In Defense of the Genre is a column on BrooklynVegan about punk, pop punk, emo, hardcore, post-hardcore, ska-punk, and more, including and often especially the bands and albums and subgenres that weren't always taken so seriously.

The shortest month of the year had no lack of genuinely great punk songs. I highlight some favorites below, but first, some punk-related features we ran in February:

* 30 classic emo & post-hardcore albums turning 20 in 2023

* Knapsack discuss possibility of another reunion, new reissues, and more in BV podcast interview

* Lucero break down every track on new LP Should've Learned by Now

* Botch played their first proper show in over 20 years (pics, videos, setlist)

February album reviews: Paramore, Screaming Females, Big Laugh, Thin, See You Next Tuesday, and All Out War.


We've also got some new exclusive, limited vinyl variants in our store, including Braid's Frame & Canvas (original mix/splatter vinyl), American Football offshoot LIES' debut LP (dark blue), the new Jeromes Dream LP, Microwave's Much Love (expanded edition, transparent red/white), The Callous Daoboys' Celebrity Therapist (highlighter yellow), Bad Brains' Rock For Light (splatter), the new American Nightmare EP (silver), the new Bouncing Souls album (cloudy royal blue), the Knapsack reissues, and more.

Read on for my picks of the best songs of February that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...


Scowl - "Opening Night"

Even on their great 2021 debut LP How Flowers Grow it was clear that Scowl aren't afraid to branch out from their hardcore roots; one of its most memorable tracks is a soft, clean-sung song called "Seeds to Sow." But with their upcoming EP Psychic Dance Routine, they're evolving and branching out in ways that are bolder than ever. And they aren't easing us into the new sound; the EP's first single proudly announces Scowl's new direction. "Opening Night" is a melodic alt-rock banger with hardcore undertones, mixing stuff like Nirvana, Hole, and The Breeders with their core influences like Negative Approach and Ceremony. Vocalist Kat Moss proves to be just as good at singing anthemic hooks as she is at piercing screams, and she entirely saves the latter for the song's climactic coda. "Opening Night" helps solidify Scowl as a highly versatile punk band, one that's capable of leaving a big impact regardless of subgenre.

Pre-order our exclusive color vinyl variant of Scowl's new EP.

Militarie Gun

Militarie Gun - "Do It Faster"

Scowl isn't the only band making it a very good month for hardcore/alt-rock crossover. "Do It Faster," the first single off Militarie Gun's TBA debut full-length, is the catchiest song this band has ever released and it feels like a real leveling-up moment. Co-produced by vocalist Ian Shelton and frequent collaborator Taylor Young, the song has a cleaner sound than anything on All Roads Lead to the Gun with punchy power pop hooks worthy of Guided by Voices or Weezer, and it's still got the gritty attack of a hardcore band. Militarie Gun aren't the only band mixing hardcore and catchy alt-rock right now, but "Do It Faster" is even more proof that they're doing it entirely on their own terms. This moment in hardcore is so exciting because so many of these bands are fearlessly individual. That's been true of Militarie Gun since day one and it's louder and clearer than ever on "Do It Faster."

Drain Living Proof

Drain - "Evil Finds Light"

For some new hardcore of a much different variety, there's the new Drain single "Evil Finds Light," which accompanied the announcement of their upcoming sophomore album (and Epitaph debut) Living Proof. It picks right up where Drain last left off, channelling old school thrash and groove metal riffs through the warm, sunny lens of California hardcore. "Evil Finds Light" is a great way to describe what this song sounds like, but it also reflects the lyrical content, which juxtaposes vocalist Sammy Ciaramitaro's mental health struggles with the party vibes of Drain's live show.


Initiate - "Alone At The Bottom"

Another hardcore band with a killer new song out this month is California's Initiate. I'm not really sure where exactly they fit in, and that's a very exciting thing. "Alone At The Bottom," the first single off their upcoming album for Triple B, goes from melodic to grindy to thrashy/groovy, and it feels antagonizing and welcoming all at once. Tough to categorize, but very easy to like.


Charmer - "Tulip Sniper"

Michigan emo band Charmer say their new EP Seney Stretch is a collection of songs that "didn't quite fit" with the other stuff they've been writing, and we'll have to wait and see what their other new stuff does sound like, but in the meantime, this brief detour is very appealing. Opening track "Tulip Sniper" finds Charmer getting somber, working in breezy acoustic guitars, soaring slide guitar, and a strong slowcore influence. Fans of emo's more atmospheric side, don't miss this one.


Omnigone - "Against The Rest"

Adam Davis was in one of the best third wave ska-punk bands, Link 80, and now he leads one of the best New Tone ska-punk bands, Omnigone. Their sophomore LP Against The Rest drops 3/31 via Bad Time Records, and its 94-second title track is one of this band's hardest songs yet. It's whiplash-inducing melodic hardcore with just the right amount of upstrokes and horn spurts to get the punks and the rudies meeting up in the circle pit.

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.gif from god - "A Kiss For Every Hornet"

This week, Richmond screamo/mathcore fusionists will close a four-year gap between releases with new EP Digital Red. Lead single "A Kiss For Every Hornet" dropped in February, and it's delightfully batshit. The band calls the EP "anxious music written during a particularly anxious period of time," and if they didn't say that, you'd feel the anxious energy in this song.

Death Goals

Death Goals - "Faux Macho"

Somewhere between The Blood Brothers' sasscore and The Jesus Lizard's noise rock lies UK duo Death Goals' new song "Faux Macho." It's the lead single off their upcoming sophomore album (and Prosthetic debut) A Garden of Dead Flowers, and it's bigger, cleaner, and catchier than anything they'd ever released prior to this, but just as uncompromising as they've ever been. The band says the song finds them "wearing our love and appreciation for queer culture with pride on our sleeves for the world to see."


Under His Eye

Under His Eye - "Setting Sun"

If you like screamo with an experimental edge, Seth Scantlen's Under His Eye project should definitely be on your radar. His new album Visions of Flames drops 5/5 via Acrobat Unstable, and first single "Setting Sun" finds him combining harsh screamo with woozy chamber pop instrumentation. RIYL Comadre, Circle Takes the Square, Cursive.


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:

* Best Songs of January

* Best Songs of December

* Best Songs of November

* Best Songs of October

For even more new songs, listen below or subscribe to our playlist of punk/emo/hardcore/etc songs of 2023.


Browse our selection of hand-picked punk vinyl.

Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.


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