‘In Defense of the Genre’ June 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.
June is a wrap, summer is here, and it's time to look back on the many great songs that came out under the punk umbrella this past month. I highlight 11 favorites below, but first, some features we ran in June:
* How a ‘Never Hungover Again’ outtake and a text about Sublime led to Joyce Manor’s new LP (interview/review)
* Japandroids' Celebration Rock turns 10
* Go see a ska show!!! (Kill Lincoln, JER & The Best of the Worst pics & review)
* Grumpster discuss the influences behind new album 'Fever Dream'
* 6 songs that influenced Fairweather's Deluge EP
* We Are The Union & Rae Mystic talk new photobook, one year of 'Ordinary Life' & more
June album reviews: Joyce Manor, Alexisonfire, Fairweather, Candy, Stay Inside, Grumpster, No Pressure, onelinedrawing, Cold Mega (Justice Tripp of Angel Du$t/Trapped Under Ice), and the For Your Health/awakebutstillinbed split.
More punk vinyl: Poison The Well's Tear from the Red (limited 20th anniversary splatter vinyl), Citizen's Youth (limited white/yellow splatter), The Locust's Safety Second, Body Last (limited white vinyl), Soul Glo's Diaspora Problems (gold vinyl), Gulch's Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress (multi-color vinyl), Anti-Flag's 17 Song Demo (red/silver vinyl), The Distillers' Coral Fang (import), PUP's The Unraveling Of PUPTHEBAND (neon coral & black smush vinyl), and much more.
Read on for my picks of the 11 best songs of June that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
Pinkshift - "nothing (in my head)"
It was clear that Pinkshift were one of the most promising new punk bands around even before they released their 2021 debut EP Saccharine and started winning over crowds on tour, so it's no surprise that they've now inked a deal with one of the biggest punk labels around: Hopeless Records. Their first song for the label is even better than anything on Saccharine; the band is tighter, the production is bigger, and Pinkshift are continuing to find their own voice. The "My Chemical Romance meets Paramore" descriptor that has been following them around is still there, but there are clearly a lot of other ingredients in this song too, and really the band it sounds most like is Pinkshift themselves.
Pianos Become the Teeth - "Genevieve"
After a four-year gap that feels even longer because of the world-changing pandemic, Pianos Become the Teeth are finally back with a new album, Drift, due this August via Epitaph. The new album reunites them with producer Kevin Bernsten, who produced their first two albums, but lead single "Genevieve" is no return to the screamo-oriented sound of those records. It pushes them in the indie/art rock direction of their last two albums, with shuffling drums and arpeggiated guitar patterns that recall 2000s Radiohead, but with Kyle Durfey's soaring, shaky voice keeping them sounding as distinct as ever. Not until the explosive coda does "Genevieve" even qualify as "post-hardcore," and even then, it's a unique version of the genre that hasn't really existed since the last Pianos Become the Teeth album.
Pre-order 'Drift' on red vinyl.
Jimmy Eat World - "Something Loud"
Do you still feel part of something loud? Jimmy Eat World sure as hell does!
Anklebiter - "Red Tones"
Anklebiter share members with Broken Vow and Pummel and they make no-nonsense hardcore that they say pulls from early/mid 2000s Lockin Out Records bands like Mental, Righteous Jams, and RZL DZL. They're not reinventing the form or anything, but Anklebiter know how to do this kinda thing really well and they know how to make it feel fresh. They've got just the right balance of groove, melody, and aggression, and with "Red Tones," they've got a vivid title and concept that came to lead shouter Rachael Braverman when they least expected it. "'Red Tones' was a track I wrote while I was freaking out. I was mad and seeing red, my brain felt like it wasn’t even there," Rachael told No Echo. "'Misplaced all inside my head/Things around me turn to red tones' came out of that and then I just built on how I felt from there."
Fixation - "Lachrymose"
Philly's Fixation (members of Chemical Fix, Drowse, and Wild Red) pull from bands like American Nightmare and Blacklisted, bands whose dark, heavy, boundary-pushing approach to hardcore helped take the genre to new places in the 2000s. Fixation also have a darkness, and on "Lachrymose," vocalist/producer Wyatt Oberholzer focuses that darkness inwards. He tells No Echo that the band's upcoming album The Secrets We Keep (due 7/22 via WAR Records) and its opening track "Lachrymose" are about dealing with depression and dark thoughts, and adds that this song "serves to introduce that theme as a specific moment in time—lying awake in the middle of the night and trying to recall an earlier time in my life, when I didn’t live with this ugly thing hanging over me, and wondering if there will ever be a time where it isn’t there anymore, or if I’ll live the rest of my life with it."
Strange Joy - "Black Hole Love"
Hardcore bands embracing shoegaze and college rock is nothing new, but Texas band Strange Joy's new 5 Tracks EP asks: what if a hardcore band embraced those sounds without softening up? Throughout the EP, they channel the guitar work of bands like Hum and Dinosaur Jr without taming vocalist Jonah Castillo's militant bark. On EP closer "Black Hole Love," they expand their sound even further, incorporating Title Fight-esque melodic singing and a quiet clean-guitar bridge, before exploring into one last burst of aggression.
Gillian Carter - "Terminal Brain"
Gillian Carter are back! The Florida band have become one of the most consistently great screamo bands of the past 15 years, but they hadn't released new music since 2018, before dropping the two-song Songs of Summer single and a track on Zegema Beach Records' Not Just A Phase Vol.1 compilation this past month. "Terminal Brain," from the former, is pure fury. So much modern screamo goes in a post-rock direction, but this is punk as fuck. It's 72 seconds long and it'll have you starting a circle pit in your living room.
End It - "New Wage Slavery" (ft. Justice Tripp)
Like a lot of great punk and hardcore bands, Baltimore's End It have a sense of humor and a serious side all at once. Their new song "New Wage Slavery" off upcoming EP Unpleasant Living (due 7/8 via Flatspot Records) takes on the wealth and power divide, and as guitarist Ray Lee puts it, the solution is "Fuck them all, steal their shit." With help from Angel Du$t/Trapped Under Ice's Justice Tripp, vocalist Akil Godsey delivers the song's message with a sneer that sounds excited and outraged all at once, and drummer Chris really makes this song bounce. Also, it comes with an amazing video.
Birds In Row - "Water Wings"
Birds In Row don't operate at the fastest pace -- it's been four years since their last album, We Already Lost the World, which was their first in six years -- but whenever they do return, it's always with music that's worth coming back for. New single "Water Wings" is a stunning offering of post-hardcore, with a hypnotic, beautiful/heavy backdrop that owes as much to atmospheric post-rock as it does to blasty hardcore, and Bart Hirigoyen's screams are as caustic as they are impassioned. Birds In Row deliver this song like it's their last day on earth.
Hot Mulligan - "Drink Milk and Run"
For their latest single, Hot Mulligan tap directly into the twitchy, dancey sounds of the 2000s post-punk revival without toning down their usual emo/pop punk catharsis, and they come out with a song that truly gives you the best of both worlds. It's fun, catchy, and danceable, but its subject matter has a darker tone. "'Drink Milk and Run' is about how America doesn’t care for the poor," vocalist Nathan “Tades” Sanville says. “The wealth gap is getting bigger, it’s impossible to own a home, and it seems like the rich are too busy busting unions and pretending to be astronauts to give a shit."
Spaced - "Prove You Wrong"
Spaced are a self-proclaimed "far out hardcore" band who hail from the ever-thriving hardcore epicenter of Buffalo, and they live up to that description on new single "Prove You Wrong." Its shouted, finger-pointing hook occupies the space between tough and fun that's defined many of the best hardcore bands for the past 40 years, and there's a psychedelic tint on the guitars that matches the kaleidoscopic colors of the band's artwork. It's everything that was good about last year's Two New Joints promo but bigger and better. I can't wait to see where this band goes next.
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.