‘In Defense of the Genre’ August 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. Here are The Genre’s best songs from August.
First, here are some features we ran during the past month that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella:
* 64 essential ska albums from 1964 to present
* Punk goes stadium rock: Green Day, Weezer & The Interrupters live review
* Catbite interview: Philly ska band talks making of their great new album Nice One
* Rising hardcore band DARE talk debut album Against All Odds
* Straylight Run discuss 6 albums that influenced their early years
* Koyo talk new EP Drives Out East
* Kississippi discusses 6 songs that influenced Mood Ring
And if you're in the market for new vinyl, we've got limited colored pressings of the new albums from Catbite (limited cyan blue vinyl), Abraskadabra (gold), Koyo (clear blue), DARE (transparent yellow), Dying Wish (clear w/ black smash), Heavy Heavy Low Low offshoot Bone Cutter (oxblood & black swirl), and several others. Browse the punk section of our online record store for more.
Read on for my picks of the best songs of August 2021 that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - "Invading the World of the Guilty"
It's been four years since TWIABP released new music, which feels even longer than it sounds on paper -- there's been a whole new wave of emo since then! TWIABP, who helped define the genre's fourth wave, are now basically veterans, but they aren't settling down into late-career comfort. "Invading the World of the Guilty" sounds like nothing else they've ever released, and it's one of their strongest songs yet. It's some of their darkest, heaviest material, and it veers into progressive post-hardcore with guitars that sound like a cross between Cave In's Jupiter and Circa Survive's Juturna. It feels like a new chapter for this band, but the most remarkable part is that 10+ years, multiple lineup changes, and multiple stylistic changes into their career, they still sound like no other band on the planet, emo or otherwise.
Save Face - "GLITTER"
When emo and pop punk had an underground resurgence in the 2010s, the bands tended to take these genres back to the time before they were all over MTV. But the more recent pop punk resurgence is all about bringing back the super mainstream stuff in new and interesting ways. With their new single "GLITTER," NJ's Save Face bridge the gap between those two eras. The band they recall most is home state heroes My Chemical Romance, and Save Face have figured out how to channel MCR's theatrical bombast without straight-up copying them. When MCR first broke, they were regularly getting compared to their NJ goth-punk forebears the Misfits, and there's about as much time between Save Face and MCR as there was between MCR and the Misfits. (Weird, right?!) They're leading the way for a new era of theatrical Jersey punk, and I'd like to think their predecessors would be proud. (And not only does this song sound theatrical, the genuinely great music video is the definition of that word.)
Jail Socks - "Sick Weather"
2021 has been full of promising young emo bands taking the leap, and I have a pretty strong feeling that North Carolina's Jail Socks are about to do that on their debut LP Coming Down, due 9/3 via Counter Intuitive. Their early EPs were promising, but these new singles sound better in every way. They're produced better (I Am The Avalanche's Brett Romnes was behind the boards), and they're catchier, tighter, and offer up a more seamless fusion of Jail Socks' influences. "Sick Weather" is like a cross between sunny '90s power pop and angsty early 2000s post-hardcore, with a heroic classic rock guitar solo as the cherry on top. It scratches a similar itch as The Jealous Sound or Bleed American, but with the post-everything mindset of emo's fifth wave.
Drain - "Watch You Burn"
Drain's thrashy hardcore debut LP California Cursed (which came out on Revelation) was one of last year's best punk albums, so it's very exciting and very deserved that they've now signed to Epitaph, who have been lifting up great bands from the punk underground since the early days of hardcore. Their first single for the label is "Watch You Burn," which was made with one of the best producers in modern hardcore, Taylor Young, and vocalist Sammy Ciaramitaro says he wrote it "after hitting a breaking point this year." You can hear in Sammy's feral bark that he's pent up with anger and frustration, but as on California Cursed, there's a real warmth to this song. It's not dressed head to toe in black; like the music video, it's coated in the haze of the California sun.
The Last Gang - "Noise Noise Noise"
The kinship between punk and reggae dates back to the UK's late '70s Rock Against Racism movement, and it's not just shared politics that brought these two cultures together; the music sounds really good together too. America never had as much of a punky reggae party as the UK always has, but that influence has spilled over onto our side of the pond plenty of times, and one of the latest bands to embrace it is The Last Gang. For their upcoming album Noise Noise Noise (due 10/8 via Fat Wreck Chords), Fat Mike encouraged singer/guitarist Brenna Red to write more Clash-influenced reggae, so she started listening to London Calling to get inspiration, but then remembered a quote from Joe Strummer who said (in Brenna's words), "If you want to be inspired, don’t listen to your idols — listen to your idols’ idols." So she began pulling from Toots and the Maytals, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Trojan Records compilations, which resulted in the title track of Noise Noise Noise. Taking Strummer's advice worked out; this doesn't sound like a Clash ripoff at all. The Last Gang blend real-deal punk and real-deal reggae in their own way, with a song that's dubby at times, aggressive at others, and doesn't sound like most punk coming out today.
See Through Person - "Pipe Dream"
Florida's See Through Person have come a long way from the scrappy, Midwest-style emo of their debut EP Chariot that they released just one year ago. They signed to Acrobat Unstable, tapped Pool Kids' Caden Clinton to record drums, and took their songs in a harder, sharper, mathy post-hardcore direction that sounds more like The Fall of Troy than Cap'n Jazz. Still, they bring that influence in the context of emo/punk, sounding rawer and shoutier than the swancore bands who initially carried The Fall of Troy's torch. See Through Person recently told us that they felt the band had plateaued before they started writing the songs for their new EP, and it's obvious now that the opposite is true. This band seems like they have a very bright future.
Gully Boys - "The Way"
You can't talk about American punk without talking about Minneapolis, where bands like The Replacements and Husker Du came up with a dynamic, melodic version of punk and helped invent indie and alternative rock in the process. Minneapolis is still birthing great bands today, like VIAL (who were featured in this column in June) and their Get Better Records labelmates Gully Boys. Gully Boys and VIAL don't exactly sound like Husker Du and The Replacements, but they're rooted in a similar sonic tradition, where the lines between punk, indie, and alternative rock are always blurry. Gully Boys' latest single "The Way" is a great example of this, with hooks big enough to have dominated the '90s alt-rock boom and a punk edge that keeps things gritty and intimate.
Frontierer - "Glacial Plasma"
Picture a cross between Converge and Today Is The Day. Frontierer's "Glacial Plasma" is even more chaotic than whatever you're picturing.
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 2021, which gets updated regularly.
Browse our selection of hand-picked punk vinyl.
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.