‘In Defense of the Genre’ November 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 November.
The year is coming to a close, and as it does, we've been asking artists what their favorite albums of 2021 are, including many that fall under the punk umbrella, like Less Than Jake, Cloakroom, Hazing Over, Useless ID, Action/Adventure, Heart Attack Man, Taking Meds, and Western Addiction, plus many more to come throughout December.
Also, BrooklynVegan is presenting a very In Defense of the Genre two-night showcase in Philly and Brooklyn with Catbite, JER, Teenage Halloween, and more in January. More info here.
A few more punk features we ran in November:
* SeeYouSpaceCowboy interview: sasscore purveyors made the album they always wanted to make
* 15 of Andy Hull's (Manchester Orchestra) best collaborations
* Scowl's Kat Moss breaks down every track on hardcore band’s killer debut LP
November album reviews: SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Scowl, Portrayal of Guilt, Heart Attack Man, Taking Meds, Weakened Friends, Crash The Calm, The Filthy Radicals, Dan Campbell (of The Wonder Years), and Burial Waves (mem Pianos Become the Teeth).
You can also pick up the SeeYouSpaceCowboy album on limited clear/green/yellow splatter vinyl exclusively in our stores, and other new additions to our shop include records by 7Seconds, June of 44, The Get Up Kids, Rainer Maria, Owen, American Football, For Your Health (limited "butterfly" vinyl), Jeromes Dream, La Dispute, Hey Mercedes, and more.
Read on for my picks of the 10 best songs of November 2021 that fall somewhere under the punk umnbrella, in no particular order...
Foxtails - "space orphan"
Foxtails often get lumped in with the latest wave of screamo bands, but they've always had an unorthodox take on the genre, one that owes just as much to the '80s Sonic Youth/art punk scene as it does to '90s screamo. On "space orphan," the first single off their upcoming album fawn, Foxtails sound more genre-defying than ever. The song incorporates string-laden post-rock that recalls bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Dirty Three, and as the song builds, vocalist Megan Cadena shows off an increasingly suspenseful delivery that weaves back and forth between speaking, singing, and screaming. The song's deeply emotional themes, which Megan described in detail, are as gripping and heavy as the song itself.
Proper. - "Red, White, & Blue"
Brooklyn indie-punk trio Proper. say they pulled influence from Paramore's "Misery Business" and At the Drive In for their new single "Red, White, & Blue," and you can hear both of those things coming through in totally unique ways. Lyrically, the song compares being American to being in an abusive relationship that you can't bring yourself to leave, using heart-on-sleeve, emo-style one-liners to convey something much more political. It's both a good reminder that the political is personal, and an effective way of using familiar tactics in new ways.
Oceanator - "Too Late" (ft. JER)
Back in the '90s, when ska infiltrated the punk world, it seemed like almost every punk band was throwing a ska song on their album. I'm not saying that should necessarily happen again, but I would like to hear more current "non-ska" musicians engage with the genre, like Oceanator does on "Too Late." She (aka Elise Okusami) released an early version of this song on the Plastic Miracles Vol. 1 compilation last year, but now she's got a new and improved version with bright, rich horn lines from JER (aka Jeremy Hunter of We Are The Union and Skatune Network) that really add a lot to this ska-infused indie-punk song.
Age of Apocalypse - "The Patriot"
Hudson Valley's Age of Apocalypse look like a hardcore band on stage, and their riffs sound hardcore, but vocalist Dylan Kaplowitz has a bellowing voice that veers closer to '90s alt-metal bands like Life of Agony. They're set to follow their 2020 EP The Way and this year's split with Pain of Truth with their debut full-length, Grim Wisdom -- produced by former Nails/current Twitching Tongues member Taylor Young (Regional Justice Center, Drain, Section H8, etc) and due 1/21 via Closed Casket Activities -- and lead single "The Patriot" suggests they're only getting better. With bands like Turnstile and Higher Power opening the doors for the current hardcore scene to embrace melodic alt-rock, Age of Apocalypse seem poised to be one of the next breakout bands.
Dashboard Confessional - "Here's To Moving On"
Dashboard Confessional's early work continues to be a massive influence on today's emotional singer/songwriters (like Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, etc), but it's been a while since Chris Carrabba himself made that kind of music. His upcoming album All The Truth That I Can Tell just might change that. It reunites Chris with producer James Paul Wisner, who worked on the first two Dashboard albums, and lead single "Here's To Moving On" taps right back into the sound of those records. It's a gorgeous song, and it feels like a matured version of his early work, not a rehashed version of it.
Caracara - "Hyacinth"
Caracara made a huge leap with their three-song 2019 EP Better and their "Dark Bells" single from that same year, and now -- over two years later -- they're finally back with new music. "Hyacinth" suggests that Caracara are still pushing forward, aiming to sound bigger and better than ever. It marries the post-rocky emo of Keep You-era Pianos Become the Teeth to the hooky, arena-sized anthems of the genre's early 2000s boom, and it goes beyond sounding like a product of its influences. In terms of both larger-than-life atmosphere and enduring melodies, Caracara swing for the fences.
100 gecs - "mememe"
I know some people might raise their eyebrows at 100 gecs being on a "punk" list, but the more this hyperpop duo goes on, the clearer it becomes that they've got so much Warped Tour in their DNA. Upbeat ska and melodramatic emo-pop collide on new single "mememe" (alongside video game music, EDM, tons of auto-tune, and a lot of other stuff), and 100 gecs combine this stuff in fearlessly innovative ways that most bands wouldn't even bother to attempt. There was certainly nothing like this going on when ska and emo were both actually popular, and there's not really much else like it now either.
Guitar Fight From Fooly Cooly - "Pyramid"
If the phrase "fifth wave emo" means something (positive) to you, you're probably well aware of Guitar Fight From Fooly Cooly, who put out two very good releases last year: the Soak LP and the Fatal 4 Way Split with Oolong, Arcadia Grey, and dannythestreet. They're now gearing up for a new EP, Drought, and lead single "Pyramid" is great stuff. It has that fifth wave mentality of connecting dots from all throughout emo's history -- in this case, from '90d Midwest emo to late 2000s easycore -- and it never takes itself too seriously. But the amount that it rips is no joke.
Perennial - "Perennial In A Haunted House"
If you miss the days when bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hot Hot Heat, and Death From Above 1979 actually felt connected to the punk scene, then New England dance-punk/post-hardcore band Perennial is for you. Their new single "Perennial In A Haunted House" taps into the sound of those bands' early days, and ties back to forebears like Nation of Ulysses. The dance-punk scene eventually went very pop, and then felt very passé, but "Perennial In A Haunted House" is a lively, urgent song that makes you feel like you're in the middle of a sweaty basement show. It's been a while since I've heard dance-punk like this.
Snow Ellet - "Cannonball" (ft. Quarter-Life Crisis)
More bands should make songs that sound like modern bedroom pop versions of early 2000s blink-182.
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 our selection of hand-picked punk vinyl.
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.