cave in,” it’s mesmerizing.
17. “Disdain” (Copacetic)
Backed by guitars that’ll linger in your mind for days, Taylor is reminding his significant other that she makes up the good parts of him, and though he’s always down on himself, he’s grateful he has her. This track, with self-deprecating lyrics like “What could you possibly see in a failure like me?” just hurts, though.
16. “Bedford Falls” (While I Stay Secluded)
“Bedford Falls” is also the name of the town from the classic It’s A Wonderful Life, and Knuckle puck takes this track to put themselves in the shoes of brothers Harry and George from the film. Taylor takes on the role of Harry, reassuring his suicidal brother he wouldn’t know what to do without him. It’s sad but beautiful to see the love the brothers have for each other.
15. “Green Eyes (Polarized)” (20/20)
Though Knuckle Puck’s angst is part of what makes it so good, its softer songs should be endlessly cherished. Alongside comforting guitars, Taylor uses airy vocals to tell his ex they’re better off moving on without each other in their lives. He really says what we all wish we had the guts to: “I’ll keep my cool if you keep your distance / What’s right for you ain’t always good for business.”
14. “Swing” (Copacetic)
Every time Taylor tries to pick himself back up and get back out there, he fails miserably. He can’t get past his relationship with his ex, and he feels as if it will tear him down forever. Those plaintive drums suit Taylor’s painstakingly dejected vocals almost too well.
13. “Earthquake” (20/20)
Finally, after watching Taylor endure pain for years, it seems as if he’s completely in love and happy. It’s about time. The guitars ring with contentment as Taylor reveals the way she makes him feel is far more impactful than a natural disaster — “An earthquake ain’t nothin’ compared to you.” Goals.
12. “Gone” (Shapeshifter)
Taylor is reflecting on the man he used to be and basically cringing, knowing how far he’s come. He knows now he can do anything he sets his mind to, but he’s reminding his past self of how pathetic he was. When he screams to his past self “Doesn’t it feel good to be invisible?,” it hits differently.
11. “Poison Pen Letter” (Copacetic)
When a relationship is so toxic that you feel the need to pray when you’re not religious, that should be a telltale sign it’s not right for you. Taylor didn’t recognize that until later, and the plaintive drums help accentuate his aching. The track ends on a happy note, though, as Taylor says he’s done feeling bad for himself and he’s ready to move on: “I’m not sad / I’m through sulking / I’m not breaking / I’m not buckling.”
10. “No Good” (The Weight That You Buried)
It’s unfortunate that Taylor couldn’t realize how verbally abusive his significant other at the time was — she literally brings up his neglectful father when they fight — but he’s finally realized she's just as bad as he is when she threatens to leave. The guitars are top-notch as Taylor tells her as it is: “I’m no good; you’re no better / It’s people just like you who made me the pessimist I am.”
9. “In Your Crosshairs” (Copacetic)
Those guitars are the textbook definition of “dreamy.” Taylor was bullied as a kid, and he’s now imparting to his bully that they shouldn’t be shocked when someone does them wrong — because they deserve it: “Don’t act surprised to see the knife in your spine with your initials etched in the handle.”
8. “Conduit” (Shapeshifter)
“Conduit” is pure poetry. Taylor is struggling to become the person he ideally wants to be, but he knows he can’t tear himself down for that: “’Cause an idle mind is the fault of idle hands / And you can’t break the boy to forge a better man.” The guitars help create the band’s most atmospheric track to date.
7. “Gold Rush” (Split - EP)
Even though Taylor can’t imagine a future without his girl, he knows they ultimately aren’t good for each other. The way the two guitar lines bounce off each other perfectly as Taylor vocalizes his denigrating thoughts is something of which we aren’t worthy.
6. “Evergreen” (Copacetic)
Beside pulsating guitars, Taylor is feeling optimistic for once. Dan Lambton, formerly the frontman of Real Friends, joins Taylor in the outro as they reassure their friends and family they’ll be OK after they die. It’s heartbreaking, but the message they leave is uplifting: “I’ll leave this all behind for you when I’m gone / You grew from a seed / Forever strong as a pine tree, always an evergreen.”
5. “But Why Would You Care?” (While I Stay Secluded)
Ah, yes, self-deprecation at its finest — as we got a sneak preview of with “Home Alone,” which features some of the same lyrics. Taylor, plain and simple, knows he can be easily replaced, and he is fed up with feeling this way: “I am expendable, but I guess that’s just the way things go / … I’m sick and tired of hating who I’ve become / It’s getting worse every day I spend home alone.” His words cut insanely deep.
4. “Tune You Out” (20/20)
Though one of the band’s newest songs, “Tune You Out” is reminiscent of the band’s early EPs. The aggressive bridge, the brief spoken word, the pulsating guitars all culminate into a world that pop-punk dreams are made of. Taylor is sick of the aggravating person in his life, and he’s going to stop listening to them until they get over themselves. He’s given them more than enough chances, so he’s finally saying his piece: “It tears me up inside / I’ll tune you out ’til we all calm down.”
3. “True Contrite” (Copacetic)
Prepare to be called out by the lyrics of “True Contrite.” Taylor tears himself apart, including a reference to the band’s The Weight That You Buried EP along the way: “You live in a lonely state of denial and self-decay / A vivid reminder of buried weight you never shed in the first place.” The outro calms the listener down after fully making them realize how sad they really are, and it’s a tranquil ending to a thought-provoking masterpiece.
2. “Plastic Brains” (Shapeshifter)
Taylor has realized that everything, including people you think you know so well, changes just like the leaves. Alongside flawless production of roaring guitars, bone-chilling drums and exquisite bass, he now knows that includes the sorrow he carries. Almost nothing (except for the No. 1 pick, of course) compares to the way Taylor ends the track and album by screaming “I don’t want to feel this way anymore.”
1. “Untitled” (Copacetic)
This song transcends music, life, everything, and seven minutes and 51 seconds isn’t enough. Taylor reflects on everything as he tries to realize how he’s arrived where he is now. He tells himself he has to make everyone he loves think he’s OK, even though he isn’t. The last five minutes are reposeful, starting with an ethereal synth before transitioning into the calmest acoustic guitar known to man. Eventually, harmonies come in, and Taylor reassures himself, “I’ve been much better, but at least I’m healing.” “Untitled” is the greatest song of the 2010s, no question, and it’s something everyone needs to hear before they die.