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 first month of 2023 has come to a close, and it's already shaping up to be a great year for music. There are tons of albums on the horizon, and a few great ones out already, and January has given us plenty of singles that have us very excited for what's to come. I highlight some of my favorites from the punk world in this post, but first, some punk-related features we ran this past month:

* 25 classic emo & post-hardcore albums turning 10 in 2023

* Touché Amoré and Pianos Become the Teeth's pivotal split 7″ turns 10

* Conor Murphy talks Foxing LP5, The Albatross turning 10, Smidley's new record, and more

* Fucked Up discuss the influences behind new album One Day

* 5 hardcore bands name their favorite Flatspot Records release

January album reviews: Fireworks, XL Life, Fucked Up, One Step Closer, Anti-Flag, Scalp, Eternal Sleep, Riot Stares, Palette Knife, Brainiac


We've also got some new exclusive, limited vinyl variants in our store, including all three of the new Knapsack reissues, the new Bouncing Souls album (cloudy royal blue vinyl), the new American Nightmare EP (silver vinyl), Bad Brains' Rock for Light (transparent yellow/red splatter), Militarie Gun's All Roads Lead to the Gun I & II EPs (clear/white/red and clear/blue/black swirl), the new Zulu album (transparent yellow), a Terror bundle, and more. Also newly in stock: the new reissue of 7Seconds' Walk Together, Rock Together (clear w/ yellow & purple splatter), Anxious' Little Green House (peach swirl), Envy's Seimi (purple), and much more.


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

Screaming Females

Screaming Females - "Brass Bell"

Screaming Females haven't released a new album in five years--their longest gap between albums yet--and "Brass Bell" really says "we're back!" It's one of the biggest-sounding, most anthemic, most immediate songs Screaming Females have ever released, pulled off in the way that only this band can. Marissa Paternoster's powerhouse voice still sounds like no one else in the world, and she still out-shreds your classic rock guitar heroes. It's Screaming Females at their most undeniable, doing everything you've ever loved about them.

Pick up a vinyl copy of the new LP.

Fireworks Higher Lonely Power

Fireworks - "Veins In David's Hand"

The new Fireworks album Higher Lonely Power already feels like a year-end list contender, and it's a start-to-finish, capital-A album that really can't be represented by just one song. It's also an ambitious art rock album that, despite the band's pop punk roots, is not really a "punk" album at all. So since this is a punk column, instead of highlighting my favorite song on Higher Lonely Power ("Jerking Off the Sky"), I'm going with the one that I think best bridges the gap between their pop punk roots and what they're doing now, "Veins In David's Hand." It's a ripper with an especially propulsive rhythm section, and when David Mackinder raises his voice to a near-scream, it turns into a real fist-raiser. If Fireworks tour and include this one in their setlists, I have a feeling crowds are gonna go off.


MSPAINT - "Delete It" (ft. Militarie Gun)

In a recent Stereogum interview, MSPAINT leader Deedee says the band members had "all been in different bands together and apart for over a decade, were sick of playing rock music, and decided there’d be no guitars." The result is a synth-fueled punk band that really doesn't sound like anyone else, and they've used their eccentric formula to write some truly addictive songs like "Delete It," which accompanied the announcement of their debut album Post-American this month. It's got eerie synths, gritty shouts from both Deedee and guest vocalist Ian Shelton of Militarie Gun, and I just can't ever get it out of my head.


Zulu - "Where I'm From" (ft. Soul Glo's Pierce Jordan & Playytime's Obioma Ugonna)

We're only one month into the year, but I don't think you'll hear many grooves in 2023 that are more infectious than the one that opens "Where I'm From." It's the best version of hardcore-as-dance-music that I've heard in a minute, and it's topped off by four vocalists--Zulu's Anaiah Lei and Christine Cadette, Soul Glo's Pierce Jordan, Playytime's Obioma Ugonna--trading lines and feeding off of each other. You can't fabricate energy this genuine.

Pick up our transparent yellow vinyl variant of the upcoming Zulu LP.


Gel - "Attainable"

When it comes to hardcore bands that really lean into the driving punk side of the genre, Gel are one of the best doing it right now. They're finally ready to release a full-length, Only Constant, in March via Convulse Records, and lead single "Attainable" is a perfect example of what makes this band so great. It's raw, fast hardcore punk that ever-so-slightly inches Gel in a few different directions, from the danceable post-punk beat to the psychedelic lead guitar.

Truth Cult

Truth Cult - "Heavy Water"

Baltimore band Truth Cult's influences range from '60s garage punk to Revolution Summer-style post-hardcore to '90s noise rock, and they fuse all of that together in a way that feels entirely their own. You can definitely feel the Dischord influence on their angular new single "Heavy Water" (which was produced by Dischord veteran J. Robbins of Jawbox), but also the interplay between Paris Roberts' gritty yelling and Emily Ferrara's more clean, melodic singing reminds me a little of Fucked Up. The song's off the band's upcoming sophomore album Walk The Wheel, due in March via Turnstile/Trapped Under Ice/Angel Du$t's Pop Wig label.

Mikau Mattachine

Mattachine & Mikau - "Unlucky Channel"

Mathcore band Mattachine and synthcore band Mikau--who both share members with screamo band Infant Island--are releasing the split EP Eject Modernity, Erase Tradition on 2/24 via Acrobat Unstable. There's two new songs by each band, plus this collaborative song. Both bands already make delightfully chaotic music on their own, and that's even more true when they come together. "Unlucky Channel" has everything from mathgrind fury to glitchy electronics, all topped off by the back-and-forth screams of Alexander Rudenshiold and John Irby.


Catch up on previous months' lists for even more:

* Best Songs of December

* Best Songs of November

* Best Songs of October

* Best Songs of September

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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