‘In Defense of the Genre': Best Punk & Emo Songs of November
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.
November means the beginning of year-end list season, and as the year comes to a close, we've been asking artists what their favorite albums of 2022 are, and so far we've posted lists from a handful of musicians in the punk world, including Converge, Cave In, Thrice, Justin Pearson (The Locust, Dead Cross, Deaf Club, etc), Foxing's Conor Murphy, Caracara, Have Mercy, Glacier Veins, Arm's Length, Western Addiction's Jason Hall, and Articles of Faith's Vic Bondi. I've also rounded up my picks of the 10 best songs to come out of the punk world in November, but before we get to those, some features, podcast episodes, and reviews we ran in the past month:
* Minus The Bear albums ranked from worst to best
* Every Day You’re Part of One More: Modern Baseball’s Sports at 10
* Walter Schreifels on 20 years of Rival Schools' United by Fate, the current hardcore scene & more (podcast)
* Militarie Gun's Ian Shelton: “We’re going towards the original intent of hardcore, instead of this formulaic thing” (podcast)
* Rich Balling on The Sound of Animals Fighting's comeback, learning to love pop music, and more (podcast)
* Folly and The Best of the Worst talk mixing ska with hardcore, ska's reputation, their new split & more (podcast)
* 2002's best emo & post-hardcore albums, discussed and debated (podcast)
* Origami Angel, Pool Kids & Insignificant Other live review -- emo's next generation is leaving its mark
* Pinkshift made a fiery NYC headline debut
* Catbite's NYC headline debut was amazing too
We've also got some new limited, exclusive vinyl variants in our store, including Modern Baseball's You're Gonna Miss It All (half purple/half pink), Balance & Composure's Separation (translucent green), Knuckle Puck's Retrospective (green), Stay Inside's Viewing (translucent green), both versions of Touche Amore's Dead Horse (clear/silver tri-color stripe vinyl), and Bad Brains' The Youth Are Getting Restless (splatter). Also newly in stock: the upcoming Anti-Flag album (white vinyl), the new Mindforce (galaxy purple/black), Judge's Bringing It Down (yellow), Title Fight's Spring Songs (purple), Youth of Today's Can't Close My Eyes (orange), Black Flag's My War, Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown, and more.
Read on for my picks of the best songs of November that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
The Sound of Animals Fighting - "Apeshit"
2022's gonna go down as a legendary year in Anthony Green's career, and not just because he named a song that. Circa Survive are going out on one of their most creative notes, Anthony put out one of his best solo albums, his new supergroup L.S. Dunes is a dream come true for 2000s post-hardcore fans, and now The Sound of Animals Fighting released their first new music in 14 years. "Apeshit" is the title track of their imminent EP of the same name, and it's up their with the best songs this experimental post-hardcore supergroup have ever written. The band -- founded by former RX Bandits member Rich Balling, and also featuring current members of RX Bandits, Anthony Green on co-lead vocals, and more -- haven't released a rager like "Apeshit" since their classic 2005 debut Tiger and the Duke. Like that album, they built this song from the drums up, and it starts out like the best songs on Tiger and the Duke do, with a thunderous drum intro, followed by a heavy, tech-y prog-reggae-hardcore riff, and eventually Anthony comes in, with a mix of soaring cleans and harsh screams. The comparisons to TSOAF's debut are unavoidable, but this isn't a rehashed version of their early work; in "Apeshit," you can also hear all the evolution that these members have undergone in the past 17 years both separately and together. It's the perfect balance between a return to form and a step forward.
Ben Quad - "You're Part of It"
Year-end list season is upon us, and one album you're sure to see on emo-centric year-end lists is I'm Scared That's All There Is, the debut album by Oklahoma band Ben Quad. That came out back in June, but Ben Quad are keeping the momentum going with new single "You're Part of It," and this is one of their best songs yet. Ben Quad have a knack for blurring the lines between noodly Midwest emo and spit-shined pop punk, and on "You're Part of It," they inject their usual formula with a dose of OG screamo, and the harsher vibes fit in perfectly. Ben Quad pull off throat-shredding screams and blastbeats as naturally and authentically as they pull off catchy, mathy emo, and "You're Part of It" seesaws between the two before ending with an anthemic, hooky payoff.
One Step Closer - "Dark Blue"
Wilkes-Barre's One Step Closer released one of the best melodic hardcore debut LPs in recent memory with last year's This Place You Know, and after spending basically a full year on tour, they're back with a new song that finds them pushing their sound in new directions. "Dark Blue" was produced by Jon Markson, a frequent collaborator of OSC's recent tourmates Drug Church, and it's their most melodic song yet. The comparisons to fellow Wilkes-Barre band Title Fight are even more tempting to make on this song than OSC's earlier material, but more than anything, "Dark Blue" finds OSC continuing to come into a sound of their own. It's one of their most immediate songs yet, and it makes their future look brighter and more promising than ever.
Zulu - "Fakin' Tha Funk (You Get Did)"
After making tons of noise in (and even outside of) the hardcore scene off the strength of two EPs and their reputation as a killer live band, Zulu have finally announced their first full-length album, A New Tomorrow, due 3/3 via Flatspot Records. On lead single "Fakin' Tha Funk (You Get Did)," they offer up 80 seconds of pure fury, splitting the difference between powerviolence and chuggy metallic hardcore, while dishing out guttural screams about people who benefit from appropriating Black culture but never have to deal with the actual racism that Black communities face. It's unfiltered rage at its most authentic -- unlike the people this song is aimed it, Zulu aren't faking anything.
The Holophonics - "Luminaire"
If you like a little emo in your ska-punk and you aren't already listening to The Holophonics, you should change that. They've already released entire ska-punk cover albums of Jimmy Eat World's Clarity and Saves The Day's Stay What You Are, and singer Eric Daino cites My Chemical Romance as a core influence on new single "Luminaire," which kinda does sound like if Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge had horns. It's also one of the most personal songs that Eric's ever written for The Holophonics, dealing with all the complicated feelings that come with suffering abuse and trauma in a way that's vivid, poetic, and easy to relate to.
Get Dead - "Safe Places"
Get Dead dropped a new split with Codefendants (the new multi-genre project from Get Dead vocalist Sam King, NOFX's Fat Mike, and rapper Ceschi), and on Get Dead's side is a new mix of "Pepperspray" from 2020's great Dancing with the Curse and the new song "Safe Places." It's a snot-rocket punk anthem that bulldozes like '80s street punk with hooks catchy enough to rival the early 2000s garage rock explosion, and Sam King's unmistakable grit dirties things up in a way that makes it sound like no other band.
FAIM - "Uninhabitable"
If the impact of climate change fills you with a looming sense of dread, this new FAIM song might provide a little catharsis. It's the first taste of the Denver hardcore band's upcoming Jack Shirley-recorded sophomore album, and when vocalist Kat Lanzillo shouts that "the worst is yet to come / sooner than you think," you feel it in your bones.
Chemical Fix - "Erase Me"
Chemical Fix recently toured with American Nightmare, and that's a perfect match. Like AN, Chemical Fix know how to make dark, impassioned hardcore that's heavy but not quite metallic, emotional but not quite emo. (Bassist Wyatt Oberholzer also sings in Fixation, and they know how to do that too.) That's exactly what they do on "Erase Me," a song so personal and full of despair that it feels like your entire world is collapsing when you listen to it.
Your Spirit Dies - "2000 Needles"
Since making noise with their 2020 debut EP The Process of Grief, South Carolina metalcore band Your Spirit Dies signed to Acrobat Unstable and The Coming Strife and linked up with producer Greg Thomas (Misery Signals, END) for their sophomore EP Our Saints Drown In Ash, which arrives this Friday. Lead single "2000 Needles" is a fresh update on Y2K-era metalcore, with bludgeoning chugs, flashes of Slayer-esque leads, and a raw, non-radio-friendly exterior that reminds you where the "-core" in metalcore comes from.
Speed - "One Blood We Bleed"
Australia's Speed have quickly become one of the most talked-about bands in hardcore, thanks to their tough-as-nails new EP Gang Called Speed, their even tougher music videos, and their amazing live show, which they finally brought to the US earlier this year at Sound & Fury. They'll play their first NYC show at the Flatspot Records showcase next year, but first, they've got this new track on the upcoming Flatspot comp, and it picks right up where the magic of Gang Called Speed left off.
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.