‘In Defense of the Genre’ March 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 March.
March was an insanely busy month in the punk/etc world, and in addition to all the great new music, I also looked back on a lot of older music here in 'In Defense of the Genre' land. Here are all the punk features we ran this past month:
* 20 punk, emo, hardcore albums not to miss from winter 2021
* 15 albums that shaped progressive post-hardcore in the 2000s
* 15 seminal albums from metalcore's second wave (2000-2010)
* A look back on Further Seems Forever's The Moon Is Down for its 20th anniversary
* Bad Brains interview: Darryl Jenifer discusses the band's classic '80s records
* A look back on Bad Brains' self-titled debut -- one of punk rock's most definitive records ever
* A look back on Cock Sparrer's Shock Troops -- a timeless, influential UK punk classic
* 10 great Cock Sparrer covers by Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, The Bouncing Souls, Ted Leo & more
* Tigers Jaw break down every track on I Won't Care How You Remember Me
* Citizen discuss 10 albums that influenced Life In Your Glass World
* Regional Justice Center's Ian Shelton on the music that influenced Crime and Punishment
March album reviews: Tigers Jaw, Really From, Flying Raccoon Suit, Citizen, Regional Justice Center, Pupil Slicer, Thirdface, Closer, Enforced, Harmony Woods, Ship Thieves, Justin Courtney Pierre, Genghis Tron, Worn, New Pagans, and Drip-Fed.
Read on for my picks of the best songs of March 2021 that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
Foxing - "Speak With The Dead"
I recently reviewed this song and wrote in part: Nearer My God, though it wasn't really an emo record, felt like the apex of the 2010s emo revival movement. When we named it the second best punk or emo album of the decade, we said it's to "emo revival" what OK Computer is to Britpop and grunge; Foxing could have stopped there and their legacy as a generation-defining band would've been complete. It can't be easy to top something like that, but "Speak With The Dead" feels like as much of a leap in creativity from Nearer My God as that album did from its also-excellent 2015 predecessor Dealer. It's seven minutes in length, and by the time you get to your third or fourth listen, it feels like half that. Like Nearer My God, it's an atmospheric art rock song -- it almost reminds me a little of self-titled Bon Iver -- but Foxing's roots in post-hardcore take it to a louder, more cathartic place than you might expect from the phrase "art rock." Jon Hellwig's thunderous drumming alone would make this song explosive, but instead, it acts as the earthquake to the volcanic eruption of Conor Murphy's chorus, a hook so instantly satisfying that this song already feels like a classic.
Read more here.
Origami Angel - "Neutrogena Spektor"
DC-area two-piece Origami Angel put a fresh spin on noodly '90s emo with their early EPs/splits and 2019 debut LP Somewhere City, and they're dialing the ambition way up for their just-announced sophomore album Gami Gang. It's a double album, and judging by lead single "Neutrogena Spektor," they're taking their sound in a few new directions. It's harder, darker, and even tighter than Somewhere City, and it offers up singalong gang vocals and a power pop hook that could fit on the first Motion City Soundtrack album before turning into harshly screamed, sludgy post-hardcore. It nails a balance between poppiness and heaviness without ever sounding the least bit cheesy, and it's one hell of an introduction to this anticipated LP.
Fiddlehead - "Million Times"
As frontman of Have Heart, Patrick Flynn is basically a modern hardcore legend (as you may have heard, their 2019 hometown reunion show drew nearly 10,000 people), but with Fiddlehead, he makes more melodic punk that's closer to Title Fight or Fiddlehead guitarist Alex Henery's other band Basement. Their sophomore LP Between The Richness is due 5/21 via Run For Cover, and lead single "Million Times" sounds a little more matured and refined than their already-great 2018 debut. That's partially because Patrick became a father, which he says very influenced the direction of his songwriting, and you can tell that he has all the sincerity and passion in the world on the anthemic hook to lead single "Million Times."
SeeYouSpaceCowboy & If I Die First - "bloodstainedeyes"
SeeYouSpaceCowboy are one of the best new metalcore/post-hardcore/sass bands around, and If I Die First is the new metalcore band led by Epitaph-signed emo-trap artist Lil Lotus that also features emo-trappers Nedarb and Zubin and two members of From First To Last. They're releasing a split EP on Pure Noise with two new songs by each band, and the collaborative song "bloodstainedeyes." This collab (and especially its video) go even more into the Hot Topic/Myspace era than SSYC's own material, and it's almost hard to believe that something like this not only exists in 2021, but sounds this awesome and this fresh.
Joystick! - "Parallelograms"
Joystick! have been one of the best post-third wave ska-punk bands since releasing their debut LP in 2010, and in the time since they put out 2017's killer Sinceriously, ska and ska-punk began receiving more attention than they had in years. That makes the anticipation for Joystick!'s next record I Can't Take It Anymore (due 4/16 via Bad Time/Stomp) very high, and "Parallelograms" proves that they're only getting better. Joystick! are rooted in the rippin' ska-punk and ska-core of bands like Less Than Jake, Link 80, Assorted Jelly Beans, Against All Authority, etc, and the hint of nostalgia is balanced out by a sense of urgency. If you want a newer band in your life who sounds as fresh and inspired as those bands did in the '90s, do not miss out on this song.
Gulch - "Bolt Swallower"
Gulch put out one of the best metallic hardcore records in recent memory with 2020's Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress (one of our favorite albums of last year), and their future continues to look bright. They returned this month with a split 7" with Sunami, and their contribution "Bolt Swallower" is one of the best songs they've written yet. At four minutes and seven seconds, it's double the length of all the original songs on Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress (only the Siouxsie and the Banshees cover is close), and it pushes the Gulch sound forward without abandoning what made Impenetrable so good. Like on the album, this song contrasts evil black/death metal riffs with peppy upbeat drums that always insist the song should go faster, all topped off by Elliot Morrow's coarse, gravelly screams. But it's also a more dynamic song than most songs on that album, one that ebbs and flows and constantly makes unexpected changes. It's an artist, creative triumph, but it's also not overly brainy or anything. Even if you don't pay attention to all of its intricacies, it just flat-out rips.
Home Is Where - "Sewn Together From The Membrane Of The Great Sea Cucumber"
One of the biggest highlights of Home Is Where's great new album I Became Birds is "Sewn Together From The Membrane Of The Great Sea Cucumber," which really shows off how wide this band's range is. It starts off with a TWIABP-ish post-rock/emo build-up, fleshed out by strings melodic gang vocals, and then it erupts into a screamo-infused climax that's as harsh as convincing as the genre's classic '90s/early '00s bands. Home Is Where are as good at the quiet, delicate stuff as they are at the explosive, abrasive stuff, and they bridge the gap between various emo subgenres while bringing fresh perspective to all of it.
Wristmeetrazor - "Last Tango In Paris" (ft. Isaac Hale of Knocked Loose)
Just as screamo and metalcore were starting to have comebacks, Wristmeetrazor came along with their killer 2019 debut LP Misery Never Forgets, which pulled equally from both genres. Now they're set to release their sophomore LP Replica of a Strange Love on 6/11 via Prosthetic, and on first single "Last Tango In Paris" they manage to sound even more nuts than ever. This song is all over the place, with downtuned nu metal riffage, At The Gates-worshipping melodic metalcore riffs, screamo shrieks, death metal growls, a bellowing gothic metal chorus, and more, not to mention guest vocals from Isaac Hale of Knocked Loose, who also produced the album. It sounds like it stumbled out of a Hot Topic in 2003, but Wristmeetrazor do it in a way that sounds like the future.
Bruce Lee Band - "Division in the Heartland"
In the 20+ years since Mike Park launched the Ska Against Racism tour, things have only gotten worse. "If we did make a step forward in 1998, we took two steps back in 2020," Mike told us last year. "In my almost 51 years on this planet, I've never seen division like this." He perfectly captured the feeling of hopelessness that the current social/political climate inspires on last year's solo single "You Feel Like You're In Quicksand" (which has his Bruce Lee Band bandmate Kevin Higuchi on drums, plus Catbite's Brittany Luna on guest vocals), and now he got the full Bruce Lee Band together (Mike, Kevin, Jeff Rosenstock, and MU330's Dan Potthast, plus guest trombone on this song by Skatune Network's Jeremy Hunter) to take a more combative approach. "Men in high places afraid of mixed races, pledging the flag to defend racist cases," the song begins, and Mike Park remains vicious and incisive the entire time. Like many of Mike Park's classics, it's a fun, upbeat ska-punk song that reminds you music can have big catchy hooks and still be angry and political.
Oldsoul - "High On Yourself"
Massachusetts indie/emo band Oldsoul are following last year's You Were Overwhelmed with a two-song 7" on Counter Intuitive Records soon, and A-side "High On Yourself" is one of the best songs they've released yet. It starts off as a serene dream pop song, but it eventually explodes into a super catchy emo/punk chorus, and by the time it gets to the roaring, top-of-the-lungs post-hardcore of the bridge, it's genuinely cathartic.
Fresh - "Girl Clout"
London punks Fresh (who share members with ME REX) are back with a new single, and it's as fun and catchy as it is biting and vicious. "Themes include power, not being taken seriously by male musicians and bands, and being tokenised," says singer Kathryn Woods. "It’s also about seeing through performative male allyship, owning your space in punk music as a woman and venting your frustrations through good old-fashioned rock and roll." Kathryn's delivery is forceful and empowering, and she leaves you hanging on every last word.
Mannequin Pussy - "Control"
"We just figured if we forced ourselves into this situation where someone could hit 'record,' something might come out," vocalist Missy said of Mannequin Pussy's upcoming EP Perfect, and judging by "Control," what came out is one of MP's most fired-up songs yet. After a slower, ethereal intro, the song kicks into high gear, with a propulsive rhythm section and one of the most soaring, throat-shredding hooks that Missy ever laid to tape.
ORESKABAND - "うつくしい男"
Japan's ORESKABAND have been making insanely catchy ska/pop/punk for the last 15 years, and they show no signs of slowing down. They haven't put out an album or EP in a while, and I'm not sure when they plan to, but they did just release this new song and it's fantastic. It's undeniable mid-tempo ska-punk with a little time for some jazzy, retro piano and sax solos, and the hook is so catchy that -- even if you don't speak the language -- you'll be humming it on your second listen.
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra - "9"
ORESKABAND weren't the only Japanese ska band to drop a great song in the past month. The great and much longer-running Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra put out their zillionth album Ska=Almighty, and somehow this band (who formed in 1985) just never runs out of steam. TSPO do a lot of different types of ska, and one of the album's best songs, "9," is a fast-paced, no-frills ska-punk ripper that sounds built to incite skankin' circle pits and scratches every itch that this genre should scratch.
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...
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.