‘In Defense of the Genre’ May 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.
After an extremely stacked April of new songs that fall under the punk umbrella, May was a little bit lighter, but still birthed its fair share of heavy hitters, and I highlight my 10 favorites below. The slightly less packed release schedule also gave me some time to play catch-up too, so a couple of these songs technically came out in April, but better late than never!
Before I get to the month's top songs, some punk-related news and features we ran in May:
* Atticus: ... Dragging the Lake at 20: a look back on the classic blink-182-curated comp
* Box Car Racer turns 20: a look back on blink-182's crucial post-hardcore side project
* 10 emo, screamo, and post-hardcore albums not to miss from 2022 so far
* 13 hardcore releases not to miss from 2022 so far
* Mike Park breaks down every track on The Bruce Lee Band's One Step Forward. Two Steps Back.
* Public Opinion break down every track on Modern Convenience
* Praise & Be Well talk working together, new albums, current melodic hardcore & more
* Pictures and review of Turnstile's NYC shows
* The Saetia reunion is on
* The Sunny Day Real Estate reunion is on
You can also still pick up our exclusive, limited-to-200 yellow vinyl variant of JER's album, and other new punk records in our store include The Distillers' Sing Sing Death House (20th anniversary doublemint/black galaxy vinyl), The Vandals' Slippery When Ill (red marble vinyl), New York Dolls' Red Patent Leather (red vinyl), the debut LP from punk supergroup Beach Rats (clear vinyl), Mom Jeans' Best Buds (green splatter), P.S. Eliot, Desaparecidos' Read Music/Speak Spanish (blue vinyl), Green Day's Dookie, multiple Promise Ring albums, multiple Weakerthans albums, and more more.
Read on for my picks of the 10 best songs of May that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
My Chemical Romance - "The Foundations of Decay"
No one can accuse the My Chemical Romance reunion of being just about nostalgia. Ahead of their long-awaited, lengthy tour, they released their first song in eight years, and it's unlike anything they've ever done. Clocking in at six minutes, it's dark, heavy, and sludgy in ways that My Chem never were, but still with the kind of anthemic chorus that always separated this band from their peers. It suggests that they're coming back because they've truly got more to say as a band (and recent teasers seem to hint at a new album), and if that's true, I really hope there's more where this came from.
Fairweather - "Untethered"
My Chemical Romance aren't the only emo band whose first song in eight years is a sludgy, six-minute step forward. Fairweather experimented with a more atmospheric side on parts of 2003's Lusitania, before intentionally returning to a more straightforward sound on their 2014 self-titled reunion album, but now they've got a new EP called Deluge on the way, and this is Fairweather like you've never heard them before. Now armed with a three-guitar attack, they aimed to make a more ornate record (their word), and they say "Untethered" is the record's standard-bearer. That's very promising, as this one of the most stunning songs Fairweather have ever released. It's heavier, more spacious, and more engulfing than almost any other song they've released, and that's saying something for a band who put out two classic albums during the early 2000s emo boom.
For Your Health - "Disarmament"
On their excellent 2021 debut LP In Spite Of, For Your Health expanded upon the screamo revival of their debut EP and split with Shin Guard and some songs flirted with a cleaner, more melodic sound, but with "Disarmament" off their upcoming split EP with awakebutstillinbed, they're going all in on that side of them like never before. It's a big, clean, catchy emo/post-hardcore anthem that sounds like the best parts of the Victory Records era in a blender, and it breathes new life into that sound in a way that feels more like a corrective than a revival. And as glistening as the production (by TWIABP's Chris Teti) and Hayden Rodriguez's voice sounds, For Your Health still find time for blastbeats and harsh screams that nod at the band's roots while pushing them forward.
awakebutstillinbed - "Ride"
"Ride," from awakebutstillinbed's side of that upcoming For Your Health split, is just as remarkable as the FYH song, and a perfect fit. It's been four and a half years since awakebutstillinbed took the emo worl by storm with their great debut LP what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you, and their long-awaited sophomore LP is poised to top it. Main member Shannon Taylor says that the two songs on this split were written during the same sessions as the upcoming LP (which hopefully means we'll learn more about that soon!), and if the rest of the new songs are anywhere near as good as "Ride," it's gonna be a big step up. Like the FYH song, "Ride" is a seamless fusion of harsh and pretty musical traits, with immaculate production that really makes everything soar. It's everything that was great about their debut LP and more.
Public Opinion - "American Bandstand"
Most of the bands in the early 2000s rock revival had ties to varying degrees of punk, but if any of them were loyal to underground hardcore, it probably would've sounded a lot like Public Opinion. The members hail from the hardcore scene and their new EP Modern Convenience has hardcore aesthetics, but their super catchy songs owe just as much to bands like The Hives and The Strokes. The EP was produced by Ian Shelton (and features his guest singing on "Fixated"), who plays with Public Opinion vocalist Kevin Hart in Sex With A Terrorist, and who knows a thing or two about mixing hardcore with poppier rock thanks to his band Militarie Gun, and this EP should definitely appeal to fans of Ian's extended big chord rock family. Its opener/title track/lead single sounds most like a hit (and sounds most like The Hives), but the song I keep going back to is "American Bandstand." At a minute and 45 seconds, it's the EP's shortest song, but it's got one of its biggest hooks, and it feels like a seamless fusion of all of Public Opinion's influences, from their poppiest to their snottiest.
Truth Cult - "Resurrection"
This dropped in late April, but I missed it until I saw Truth Cult open for Turnstile in May, and they announced from the stage that this was their new single. Truth Cult put on one of the most memorable sets of that five-band Turnstile bill, thanks in no small part to how charismatic of a frontperson Paris Roberts is, and that same energy comes through on this recording too. Hailing from the DC/Baltimore area and doing their 2020 debut LP with Jawbox's J. Robbins, Truth Cult have gained a handful of comparisons to late '80s - mid '90s Dischord, but they really have their own style and they never sound like idol worshippers. Paris' shout-singing and bassist Emily Ferrara's more melodic singing give them a dual-vocal style that separates them from the pack, and like most songs on their debut, "Resurrection" is urgent and anthemic. You don't need to do your hardcore homework to feel how hard this one hits right now.
Hippie Trim - "Pain Ball"
Here's another April catch-up -- Hippie Trim did actually release the song "Toothpaste" in May, but if you're new to them, "Pain Ball" is the best entry point. The German band formed in 2019 and they quickly caught the attention of Drug Church, with whom they share a knack for explosive, hooky, gritty punk. Drug Church had Hippie Trim open for them in Germany, frontman Patrick Kindlon sang on "Blasphemy" off their 2019 debut LP Cult, and now they've been working with frequent Drug Church producer Jon Markson (who also plays in Taking Meds and Such Gold) for their upcoming second album. "Pain Ball" is an emo/grunge/hardcore hybrid and it's easy to compare this one to Drug Church too, but when the soaring, atmospheric chorus comes in, it becomes clear that Hippie Trim refuse to be pinned down as any one thing.
Stay Inside - "Hollow"
If you miss the dark, spacious post-hardcore of mid 2000s albums like A City by the Light Divided and Devil and God, the new song you need in your life is Stay Inside's "Hollow." Just as Thursday's mid 2000s albums were inspired by living on the outskirts of New York City during Bush-era war and terrorism, Brooklyn band Stay Inside's upcoming Blight EP is inseparable from the fact that it was written while NYC was in full lockdown. The feeling of that period of isolation comes through in this song's desperation and melancholy, and it resonates just as strongly today as this type of stuff did 16 years ago.
Sunami - "Fake Blood"
Fresh off their great 2021 split with Gulch, San Jose hardcore band Sunami are now gearing up to put out their debut LP via Triple B/DAZE, and they've prefaced it with a three-song promo. Every track on it shows off a different side of them, and with "Fake Blood," they bounce between thrash riffage and slowed-down doom in a way that would make South of Heaven-era Slayer proud, but with an aesthetic and barked vocals that keep Sunami firmly rooted in punk and hardcore.
Candy - "Human Condition Above Human Opinion"
One more dose of metallic hardcore to close out the list: Candy's anticipated Relapse debut Heaven Is Here arrives on June 24 and it's shaping up to be caustic and heavy as fuck. I might like the industrial/noise-leaning second single "Transcend to Wet" even more, but for one that skews a little more "punk," I present you with lead single "Human Condition Above Human Opinion." It's "metallic hardcore" that pulls from so many different types of metal and hardcore that I don't really know where it fits in, but that's why it's so exciting. It's eerie, shapeshifting, and futuristic in a way that falls somewhere Knocked Loose and Full of Hell, and still feels singular compared to both of them. And did I mention heavy as fuck??
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.