‘In Defense of the Genre’ July roundup (5 best songs of the month included)
In Defense of the Genre is a column on BrooklynVegan about punk, pop punk, emo, post-hardcore, and more, including and often especially the bands and albums and subgenres that weren’t always taken so seriously. Here are The Genre’s five best songs from July.
Can you believe it's August? What even is time anymore??? In case you missed any of them, here are all the 'In Defense of the Genre' pieces and other punk features we ran in July:
* 28 essential songs from the shoegaze / heavy crossover
* Paramore album guide - a look back on 5 albums of unique evolution
* 15 '80s punk albums that shaped the '90s/'00s pop punk boom
* The Lawrence Arms discuss every track on their great new album Skeleton Coast
* Vinnie Caruana & Sammy Siegler discuss influences on the new Constant Elevation EP
* The Acacia Strain frontman Vincent Bennett highlights local openers that won him over on tour
* The Mr. T Experience discuss 15 songs they wanted to cover in the '90s
* An Albatross discuss the music that influenced their first EP in 12 years
* Tons of '80s DC hardcore videos unearthed, including Fugazi, Dag Nasty, and more
* 10 classic '70s punk concert videos to watch right now
More recent news: Code Orange did an awesome '90s MTV-inspired livestream (Alice In Chains cover included), over 30 songs added to new Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 soundtrack, Fishbone's (mostly) original lineup working on first new album in decades with Fat Mike producing, members of Rise Against, Sick Of It All, MXPX, Moby and more covered Black Flag, Taking Back Sunday shared a playlist of music they listen to on tour, The Fall of Troy releasing first album in four years, Shades Apart releasing first album in 19 years, June of 44 releasing first new music in 21 years, Mikey Erg covered Atom and His Package's "Punk Rock Academy," Hayley Williams covered Bjork's "Unison," members of Samiam, Stick To Your Guns, and Boysetsfire released an album with their new band Ways Away, and Tigers Jaw announced a full-band, career-spanning livestream.
Read on for my picks of the five best songs of July 2020 within punk, emo, post-hardcore, etc...
Classics of Love - "Crime Pays"
No, it's not a Freddie Gibbs or a Hall & Oates cover, it's Operation Ivy frontman Jesse Michaels' first new music in eight years! Jesse's current band Classics of Love (who now have a different lineup than the one they had on their 2012 debut album) returned out of nowhere with the World of Burning Hate EP, and it's five songs in less than 10 minutes of ripping, '80s-style hardcore. Over 30 years into Jesse's career, it might be the most abrasive thing he's ever released, and it's awesome. You may as well listen to the whole EP, but a big highlight is "Crime Pays," which adds in a little of Op Ivy's catchier side on the anthemic chorus and finds an appealing middle ground between gnarly hardcore and melodic punk.
Touche Amore - "Limelight" (ft. Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull)
We included all three of Touche Amore's 2010s albums on our list of the 100 best punk & emo albums of the 2010s, so needless to say, we are excited they've finally announced their first new album in four years, Lament (due 10/9 via Epitaph). It was produced by the famed Ross Robinson (who helmed such post-hardcore classics as At the Drive-In's Relationship of command, Glassjaw's Worship and Tribute, and The Blood Brothers' ...Burn, Piano Island, Burn, plus like every major nu metal album), and I try not to throw the "E" word around too much but this new single can accurately be called epic. It builds gradually, really locking in around the one-minute mark, and getting bigger and bigger from there. Eventually Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull comes in, and then the song explodes with Andy and Touche frontman Jeremy Bolm's dual vocal attack during the song's climax. And the cherry on top is the comedown coda where guitarist Nick Steinhardt shows off the newfound pedal steel skills that he introduced to the world while covering AFI on the 924 Gilman St livestream earlier this year. It's the most expansive song Touche Amore have released yet.
Teenage Halloween - "Stationary"
Teenage Halloween hail from Asbury Park, and not to just assume that every musician in Asbury Park likes Bruce Springsteen, but they embrace The Boss' reach-for-the-sky anthemicism, and they wrap it in the lo-fi aesthetic of the DIY punk scene Teenage Halloween have been part of since 2014. (For more modern comparisons, they also remind me of Restorations and The Hotelier, but with Lawrence Arms-y production.) This all comes across on "Stationary," the lead single off Teenage Halloween's upcoming self-titled debut album, due September 18 via Don Giovanni. "'Stationary' is about the feelings of existential dread and how the human brain processes change and being perceived as male as an AMAB non-binary person can slowly make a person more bitter with the world around them," vocalist Luke Henderiks told Paste. You can hear all of that emotion pouring out of Luke's voice on every strained note of this song, which is as lyrically powerful as it is catchy and musically ambitious.
Kill Lincoln - "Ignorance Is Bliss"
Ska-punk is back whether you like it or not, so you better just embrace it, especially when we're getting new '90s-style ska-punk songs as undeniable as "Ignorance Is Bliss." Kill Lincoln sound like The Suicide Machines, Slapstick, and Less Than Jake in a blender, and this song is actually off their upcoming first album in seven years, so even these guys are sort of veterans at this point, but they're still a whole lot newer than the bands they sound like. (Their first two albums came out in the early 2010s, and those were good too, even if the idea of ska-punk revival seemed even less possible then than it does now.) It kinda sounds exactly like the records that this genre was producing 25 years ago, but Kill Lincoln do it in a way that feels so refreshing, it brings you right back to where you were the moment you first heard Losing Streak or Destruction by Definition.
Sharptooth - "153"
Sharptooth released their sophomore album Transitional Forms on Pure Noise in early July, and it's a killer mix of melodic hardcore, chugging metal, and radical feminism, and it's got a guest appearance by Anti-Flag frontman Justin Sane on the song "Evolution." My personal favorite song is one that doesn't really sound like anything else Sharptooth have ever done: "153." It's a dose of melodic, hard rock-infused metalcore that reminds me of Gutter Phenomenon-era Every Time I Die but sounds totally new and fresh in 2020. There's been a lot of interesting metalcore revival lately, but "153" stands out in the increasingly crowded genre. There's meticulous detail in the melodies, and a message in the lyrics that will shake you to your core.
Before you go, I leave you with this ska-punk cover of Blur's "Song 2."
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.