‘In Defense of the Genre’ July 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.
Summer is flying, July is a wrap, and it's time to look back on the many great songs that came out under the punk umbrella this past month. I highlight 10 favorites below, but first, some features we ran in July:
* The Callous Daoboys' mathcore is for everyone: "I don’t want to be this middling heavy band, I wanna be The 1975"
* Chamberlain break down every track on their classic Fate's Got A Driver for its 25th anniversary
* Brian Fallon's favorite Gaslight Anthem album Handwritten turns 10 -- a retrospective feature on the album (interview with Brian included) by Owen Morawitz
* Jim Ward discusses 20th anniversary of Sparta's Wiretap Scars in new interview with members of If It Kills You
Newly-added punk vinyl to our store: the new OFF! album and reissues (translucent color vinyl), the new Armor For Sleep album, the new reissue of Cursive's Domestica, the new reissue of Cloud Nothings' Attack on Memory, the new color vinyl Hotelier reissues, the new Gleemer EP (half blue/half gold), the new Gogol Bordello album (yellow/blue splatter), the new Wonder Years album (blue vinyl), Modern Baseball, Turnover, Unwound, Jawbreaker, The Offspring, Inside Out's No Spiritual Surrender (purple vinyl), Social Distortion's Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (opaque spring green vinyl), One Step Closer's This Place You Know (cloudy dark blue), Taking Back Sunday's Louder Now, and much more.
Also check out latest episodes of the BrooklynVegan podcast, including a new one with Thursday's Geoff Rickly.
Read on for my picks of the 10 best songs of July that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
Pool Kids - "Arm's Length"
If you've read anything about Pool Kids in the past few years, you've probably read that Hayley Williams posted an Instagram story about them in 2019 that said "this is what [Paramore] WISHED we sounded like in the early 2000s," a co-sign that singer Christine Goodwyne was very happy to have been given. And yeah, sometimes Pool Kids sound a little bit like Paramore, but they approach their music and combine different influences in a way that's entirely their own. Their 2018 debut LP Music to Practice Safe Sex To had lo-fi production and knotty Midwest emo riffs and sounded -- to quote Zoe Camp -- "kinda like Hayley Williams fronting Cap’n Jazz," but their newly-released self-titled sophomore album is a totally different ballgame that wholly embraces glossy production and pop hooks while still maintaining the band's DIY emo roots. If you're gonna compare it to Paramore, it's maybe like if After Laughter still had some songs that sounded kinda like Riot!, but honestly, Pool Kids just sound like they're carving out their own path. In a world where people fight less and less about "real emo," Pool Kids sound like a band who think the underground DIY stuff and the MTV-friendly third wave stuff are just as "real," and elements of both come through on their new album. One of the album's best examples of this is recent single "Arm's Length," which also has one of the most entertaining videos I've watched all year.
Thotcrime - "Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria"
When I included Paper Wings Records' 4 Ways To Die four-way split with p.s.you'redead, Thotcrime, Kurama, and The Queen Guillotined on my list of best punk EPs, splits, and singles of 2021, I wrote, "If you like the chaotic post-hardcore that bands like SeeYouSpaceCowboy and For Your Health brought to the forefront of the punk scene in 2021 and you're wondering who might be next, this 4-way split has some answers." Since then, p.s.you'redead released one of the year's best post-hardcore albums with Sugar Rot, and Thotcrime seem like they're about to do the same. They signed to Prosthetic for their upcoming LP D1G1T4L_DR1FT, which features guest appearances by members of The Callous Daoboys, Pupil Slicer, Dreamwell, and diana starshine, and lead single "Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria" is my favorite song by this band yet. Like their earlier material, it's self-produced, but the production is way bigger and clearer and the added clarity only helps to show off how remarkable of a band Thotcrime is. In less than two minutes, this song culls elements of metalcore, sass, dance-punk, hyperpop, and more, but it's not chaotic for the sake of chaos; it feels like a pop song. I'd even kinda compare it to like Refused or Death From Above 1979 or something. But truthfully I'm having trouble placing it anywhere, and that's what makes it so exciting.
Mindforce - "Survival Is Vengeance"
It's been four years since Hudson Valley hardcore band Mindforce released their debut LP Excalibur, and the anticipation for a sophomore album has just kept building and building. Now we're finally getting one, New Lords, on September 16 via Triple B Records, and lead single "Survival Is Vengeance" only raises the intensity of the anticipation. It may very well be their best song yet, with even crisper production, tighter musicianship, and better songwriting than ever before. They've got a clear thrash element, but this isn't your run-of-the-mill crossover revival, and they never use clean-singing, but everything out of vocalist Jay Peta's mouth feels like a hook. It's fresh without abandoning tradition, and accessible without softening their attack.
Pre-order our exclusive splatter vinyl variant of the new Mindforce album.
Stand Still - "With All My Love"
As I wrote in my review of their new EP In A Moment's Notice, Long Island emo band Stand Still take the sound of their hometown's early 2000s emo boom (Taking Back Sunday, The Movielife, etc) and reconnect it to the melodic hardcore of Long Island heroes Silent Majority, who basically none of those popular emo bands would've existed (or sounded the way they did) without. Stand Still and their neighbors Koyo are kinda like to Silent Majority what bands like Algernon Cadwallader and Snowing were to Cap'n Jazz; they're tapping into the sounds of highly underrated emo legends and updating them for a new generation who never got to experience it the first time around. But Stand Still is more than just idol worship; they wear their influences on their sleeves but they also bring new perspective, especially on a song like "With All My Love." Its gritty attack remains loyal to the hardcore scene that Stand Still are part of, but those sweet melodies suggest that the hardcore scene may not have Stand Still all to themselves for much longer.
Pick up our exclusive clear/orange splatter vinyl variant of the new Stand Still EP.
Holy Fawn - "Dimensional Bleed"
I have probably thrown around the phrase "larger than life" way too many times while writing about music, but this Holy Fawn song truly makes me feel small. This is a band that has toured with Thrice, Deafheaven, and Caspian, and the two minutes and 40 seconds that make up "Dimensional Bleed" somehow remind me of all three of those bands while also sounding wholly unique. Make sure you play this one loud.
Pre-order our exclusive coke bottle clear/black splatter vinyl variant of Holy Fawn's upcoming LP.
Dr. Acula - "The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena"
The renewed interest in chaotic hardcore has been coaxing some older bands out of retirement (anybody catch the Heavy Heavy Low Low/Duck Duck Goose tour?), and one of those bands is Long Island's Dr. Acula, whose first album in 10 years arrives this October via Silent Pendulum Records. The band used to call themselves "party grind," but speaking about the new album, bassist Rob Guarino says, "To put it frankly, this chapter of Dr. Acula is a 'party's over' vibe." And about this lead single in particular, guitarist Lou Figurito adds, "Going from youthful recklessness and invincibility to the realization that the down sides will eventually get the upper hand. 'Snowman' is a first person perspective of one of those nights, turned early mornings, where that realization starts to settle in." Their wiser, more mature approach is matched by music that's just as batshit as their early material but more focused and refined. I don't know if bands like this in the 2000s ever even thought or cared about aging gracefully, but Dr. Acula are proving that it's possible.
Brutus - "Liar"
Belgian trio Brutus have announced a followup to 2019's great Nest, and new single "Liar" picks right up where that album's unique sound left off. It blurs the lines between post-hardcore, post-rock, and sludge metal, as drummer/singer Stefanie Mannaerts's soaring vocal melodies put a pop twist on the band's dark and heavy instrumentals. There's a desperation to this song, and it swings for the fences in a way that aggressive music often shies away from.
Vandoliers - "Bless Your Drunken Heart"
Vandoliers call themselves "your favorite punk band's favorite country band," and on "Bless Your Drunken Heart" off their upcoming album The Vandoliers, they sound pretty damn punk themselves. It starts out as a galloping country song, and when the chorus hits, it explodes into a rousing, shoutalong cowpunk anthem that you'll be swishing your drink and yelling along to after one listen. If you're country-averse but you rock with stuff like Lucero or Social Distortion, don't skip out on this one.
Anti-Flag - "LAUGH. CRY. SMILE. DIE. (ft. Silverstein's Shane Told)
When Loudwire asked Anti-Flag's Chris #2 in 2020 to talk about the best 13th album by a rock band, he chose Bad Religion's career-renaissance-inducing The Empire Strikes First, and said "the lesson we took from it all was be true to yourself." That's definitely what Anti-Flag do on "LAUGH. CRY. SMILE. DIE.," the first single from their 13th album, Lies They Tell Our Children. For over 25 years, Anti-Flag have been lifers who never put out a bad album and never strayed from their mission to make infectiously-catchy punk anthems that raise awareness about injustice and oppression, and Lies They Tell Our Children already seems like it's shaping up to be a special album in Anti-Flag's discography. It's their first concept album, and it's loaded with cool guests, including fellow lifers like Rise Against's Tim McIlrath, Bad Religion/Minor Threat/Dag Nasty's Brian Baker, Killswitch Engage's Jesse Leach, Die Toten Hosen's Campino, and Silverstein's Shane Told, and great newer artists like Pinkshift's Ashrita Kumar, Bad Cop/Bad Cop's Stacey Dee, and Tré Burt. And our first taste of the album is as classic Anti-Flag as it gets, offering up commentary on the climate crisis with one of their most instantly-memorable choruses to date.
Loma Prieta - "Sunlight"
Loma Prieta are one of the most consistently great screamo bands of the past 15+ years, but they haven't released an album since 2015's Self Portrait. They did drop a two-song single in 2019, but then quieted back down, but now they're back once again with "Sunlight" and the promise that they "will be revealing more exciting news in the very near future." If that finally means a new LP, my hopes are already high because "Sunlight" is right up there with any of their best songs. The 89-second rager find them at their most caustic, furious, and suspenseful. They spend the entire time building more and more tension, and a release never comes; it just abruptly ends. If it leaves you feeling unsettled, that's almost definitely the point.
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.