‘In Defense of the Genre’ February 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 February.
February may be the shortest month of the year, but it had no lack of awesome stuff going on in the punk world. Here are the features we ran during the past month:
* 10 years ago, the new wave of post-hardcore made its mark with seminal albums by Touche Amore, Pianos Become the Teeth, La Dispute, Defeater, Title Fight, and more
* For Your Health interview/feature on their new album In Spite Of
* On The Might of Princes Where You Are And Where You Want To Be 20th anniversary interview
* Lookout! Records founder Larry Livermore on 12 shows that changed his life
* Anika Pyle (Chumped, Katie Ellen) Q&A on turning grief into her powerful debut solo album Wild River
* Ned Russin (Title Fight) discusses the influences on his new Glitterer album, Life Is Not A Lesson
* Slaughter Beach, Dog discusses influences on new album At The Moonbase
* Laura Stevenson looks back on the music that influenced Sit Resist for its 10th anniversary
February album reviews: For Your Health, Calyx, Dreamwell, The Best of the Worst, Hayley Williams, Hazing Over, Glitterer, Mikey Erg, Julien Baker, Gel, Porcupine, Youth Novel, Another Five Minutes, pulses.
Read on for my picks of the best songs of February 2021 that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
Really From - "Try Lingual"
Boston band Really From (who used to be called People Like You and have former members of I Kill Giants) bring together math rock, post-rock, jazz, Midwest-style emo, and more on this song off their upcoming self-titled album for Topshelf, and they do it in a way that sounds totally natural and genuinely unique. The closest comparison I can think of is onetime Topshelf band TWIABP, but they seem like kindred spirits of that band, not like they're rehashing their sound. The instrumentation on this song is complex without sounding too flashy, and sealing the deal is the dual-vocal approach of Michi Tassey and Chris Lee, who both have very good, very different voices that add even more layers to this multi-faceted song.
Manchester Orchestra - "Bed Head"
I still insist that Manchester Orchestra were never an emo band, and they definitely aren't one now, but they tour and collaborate with emo bands, the emo fanbase has always embraced them more strongly than indie rock critics, and this song rules, so fuck it, it belongs on this list. Manchester's upcoming album The Million Masks of God is said to function as sort of a sequel to 2017's career-rejuvenating A Black Mile To The Surface, and "Bed Head" shares an atmospheric vibe with Black Mile, but it's also the most straight-up banger rock song they've released since Cope. It feels like the perfect mix of classic Manchester Orchestra and where they're at now, and it's one of the most undeniable songs I've heard this year so far, no matter what genre you call it.
The Armed - "ALL FUTURES"
"The concept of 'subgenre' becomes almost the antithesis of vitality in art—itself a fetishization of expectation," The Armed's Dan Greene said when discussing their recently-announced album ULTRAPOP (due 4/16 via Sargent House). "ULTRAPOP seeks, in earnest, to create a truly new listener experience. It is an open rebellion against the culture of expectation in 'heavy' music. It is a joyous, genderless, post-nihilist, anti-punk, razor-focused take on creating the most intense listener experience possible. It's the harshest, most beautiful, most hideous thing we could make." I honestly don't think I can write anything to better prepare you for ULTRAPOP's lead single "ALL FUTURES" than what Dan himself said, but I'll echo him in saying that this is as much punk as it is "anti-punk"; it completely ignores the existence of genre, and that's a big part of why it sounds so extraordinarily original. Too many bands set out to fit inside of a certain box; The Armed kick down the walls of any box they've ever encountered.
Remember Sports - "Pinky Ring"
Remember Sports (fka Sports) have been a reliably great indie-punk band since the beginning of the previous decade, and this single off their upcoming Like A Stone just might be the best thing they've done yet. The production's a little cleaner, the band sounds a little tighter, but the real difference is the size of that hook on the chorus. They still sound like a DIY indie-punk band, but that chorus could fill a stadium.
Tape Girl - "Shoveling (Myself Out of the Snow)"
One of the brightest new voices in the New Tone ska scene is Tape Girl, the solo project of Colorado's Beth Rivera. She takes some definite influence from Jeff Rosenstock's former power-pop-punk-ska band Bomb the Music Industry!, but she fuses it with a modern bedroom pop approach that makes it feel totally fresh. Her latest single "Shoveling (Myself Out of the Snow)" is as catchy as all the popular '90s ska-punk bands and as intimate as the bedroom-fueled music of early Mitski or Car Seat Headrest. The lyrics might seem a little lighthearted or silly, but it's also kind of about the frustrations of climate change. Like a lot of good ska bands, Tape Girl knows music can sound happy and fun but still have a greater purpose.
Hazing Over - "Ungodly"
"I think this song will please all the 'Hazing Over sucks, I miss Shin Guard' people, or anyone that thinks we’ve completely stopped writing melodic shit—because we absolutely haven’t," vocalist Jake Yencik of Hazing Over (fka Shin Guard) recently told FLOOD. Hazing Over definitely do not suck, but their metalcore/deathcore-inspired sound is a lot different than Shin Guard's screamo/emo, and another way to put what Jake said is that "Ungodly" acts as a bridge between Shin Guard's most recent records and the heavier sound of Hazing Over's EP Pestilence. This song has still got some absurdly heavy shit in it (and a synth interlude), but it's also got a melodic hardcore side that recalls the heyday of bands like Modern Life Is War and American Nightmare. The EP's lead single "Jock" was intentionally released first to mark an abrupt change from the last Shin Guard record, but a song like "Ungodly" reminds you that this band is always in a constant state of evolution. They formed in 2016 as high schoolers and they've already mastered like 6 different styles of music. Their future feels limitless.
Bone Cutter - "Sea of Broken Needs"
Post-hardcore maniacs Heavy Heavy Low Low were a very underrated band during their initial 2000s run, and they've proved to be very influential on today's new wave of chaotic, sassy, over-the-top, Myspacey post-hardcore, so it was exciting news when they announced they'd reunite in 2020. That didn't happen for obvious reasons (they hope to still play shows when it's safe though), but during the pandemic, founding members Robbie Smith (vocals), Andrew Fritter (bass), and Chris Fritter (drums) formed the new band Bone Cutter with Sam Pura (who produced HHLL back in the day before joining as a member in 2010), and their debut single "Sea of Broken Needs" is genuinely killer stuff. It's just as manic as HHLL but even heavier, and it sounds as fresh today as the new bands they've influenced. Their self-titled debut EP arrives in April via Twelve Gauge.
Incisions - "Fuck The World"
If you're gonna name a punk song "Fuck The World" in the year 2021, you better earn it, and this UK band definitely does. It takes shots at everything from fascist police to punk bands who choose to stay away from politics, and it fuses together ingredients from early American hardcore, UK82, '90s skate punk, and today's thriving hardcore scene. If you've liked punk at any point during the last 40 years, you'll like this.
Ship Thieves - "He Lost His Head"
Chris Wollard (Hot Water Music, The Draft, Ship Thieves) went on hiatus from music for a few years, but now he's back in a very big way. Ship Thieves resurfaced last month on a split with Reconciler, then they announced their first album in five years, and we hear Chris is fully back in Hot Water Music now too. The first single off Ship Thieves' upcoming album is "He Lost His Head," and this shit sounds as fired-up as Chris did on Caution. Welcome back.
Soul Glo - "Rolling Loud, Hear My Cry"
Over a backdrop that goes from grindy screamo to stomping metalcore in just two minutes, Soul Glo deliver one of their most musically furious and lyrically direct songs yet, and given how prolific and consistently great they are, that's saying something. The song takes on all kinds of societal justices (and it was obviously written recently, as it references the mob that stormed the capitol), and it absolutely rips the whole time. "This is some shit I prayed I’d say onstage one day," Pierce shrieks. We're counting down the days until that can happen.
Drip-Fed - "Move Right Through Me"
Drip-Fed hail from Austin's killer hardcore scene (their previous drummer James Beveridge is currently in Portrayal of Guilt), and their rager of a new single has a hardcore n' roll vibe that's somewhere between Every Time I Die and The Bronx (whose collaborator Beau Burchell of Saosin mixed Drip-Fed's upcoming LP). It's catchy and anthemic without sacrificing any of the grit.
Porcupine - "Pederasty"
Speaking of Portrayal of Guilt, if you like that band's genre-blurring screamo/hardcore/metal/noise/etc attack, you should definitely be listening to Chicago band Porcupine's new EP The Sibyl too. Start with first song "Pederasty," a song that's as emotionally cathartic as it is musically ambitious.
Gel - "Bitchmade"
Some of the best short/fast/loud hardcore I've heard all year.
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 exclusive vinyl variants and more in the punk section of our store, including...
Operation Ivy's Hectic EP on 12" vinyl (order yours)
Crumbsuckers' Life of Dreams on limited, exclusive splatter vinyl (order yours)
How To Ruin A Record Label: The Story of Lookout! Records (order yours)
Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lokoout! Records (order yours)
Misfits - Evilive (order yours)
Black Flag - Who's Got The 10 1/2? (order yours)
The Living (Duff McKagan's pre-GNR punk band) - 1982 on limited translucent ruby vinyl (order yours)
Henry & Glenn bobbleheads (order yours)
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.