‘In Defense of the Genre’ April roundup (5 best songs of the month included)
In Defense of the Genre is a column on BrooklynVegan about punk, pop punk, emo, post-hardcore, and more, including and often especially the bands and albums and subgenres that weren’t always taken so seriously. Here are The Genre’s five best songs from April.
Our first full month in lockdown is a wrap, and even though things really suck right now, at least there's plenty of music to keep us occupied, and I'm doing my best to contribute to that with all the great punk/etc music I've been highlighting in my In Defense of the Genre column. As of April, I started a quarantine-friendly edition of IDOTG with classic live videos and a playlist, and I'll keep that going at least once a month as long as we're all on lockdown, in addition to your regularly scheduled programming. In case you missed any of them, here are the pieces we ran this past month:
* 20 great covers of classic punk songs by ’90s/’00s punk bands
* 25 essential screamo albums from the ’90s/’00s that still hold up today
* everything sux, so here’s 10 great ’90s punk live videos + a playlist
* Equal Vision turns 30: here's 10 of their most overlooked releases
BrooklynVegan has also continued to run quarantine playlists made by artists, and here are the Genre-friendly ones we ran in April: Riley Breckenridge (Thrice), Brian McTernan (Be Well, Battery), Touche Amore, and Jim Ward (Sparta, ex-At The Drive In).
There's also an increasingly amount of entertaining livestreams and quarantine performance videos, and some recent ones from the punk/etc world include more Ben Gibbard, 311 frontman covering Turnstile, American Football play "Stay Home" while staying home, Wheatus does Weezer, The Offspring does Tiger King, Post Malone does Nirvana with Travis Barker (and then Dashboard Confessional covered Post Malone), Jeff Rosenstock + members of Worriers, PUP & more covering The Weakerthans, Hayley Williams covering Phoebe Bridgers, Mineral, Jimmy Eat World & Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino cover Crooked Fingers, Matt Freeman (Rancid, Op Ivy), and lots more.
Some punk/etc albums I reviewed this month include the first X album in decades, the first Sparta album in 14 years, the first Ultimate Fakebook album in 16 years, Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra) demos, the Sonagi / Obroa-skai / Indiisposed / Coma Regalia split, the Infant Island mini-LP, Stay Inside, and Rotting Out.
And as always, this monthly recap comes with my picks for the five best songs of April 2020 within punk, pop punk, emo, post-hardcore, etc. Read on for the list and stay tuned for the next edition of In Defense of the Genre.
PUP - "Anaphylaxis"
Not only did PUP's Stefan Babcock debut a new acoustic song in a quarantine performance video (with help from PUP drummer Zack Mykula and french horn player Rachel O’Connor) and not only did PUP guitarist Steve Sladkowski take part in that quarantine Weakerthans cover (with Jeff Rosenstock, Worriers’ Lauren Denitzio, and others), PUP released their first proper single since 2019's Morbid Stuff, which we not only called one of the best albums of 2019 but one of the best punk/emo albums of the 2010s. "Anaphylaxis" is the kind of melodic punk rager that PUP do so well, instantly catchy and familiar-sounding but always with an off-kilter side that keeps it too weird to qualify as "pop punk."
Gerard Way - "Phoning It In"
When this all ends, My Chemical Romance will finally go on a reunion tour, but while you wait for that, Gerard Way has unearthed some unreleased solo material sitting in his vault. Some of it is just recordings of Gerard messing around, but "Phoning It In" is a genuinely great song. Gerard said he originally planned on releasing this as a single and still might finish it and do so, but even in this unfinished state it's about as good as anything on Gerard's great solo album, 2014's Hesitant Alien. Like that album, it's more on the power pop side than MCR, and Gerard is great at this kind of thing, and the rougher, "unfinished" recording isn't a bad thing -- it makes Gerard Way kinda sound garage punk.
Bad Cop/Bad Cop - "Simple Girl"
Fat Wreck Chords remains as much of a reliable hub for '90s-style skate punk as it was in the '90s, sometimes because of veteran bands who still make good music like The Suicide Machines and Good Riddance, but also because of newer bands who do a great job of carrying the torch for that sound. Bad Cop/Bad Cop are an example of the latter. Their new album The Ride comes out on June 19, and if the rest of it is as good as lead single "Simple Girl," we're gonna be in for a real treat. Stacey Dee's voice is the perfect mix of gritty and melodic, and this song's got hooks for days. It sounds like it could've come straight out of 1995, but it's so refreshing that it never feels overly retro.
Stay Inside - "Revisionist"
The new Stay Inside album Viewing is so far my favorite straight-up emo album of 2020. It's got a little of everything from the past three decades of emo, from the Midwest-style stuff to the post-rocky stuff to the accessible side of the early 2000s boom to some real-deal screamo to the somber acoustic closer. It's hard to pick a favorite track, but opener "Revisionist" gets me instantly hooked every time and always makes me wanna hear the rest of the record, so start here and keep going if it hooks you too.
Infant Island - "Stare Spells"
Not only is Infant Island's new mini-LP Sepulcher a great listen, they've got a new full-length album called Beneath coming May 15 via Dog Knights and I think this is gonna be even better. Infant Island cover a lot of musical ground, including but not limited to chaotic screamo, slower/more melodic emo, and soaring post-rock, and they condense all three of those things into this intense, four-and-a-half minute song.
BONUS: acoustic emo covers of The 1975's "Me"
Both Owen and awakebutstillinbed released acoustic emo covers of The 1975's "Me" this month (with coincidentally similar arrangements), and these are the kind of unique reworks that are worth hearing whether you already love the original or not. Quarantine sucks, but this emo content is very good.
BONUS 2: Shin Guard's Minechella set
I'll write more about Shin Guard's new music when it's officially out, but they debuted five new songs in Summit Shack’s Minechella livestream this month, and you can stream an HD archive of that set if you subscribe to Shin Guard's Patreon for $1 a month. It's worth it just to hear how wild the new stuff is - Shin Guard made two of 2019's best screamo records, but now they're like a death-y mathcore band and it's nuts.
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.