‘In Defense of the Genre’ April roundup (best songs of the month included)
In Defense of the Genre is a column on BrooklynVegan about punk, pop punk, emo, post-hardcore, ska-punk, and more, including and often especially the bands and albums and subgenres that weren’t always taken so seriously.
April was slightly lighter for us with punk features, but perhaps the most stacked month of the year in terms of new punk music. Below, I highlight my 15 favorite songs of the month across punk, emo, hardcore, post-hardcore, ska-punk, metalcore, screamo, and other related subgenres, but first, here are a few other things to catch up on:
* Prince Daddy & the Hyena break down every track on their new self-titled album
* Tim Kasher talks influences behind new LP Middling Age
* Perennial break down every track on their new LP In the Midnight Hour
April album reviews: The Linda Lindas, Prince Daddy & the Hyena, the Home Is Where/Record Setter split, Hey, ily!, Greyhaven, The Slackers, A Wilhelm Scream, Oceanator, Overo, ASkySoBlack, No/Más, Heriot, and Squint.
You can also get color vinyl variants of The Linda Lindas (clear w/ blue pink vinyl), Prince Daddy & the Hyena (blue/white splatter), The Slackers (orange/yellow galaxy), and Oceanator (pink) records in our store. We also have some new These Arms Are Snakes variants, the new Integrity reissues, and the new Dance Gavin Dance album (lavender marble vinyl), and other new additions to our shop include Refused's Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent (blue vinyl), Millencolin's For Monkeys (yellow vinyl), Pennywise's Full Circle (silver/black splatter), The Get Up Kids' Guilt Show (coke bottle clear/red splatter), Shelter's The Purpose, The Passion (oxblood), Bad Brains' Quickness (silver), Modern Baseball's The Perfect Cast (splatter), Black Flag, Husker Du, and more.
Read on for my picks of the 15 best songs of April that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
The Wonder Years - "Oldest Daughter"
At this point, there's no band in existence like The Wonder Years. They hit their stride in the early 2010s with a string of pop punk albums that increasingly transcended the genre before breaking from it entirely with the hard-to-pin-down alternative rock of 2018's Sister Cities. Even in the early days, The Wonder Years appealed to people beyond niche pop punk circles because their songwriting is so universally strong, regardless of genre, and that's as true as its ever been on new single "Oldest Daughter," their first in four years. It simultaneously embraces the maturity of Sister Cities and the unbridled catharsis of The Greatest Generation and No Closer to Heaven, simultaneously bringing back the familiarity of their beloved mid '10s era and pushing forward. "Oldest Daughter" also reunites them with longtime producer Steve Evetts and contains a callback to The Greatest Generation by reprising the titular character of "Madelyn," and Dan Campbell's songwriting and delivery is at its strongest, with a mix of Springsteenian storytelling and emo introspection, delivered with the kind of top-of-your-lungs hooks that made this band such a force in the first place.
Joyce Manor - "Gotta Let It Go"
In the four years since Joyce Manor's last album, they celebrated the 10th anniversary of their debut, released a rarities comp, and debated taking a short hiatus from music, but now they're about to return with new album 40 oz. to Fresno and lead single "Gotta Let It Go" is about as classic Joyce Manor as it gets. Produced by Cody collaborator Rob Schnapf and featuring Motion City Soundtrack's Tony Thaxton on drums, it's an under-two-minute nugget that spends a mere 10 seconds on the intro before diving headfirst into the kind of hooky indie-punk that Joyce Manor perfected over a decade ago. No fat, no frills, just great songwriting from one of the most distinct-sounding punk bands of their generation.
Pre-order Joyce Manor's new album on opaque pink vinyl.
The Interrupters - "In The Mirror"
The Interrupters helped re-popularize ska-punk with their 2018 single "She's Kerosene," and in the time since then, an entire ska and ska-punk underground rose to prominence and garnered attention in all kinds of places where modern ska previously went overlooked. Now The Interrupters are gearing up to return with their first album in four years, In The Wild, and lead single "In The Mirror" is just as catchy and undeniable as any of their previous singles. Like The Interrupters' frequent collaborators and forebears Rancid often did on their ska songs, "In The Mirror" channels a more mid-tempo 2 Tone feel through a lens of UK street punk and American pop punk, and it comes with a chorus that'll have you singing after one listen.
JER - "Decolonize Yr Mind" (ft. Oceanator)
Speaking of artists who helped bring more attention to ska these last few years, you can't talk about the renewed interest in ska without talking about Jeremy Hunter. Their Skatune Network covers project helped introduce so many non-ska fans to the genre, the two albums that We Are The Union released since Jeremy joined the band are two of the best US ska-punk albums in recent memory, and Jeremy works tirelessly on social media to erase the stigma surrounding ska and educate people on its rich history and thriving present. Under the name JER, Jeremy's finally set to release their own solo album of entirely original material (plus one Jimmy Cliff cover), Bothered / Unbothered, on 5/27 via Bad Time Records, and two singles are out now. The very catchy ska-punk of lead single "Clout Chasers" is a good entry point if you've never listened to JER's music, but I'm an even bigger fan of "Decolonize Yr Mind," which puts a modern twist on traditional Jamaican ska and rocksteady, features both rapping and toasting from JER, guest vocals from Oceanator, and a powerful message "that explores the idea of what the world would’ve been like if imperialism and colonization never destroyed the lives of millions of Black people." It blurs multiple genres, eras, and regional sounds, and it's really not like much else happening in music right now.
Pre-order JER's debut album on limited canary yellow vinyl.
Hans Gruber and the Die Hards - "Nothing Like a Good Old Fashioned Witch Hunt"
One more ska song: Austin band Hans Gruber and the Die Hards are releasing their new LP With A Vengeance next week (5/3) via Ska Punk International, and so far three of its 16 songs are out, all of which are entirely different. This one owes as much to cumbia as it does to '80s hardcore, giving this Austin band a sound that feels like Colombia, Jamaica, and DC all at once. It's also not really like much else coming out right now, and more proof that the modern ska scene casts a very wide net.
High Vis - "Talk For Hours"
Hardcore kids love Britpop now, and as long as we keep getting cool concoctions like "Talk For Hours," that's a very good thing.
Anthony Green - "Don't Dance"
Over 15 years since Circa Survive shook up the post-hardcore scene with their instant-classic debut album Juturna, frontman Anthony Green is writing some of the best music of his career. Those last two Circa Survive EPs were great and unlike anything the band had done previously, and Anthony's upcoming solo album Boom. Done. is shaping up to be one of the most personal and powerful things Anthony has ever done. The album finds Anthony chronicling his journey to recovery from addiction, and "Don't Dance" does this over grungy guitars and horn-fueled art rock, making for a song that would sound like nothing else in Anthony's catalog if not for his unmistakable voice.
Squint - "Dealer Wins"
Squint are a new band from St. Louis with current and former members of Time & Pressure, New Lives, Soul Craft and Choir Vandals, and they cite classic melodic hardcore bands like Turning Point and Rites of Spring as influences, alongside classic indie bands like Seaweed and Sugar. It results in a kind of indie-friendly post-hardcore that would sit nicely next to bands like Drug Church, Fiddlehead, One Step Closer, and Title Fight, and if you've been enjoying the moment that that sound has been having, you need Squint in your life. Their whole debut EP Feel It is great, but if I had to pick one song, the catchy, chunky (and especially Drug Church-y) "Dealer Wins" is undeniable.
Citizen - "Bash Out"
Citizen are on tour now supporting Turnstile, and they've, uh, bashed out a new song for the occasion. It's a driving ripper that sounds more like classic, garagey punk than Citizen usually do, but still sounds like Citizen. It's also got a fiery immediacy that should go over really well with Turnstile crowds.
ASKySoBlack - "Defacing You"
ASkySoBlack recently followed their great 2021 debut EP with a new one, Autumn In The Water, and one of its many highlights is closing track "Defacing You." It finds the band going full-on Hum/Deftones-style heavy shoegaze, but really putting their own spin on it and bringing something new to this increasingly crowded table. Their metalcore/post-hardcore influences shine through in the heavy chugged guitars, and their softer emo side is apparent in the yearning vocals and the acoustic guitar break. The ingredients are all familiar on their own, but when poured out of ASkySoBlack's melting pot, "Defacing You" has a startling kick.
Memento - "Negative Space"
There have been so many great new takes on '90s/2000s metalcore lately, and one that's not to miss is A Chorus of Distress, the new EP from Orlando's Memento that's out now via The Coming Strife/Salsa Verde. Opening track "Negative Space" combines Y2K-era metalcore with melodic emo, coming out with something that scratches the same itch as bands like Poison the Well and From Autumn To Ashes, and it totally avoids the the overly polished production and clean-sung hooks that watered down the genre in the mid 2000s. Sometimes the best path to a bright future is taking things all the way back to the source.
Cauldron - "Futile"
UK band Cauldron are also a metalcore band signed to The Coming Strife, but they make a much different kind of metalcore than Memento. Their bone-crushing new single "Futile" taps directly into an even heavier and more brutal version of the genre's heyday, and just when you think you've got it pegged, it turns into shimmering post-metal. Fans of Until Your Heart Stops and Jane Doe, take note.
Microwave - "Circling the Drain"
Microwave's first single since 2019's Death Is A Warm Blanket softens the edges of that album's heavier, darker sound, but it's not really a return to their early days either. With a soft-verse-heavy-chorus structure that sounds modeled after Weezer's "Say It Ain't So," the '90s influences may be a little on the nose, but Rivers Cuomo himself hasn't written a song this good in years.
Gospel - "Deerghost"
Back in 2005, Brooklyn's Gospel released The Moon Is A Dead World, a screamo album with '70s prog tendencies that ended up as one of the most unique and classic screamo albums of all time. They broke up after its release and it remained their only album for many years, but now they're finally putting out a second album, The Loser, on 5/13 via Dog Knights. New single "Deerghost" picks right up where their classic debut left off, marrying harsh screamo to proggy patterns and psychedelic atmosphere.
Mutually Assured Destruction - "Spirit Liberation" (ft. Lamb of God's Randy Blythe)
This really feels more like a metal song than a punk song -- the band says it was intentionally written to sound like Lamb of God, whose Randy Blythe does guest vocals on it, and there's a clear riffy Southern metal influence too -- but M.A.D. are a hardcore band at heart, and this song is just too good to ignore, so here it is.
In an effort to cover as many bands as possible, I try to just do one single per album cycle in these monthly roundups, so catch up on previous months' lists for even more:
For even more new songs, listen below or subscribe to our playlist of punk/emo/hardcore/etc songs of 2022.
Browse our selection of hand-picked punk vinyl.
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.