‘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. Here are The Genre’s best songs from June.
Pop punk was in the air this June, with a few key anniversaries and a revival that caused us to look at three different generations of the genre:
* blink-182's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket turns 20
* The Wonder Years' Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing
* 10 songs from the 2021 pop punk revival you need to know
And on that note, our hearts are with Mark Hoppus as he battles cancer.
A few other punk features we ran this month:
* We Are The Union interview: Reade Wolcott tells the story behind their crucial new album Ordinary Life
* Less Than Jake & Kill Lincoln interview on their new split 7", the first in a series of multi-generational ska splits called Wavebreaker (pick up one of three vinyl variants)
* Wristmeetrazor & Knocked Loose's Isaac Hale talk expansive new record
June album reviews: AFI, Sleater-Kinney, We Are The Union, Wristmeetrazor, KennyHoopla x Travis Barker, Death Goals, Love Is Red, Corrupt Vision, DE'WAYNE, Slow Fire Pistol, and the Spitboy discography comp.
Browse the newly-added punk vinyl in our store, including Ramones, Rancid, The Slackers, Fugazi, Soul Glo, Fiddlehead, Touche Amore, and much more.
Read on for my picks of the best songs of June 2021 that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
One Step Closer - "Pringle Street"
Wilkes-Barre's One Step Closer have been one of the brightest new voices in hardcore for the past few years, and with their debut album This Place You Know (due 9/24 via Run For Cover), they're pushing their sound further than they ever have before. You can hear it on lead single "Pringle Street," which fuses the grit and energy of hardcore with the melody and introspection of emo, and it flirts with a more atmospheric, experimental side too. Comparisons to fellow Wilkes-Barre band Title Fight will probably be made, but OSC really have their own personality and vibe, and they sound as fresh today as Shed did when it came out 10 years ago. They're a band with a strong vision, and they're full of intent, and all of that comes through on "Pringle Street."
Section H8 - "Streetsweeper" (ft. Tim Armstrong)
Section H8 have generated a ton of buzz within the hardcore community, and that buzz has expanded outside of hardcore too. Their upcoming Taylor Young-recorded/mixed debut LP Welcome To The Nightmare (due 7/30 via Flatspot) is shaping up to be a record with serious crossover appeal, and one of the people that it attracted is Tim Armstrong, who sings on their latest single "Streetsweeper." "Streetsweeper" starts out in typically whiplash-inducing Section H8 territory, with vocalist Mexi's venomous bark leading the way, and then guitar cuts out, Tim Armstrong lets out a "let's gooooo" and it goes into some of the most hardcore-inspired Tim Armstrong yelling since the Rancid 2000 album. Tim's presence makes the song a standout, but Section H8 really do all their own heavy lifting. After Tim cuts out, Section H8 slow things down to half speed, and you can just picture a parking lot full of moshers going nuts to it.
VIAL - "Violet"
"Violet" is the second single off Minneapolis indie-punks VIAL's upcoming LP Loudmouth (due 7/30 via Get Better), and it's an anxiety-ridden queer love song with hooks that get stuck in your head on first listen. "Do you like girls or should I give up?" Taylor Kraemer asks, before the rest of the band joins her on the anthemic, shout-sung "I wanna be, I wanna be your boyfriend! I wanna be, I wanna be your best friend!" It's a crunchy, catchy blend of punk, grunge, and power pop that sounds like it could've been a hit in 1997, but with a perspective that we could've used more of on the radio back then.
Koyo - "Diamond One" (ft. Life's Question)
Koyo were formed last year by members of SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Typecaste, Rain of Salvation, Hangman, and Adrenaline with the intention of paying tribute to late '90s/early 2000s Long Island emo, and they released the EP Painting Words Into Lines which did a ton of justice to that sound. It seemed like it might've just been a fun one-off side project, given the members were already in well-known bands and the whole specific, nostalgic angle of the EP, but it looks like Koyo are in it for the long haul. They've signed to Triple B and now they have another new EP, Drives Out East, coming July 6. On "Diamond One," which features great guest vocals by Abby Rhine of Life's Question, Koyo bring Long Island emo back to the grittier, hardcore-tinged vibe of Silent Majority, who still had melody but not nearly as much pop punk in their DNA as the bands who brought Long Island emo to the mainstream like Taking Back Sunday. Koyo's also not a gimmick. They may have a specific set of influences in mind, but it's not just about paying tribute to turn-of-the-millennium Long Island. "Diamond One" is among the freshest sounding melodic emo/hardcore to come out this year.
Pick up a first pressing blue vinyl variant of the EP in our shop.
Meet Me @ The Altar - "Feel A Thing"
MM@TA were already known for making unabashedly polished pop punk, but on their recent single "Hit Like A Girl" (which we named one of 10 songs from the 2021 pop punk revival you need to know), they started embracing easycore (pop punk with chugging) and that song almost single-handedly brought that sound back to the forefront of punk. Now they've announced their first EP for Fueled by Ramen, Model Citizen, and they say the EP will continue to explore their easycore side, which you can already hear on the excellent lead single "Feel A Thing." The song just goes for it in a way where MM@TA sound like they want to be the biggest band on the planet, but still in a way that's artistic and tasteful and not overly commercial sounding. And though "Feel A Thing" may sound happy and upbeat on the surface, the self-doubt in the lyrics suggests otherwise.
Static Dress - "sweet."
UK band Static Dress have singles dating back to 2019, and even with a handful of songs released, they've already become one of the more promising metalcore/post-hardcore bands around. On their seventh single and first of 2021, "sweet.," Static Dress will bring you right back to peak-era Underoath, from the chaotic, screamy metalcore to the pop hooks to the furious drumming. But Static Dress are more than just mid 2000s revival, and this song is just one side of them. Based on a recent interview with Underground Underdogs, they seem like a band whose sights are set on transcending metalcore, post-hardcore, and maybe even heavy music completely. I look forward to hearing them do it, but until then, here's a song that hits the nail on the head for that style in a way that very few bands do.
Employed To Serve - "Exist"
For a much different kind of UK metalcore band, June brought the announcement of a new Employed To Serve album and the release of the vicious lead single "Exist." Their recent non-album single "Party's Over" found them exploring a melodic side, but "Exist" finds Employed To Serve at their heaviest. The interplay between lead screamer Justine Jones and backing screamer Sammy Urwin is total ear-piercing fury, and the guitars are dark and caustic, only allowing for brief moments of brightness.
DARE - "Different Method"
Fullerton, California hardcore up and comers DARE's highly anticipated debut LP for Revelation Against All Odds is said to be an album that's both deeply personal and also confronts violence against minorities, but with lead single "Different Method," they've given us a straight edge anthem for the ages. "Most of the other songs we have pertaining to it are never so straight up, but ‘Different Method’ is all about our dedication to straight edge and being in your face," vocalist Angel Garcia says. "It may not be for everybody but it’s 100% for us. Navigating through life with a different method." The song, which features Movements singer Patrick Miranda, is under two minutes of throat-shredding hardcore, and they pull off a shout-along chorus that's addictively catchy without containing a single clean-sung note.
Filth Is Eternal - "On the Rake"
Fucked and Bound changed their name to Filth Is Eternal, and with the name change comes a sound that's even more punishing. They recently released the murky, sludgy non-album single "ZED," and then announced their new album Love Is A Lie, Filth Is Eternal and shared the much different lead single, "On The Rake." This one clocks in at 89 seconds, and it's mile-a-minute hardcore that sounds both gnarled and apocalyptic. The instrumentation is classic, pit-starting hardcore, but Lisa Mungo's shrieks turn it into something much more dire.
Love Is Red - "Keep Moving"
Nashville's Love Is Red were one of the most underrated melodic hardcore bands of the 2000s, and their 2004 sophomore album The Hardest Fight is a classic that helped pave the way for the heavy but tuneful and emotive style of hardcore that took off in the early 2010s. They broke up after that album, but they're back and they released a new EP, Darkness Is Waiting, their first new music in 17 years. Each song flows right into the next and the whole thing is really best heard from start to finish, but if I'm picking one song, I'll go with "Keep Moving," which offers up a little bit of everything. Infectious guitar riffs? Check. Impassioned, depressive shouts with a sense of hope? Also check. A half-speed breakdown with gang vocal shouts? It's got that too. It also sounds just as vital as Love Is Red did 17 years ago. A truly great comeback.
Upsetting - "Scrooged Starring Bill Murray"
A lot of bands blend emo and shoegaze these days, but I haven't heard many bands do it the way Dallas, Texas' Upsetting do on "Scrooged Starring Bill Murray." Instead of embracing emogaze's usual hushed vocal style, Upsetting channel the earnest, yelping delivery of the past decade's most anthemic emo-pop bands, and they raise their voice to a scream at a few explosive climaxes too. They also embrace the sludge metal side of shoegaze; this is unmistakably emo, but the guitars sound more like Boris or Jesu than Title Fight. It's a fresh spin on some very familiar ingredients, and it's got me excited for their upcoming A Cold, Lonely Place EP.
Roman Lions - "Negative"
San Jose post-hardcore band Roman Lions (who have former members of A Perfect Kiss, I Am Empire, and Octaves) have been working with engineer Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Joyce Manor, Jeff Rosenstock, etc) on a followup to 2018's Absolutes, and while details on the album are still TBA, they've been rolling out some pretty amazing singles. The newest is "Negative," which is in the vein of bands like Touche Amore and Pianos Become the Teeth, and Roman Lions do this sound exceptionally well. On "Negative," they contrast impassioned shouts with hooky clean-sung melodies, and the instrumentation is equal parts post-hardcore grit and post-rock grandeur. A lot of bands attempt this kind of sound, but few of them hit the nail on the head like this.
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.