‘In Defense of the Genre': Best Punk & Emo Songs of August
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.
August is a wrap, and it's been a very eventful month in the punk world. We sadly had to say goodbye to one of the best bands in this realm, mewithoutYou, but we also got new music from some very long-awaited reunions and a truly awesome new supergroup, along with plenty of more great new music. I highlight my favorite new songs from August below, but first, some features we ran this past month:
* Every mewithoutYou album, ranked
* 35 best emo & post-hardcore albums of 2002
* 13 songs by punk, emo & indie bands that are metal AF
* The Velvet Teen's Josh Staples reflects on Out of the Fierce Parade for 20th anniversary
* Chat Pile and No Coast Fest founder interview each other about noise rock's current moment, dream reunions & more
* The Interrupters helped re-popularize ska-punk. Now they’ve made the most personal album of their career
* The dark, weird rebirth of Pianos Become the Teeth
Also browse our new podcast episodes with The Interrupters, Pianos Become the Teeth, Anthony Green, Mike Park & Catbite, and more.
You can also pick up the new Pianos Become the Teeth on red vinyl in our store, and other newly-added titles to our punk section include hardcore supergroup No Souls Saved (exclusive coke bottle clear 7"), The Hives' Barely Legal (exclusive coke bottle clear), the new Inclination (exclusive orange & black), the new Mindforce (exclusive splatter), Modern Baseball's Holy Ghost (exclusive blue & white), the new Teen Suicide (exclusive deep blue), the new Gleemer (blue & gold), new & old OFF! albums (translucent colors), Free Throw's debut LP (exclusive green vinyl), Minus the Bear's Lost Loves (gold & white swirl), Anti-Flag's The General Strike (10th anniversary red vinyl), the new A Wilhelm Scream album (purple & white marble vinyl), a couple color Shai Hulud pressings, and much more.
Read on for my picks of the best songs of August that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
Botch - "One Twenty Two"
Botch's first new song in over 20 years came together almost by accident. Guitarist David Knudson (also of the now-defunct Minus the Bear) had been busy writing songs for his debut solo album during COVID lockdown, and the toll that quarantine had taken on him inspired him to write something much heavier than the songs he was writing for that album. When he needed a lead screamer to help him complete the song, he ended up asking his former Botch bandmate Dave Verellen, and the rest was history. So, maybe there are no plans for the Botch reunion to continue, but whatever the case, Dave Verellen, David Knudson, Brian Cook, and Tim Latona wrote and recorded a song together for the first time in two decades, and they called it a Botch song. So here we are in 2022 with not just a new Botch song, but a great new Botch song. What's especially great about it is -- and this is probably due in part to how the song came together -- it doesn't sound like Botch are trying to relive their glory days. It's the heaviest song David Knudson has written in a very long time, but it still has that bounce that he developed during his Minus the Bear days. It's mathcore you can dance to. Dave Verellen, who continued to hone his throat-shredding bark over the years as the vocalist of Narrows, sounds as full of rage as ever. And the rhythm section of bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles, SUMAC, These Arms Are Snakes) and Tim Latona brought all the thunder that this song needed. It sounds less like recreating the past, and more like four old friends getting back together after learning a bunch of new tricks in different bands over the years. Whether or not it's the last we hear from Botch, it's a genuinely worthy addition to the catalog and legacy of one of the most influential bands of the past 20+ years.
City of Caterpillar - "Decider"
Botch aren't the only really influential band that made a grand return after two decades this month. Richmond screamo legends City of Caterpillar have been back for a bit, having played some reunion shows and put the finishing touches on some unearthed early material, but now they've got their first entirely new album in 20 years due 9/30 via Relapse, Mystic Sisters. Since announcing it, they've put out two songs -- the slow-burning, post-rocky title track and the more chaotic "Decider" -- and each one shows off a crucial side of City of Caterpillar's sound. It wasn't easy to pick just one for this list, but "Decider" is a little more immediate and a little more "single-y," so here's "Decider." Like that Botch track, it's a reunion song that was truly worth making; it clearly sounds like the band who made the classic City of Caterpillar 20 years ago, but it's not a rehashed version of that album and you can clearly tell they've grown as musicians over the years. (It probably helps that the members have all been in various bands since then.) City of Caterpillar were never a typical screamo band, and "Decider" definitely isn't typical screamo; it's more just like a chaotic post-hardcore song, with overlapping shouts and instrumental freakouts coming together to create something that's simultaneously anarchic and beautiful. It has the feeling of a high-speed train that's ready to fall off the track at any second, and it cuts off before you ever find out if it does.
Pre-order the new City of Caterpillar on baby pink vinyl.
L.S. Dunes - "Permanent Rebellion"
It's easy to get cynical when you hear that a bunch of veteran musicians have come together in a new supergroup, but every once in a while those supergroups are truly up to par with everything the members are already best known for, and really add to the legacies that the members already cemented on their own. L.S. Dunes are one of those supergroups. The band is fronted by Anthony Green (Circa Survive, Saosin, The Sound of Animals Fighting) and also includes Thursday's rhythm section (bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule), and guitarists Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance) and Travis Stever (Coheed and Cambria). (They formed during rehearsals for Thursday's 2020 holiday livestream, which Frank and Travis both took part in.) Their Will Yip-produced debut album Past Lives comes out in November, and lead single "Permanent Rebellion" is a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts type song that fits right in with these members' most classic records without feeling like any one of their bands in particular. The chemistry that Tim and Tucker brought to Full Collapse and War All the Time fuels this song's driving, punky backbone, the punchy guitar work that accented enduring hits like "I'm Not Okay" and "Blood Red Summer" is in full effect, and Anthony bounces between his soaring singing voice and his harsh shrieks the way he did on that first Saosin EP. And it's not just that "Permanent Rebellion" sounds like 2022's best emo song of 2003, it's also that this is one of the catchiest songs I've ever heard from the members of this band, full stop. This doesn't just scratch the early 2000s nostalgia itch, it's as good as the music they were making back then.
We also have a new podcast episode up with Anthony Green, though it was recorded before we learned about L.S. Dunes. And when Frank Iero's not busy playing arenas with My Chemical Romance, you can catch L.S. Dunes' debut tour in much more intimate rooms.
Pre-order the L.S. Dunes album on limited orange crush vinyl.
No Devotion - "Repeaters"
While Thursday's rhythm section is busy with L.S. Dunes, lead vocalist Geoff Rickly has been making new music of his own with No Devotion, whose sophomore album (and first in seven years) No Oblivion arrives in two weeks. L.S. Dunes has hints of early Thursday, but No Devotion veers closer to the band's later material. The new album was mixed by Dave Fridmann, who also produced the last three Thursday albums, and the widescreen atmospheric rock of "Repeaters" sounds like it could've been on a followup to No Devolución. Geoff's singing voice has never sounded richer than it does on this new track, and the spacious arrangements give the song exactly the kind of suspenseful backdrop it needs. It feels like a massive leap from the first No Devotion album, and very possibly the most gorgeous song Geoff's released since Thursday's initial breakup. It's easy to get caught up wishing Thursday would put out new music, but between the great new songs from L.S. Dunes and No Devotion, we're getting a wealth of great songs from the band members, and it's worth treasuring that too.
Mike Park - "I Couldn't Wait Out Through The Night" (ft. Karina Denike)
Mike Park (Skankin' Pickle, The Bruce Lee Band, The Chinkees, Asian Man Records) and Karina Denike (Dance Hall Crashers) are old friends and peers from the '90s Bay Area ska/punk scene, but they'd never appeared on a song together... until now. "I Couldn't Wait Out Through The Night" is one of two new Mike Park songs from his new split with Catbite, and it's a slowed-down ska song with hints of jazz and rocksteady that finds Mike and Karina sharing vocal duties and coming out with a ton of chemistry in the process. The song's a reminder that Mike's been on a roll and writing some of the best music of his career lately, and it's also a reminder that we need more ska from Karina Denike in our lives. If Dance Hall Crashers ever wanna reunite, we're ready.
Catbite - "Spiral"
On the other side of that split is two new tracks from Catbite, including "Spiral" and a cover of Neon Trees' "Everybody Talks." "Spiral" was actually written by Mike Park for Catbite, but all he gave them was a bare-bones skeleton of the song and let them take it from there, and it shows how Catbite are not just great songwriters but great arrangers too, capable of making any song sound like their own even if someone else wrote it. (Their several great covers, including the Neon Trees song on this split, do that too.) "Spiral" is at least as good as anything on Catbite's two albums, with an infectiously upbeat 2 Tone-ish backdrop and a belted chorus from singer Brit Luna that shows off Catbite's ever-increasing level of pop appeal. It's only a matter of time before one of the bands in the current DIY ska underground stumbles into some crossover success, and Catbite are great candidates for it. Songs this catchy just can't help but draw attention.
Foreign Hands - "Chlorine Tears"
Delaware metalcore band Foreign Hands already put out one of the best 2022 releases of its kind with the Bleed The Dream EP (released via DAZE), and now they've singed to SharpTone Records (Loathe, Dying Wish, etc) and teamed up with producer Will Putney (Every Time I Die, Knocked Loose, etc) for new single "Chlorine Tears," and this is the band's most instantly-satisfying song yet. Guitarist Jack Beatson takes more of a dual vocal approach with lead screamer Tyler Norris, infusing the band's usual aggression with towering clean-sung hooks, and Will's production makes everything pop more than ever before. Being unabashedly catchy and brutally aggressive on the same song isn't always a line that's easy to toe, but it's life-affirming when a band does it well, and Foreign Hands already sound like masters of the form.
Least - "Power Blazer"
Not only did August give us a new supergroup with members of Circa Survive, Thursday, My Chemical Romance, and Coheed & Cambria, it also gave us a great new single by a much newer band who scratch a similar itch, Least. The Florida band's latest track "Power Blazer" sounds like a lost gem from the early/mid 2000s era of bands funneling the energy of post-hardcore and adding in huge, cathartic hooks you can sing along to, and singer Taylin Wills' soaring, androgynous voice sometimes sounds a little like Anthony Green. "Power Blazer" finds Taylin dealing with gender dysphoria in a way that's as candid and impactful as the song is addictively catchy. It's Least's second single of the year, following "Sitting in the Best Light," and Least sound better than ever on both of these new songs. I can't wait to hear where they go from here.
Regulate - "In The Moment"
The first single off the upcoming Regulate LP was a straight-up hardcore ripper, but they've got some new tricks up their sleeve on this record, like "In The Moment," which has one of the band's catchiest, most melodic hooks yet, and still finds time for a bone-crushing breakdown. If you've got a hunger for more hook-fueled hardcore in the vein of stuff like Turnstile and Drug Church (the latter of whom share producer Jon Markson with Regulate), this might be just what you're looking for.
The Bar Stool Preachers - "Call Me On the Way Home"
UK punk and ska-punk band The Bar Stool Preachers have been on the rise lately, and they recently signed to Pure Noise ahead of their Europe/UK tour with The Interrupters, whose Kevin Bivona mixed their first single for the label, "Call Me On the Way Home." This one eschews their ska side in favor of rousing punk choruses and acoustic jangle-pop verses, and it's the band's most picture-perfect pop song yet. There's been no lack of catchy punk this year, but The Bar Stool Preachers feel like they're shooting for stuff like The Clash and Green Day, and it's been a while since a newer band embraced that side of punk with this much gusto.
fallfiftyfeet - "Meet Me Overboard"
If you've been anticipating this week's new album from theatrical, chaotic mathcore maniacs The Callous Daoboys (as you should be!), or you miss bands like Every Time I Die and The Dillinger Escape Plan, then another band you need in your life is fallfiftyfeet. The West Virginia trio dropped their very good debut LP Twisted World Perspective last year, but their new Lonely If You Go EP is even better. The three-song release saves the best for last with "Meet Me Overboard," three minutes and 49 seconds of discordant mathcore freakouts, bludgeoning breakdowns, sass parts, jazzy interludes, blissful emo-pop hooks, and more, all woven together like a delightfully weird patchwork quilt. It's a lot for one song, but fallfiftyfeet execute every moment with grace.
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.