‘In Defense of the Genre’ October 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 October.
Hope everyone had a good October and Halloween! Before I get into my picks for the best songs of the month, here are all the features we ran that fall under the punk umbrella:
* Circa Survive's Anthony Green talks musical departure of new EP A Dream About Love
* TWIABP's Chris Teti on their most determined album yet - "It kind of felt like 'do or die'"
* “This idea of selling out is in the past” – Dan Ozzi talks new book on punk bands’ major label debuts
* Angel Du$t's Justice tripp discusses 10 songs that influenced new album YAK: A Collection of Truck Songs
* Kowloon Walled City discuss 10 songs that influenced their new album Piecework
* Earth Crisis, Snapcase & Strife discuss The Return Of The California Takeover
October album reviews: Every Time I Die, Knocked Loose, Dying Wish, The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Illuminati Hotties, Frontierer, Angel Du$t, Save Face, The Last Gang, Kowloon Walled City, and the 156/Silence EP.
Also newly-added to our store: Bad Brains' Rock For Light, NOFX's Ribbed, Propagandhi's Potemkin City Limits, The Menzingers' Chamberlain Waits, Youth of Today's Can't Close My Eyes (green vinyl), Drive Like Jehu s/t, Bad Religion's How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Algernon Cadwallader's Some Kind of Cadwallader, Joyce Manor s/t (10th anniversary edition), The Lawrence Arms' Apathy & Exhaustion, Rise Against's RPM10, Descendents' Cool To Be You, Anti-Flag's Underground Network, Against Me!'s Reinventing Axl Rose, Glassjaw's Worship & Tribute, and much more.
Read on for my picks of the 10 best songs of October 2021 (plus one bonus pick) that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
Anxious - "In April"
Connecticut's Anxious cut their teeth in the hardcore scene, and put out some pretty incredible material early on (like 2019's Never Better EP on Triple B Records), but now they've signed to Run For Cover for their debut album Little Green House, and it's clear that their sights are set on something bigger than hardcore. Their new single "In April" still retains the energy of the hardcore scene, but it's got a warm, spacious atmosphere, soaring vocal harmonies, and truly gorgeous melodies. Its wide-open sound reminds me of records like Bleed American, Stay What You Are, and Something To Write Home About, and the makers of those records took a while to get there. If Anxious' debut is this good, their future seems limitless.
Pre-order our exclusive "cream inside green" vinyl variant of Anxious' upcoming album, limited to 300.
Prince Daddy & The Hyena - "Curly Q"
Prince Daddy & The Hyena already sounded very ambitious on 2019's three-act, rock-opera-style Cosmic Thrill Seekers, but "Curly Q" -- their first single for Pure Noise -- is their most musically ambitious song yet. It starts out in warm, jangly territory, sounding almost like a more emo Band of Horses, and it builds to an explosive climax full of J Mascis/Doug Martsch-style indie guitar heroism. It's a big leap forward for Prince Daddy, with all the makings of a soon-to-be monumental single.
Knocked Loose - "God Knows"
Knocked Loose's 2019 sophomore album A Different Shade of Blue is already a landmark of modern metalcore, and their new EP A Tear in the Fabric of Life proves they're only getting heavier and better. It embraces more of a death metal influence than Knocked Loose have had in the past, but it still somehow feels catchy, even without an ounce of clean vocals. It's because of Bryan Garris' distinct shriek, and Knocked Loose's attention to songcraft even when their music is bone-crushingly brutal. Also, bonus points for the Beach Boys sample at the end of this song.
Pre-order the new EP on black vinyl.
Circa Survive - "Imposter Syndrome"
Circa Survive arrived with a fully-formed progressive post-hardcore sound on their 2005 debut LP Juturna, and they've spent the subsequent 15 years fine-tuning it and looking it at from different angles. They've made a few sonic departures along the way, but perhaps none as drastic as the one they make on their new EP A Dream About Love. "I think we wanted to be a little bit more daring and try to just make stuff that we all really like, and we didn't really think about whether or not it fit with our catalog," Anthony Green told us in a new interview. And that's exactly what they did on this EP and its standout single "Imposter Syndrome," a song that's unmistakably the work of Circa Survive but unlike anything else they've ever done. It's an atmospheric, ethereal song that reminds me a little of the neo-industrial band HEALTH, but still with a driving backbone that keeps one foot in the band's post-hardcore roots. Circa Survive were always a band who stood out from their peers, and it's exciting that, over 15 years into their career, they're still finding ways to shake things up.
Super American - "Together"
Buffalo's Super American just dropped their sophomore album SUP on Wax Bodega, and one of the album's major highlights is "Together." It's an extremely satisfying emo/pop punk anthem that's as catchy as the genre's popular 2000s era and as intimate as the current, DIY-oriented fifth wave. There's an almost nursery rhyme-like quality to the melody, but the roaring chorus and thoughtful lyrics turn this earworm into something much more intense.
GILT - "In Windows (Ignore What's Missing)"
Florida's GILT channelled the dark, sprawling sounds of mid 2000s emo/post-hardcore on their 2020 debut LP Ignore What's Missing, but now drummer Ash Stixx has taken over lead vocals and the band has taken on a much bigger, more pop-oriented sound. The first taste of their new sound is actually a reworked version of Ignore What's Missing's title track (retitled "In Windows"), and it's a totally different beast than the original. The instrumentals are cleaner and post-rockier, and Ash's soaring voice cuts through the mix in a way that suggests this band's aspirations go far beyond DIY emo.
Illuminati Hotties - "Joni: LA's No. 1 Health Goth"
Illuminati Hotties live in the punk scene, though their music isn't really the genre punk, but "Joni: LA's No. 1 Health Goth" from their distinctive new album Let Me Do One More definitely is. It finds Sarah Tudzin putting her unique spin on Ramonescore, with all the audible sarcasm and lyrical wit ("Joni's in the first band/Joni has a cool hand/Joni knows the problem is systematic") you'd expect from her.
Deaf Club - "Don't Forget To Live"
Justin Pearson (The Locust, Swing Kids, Some Girls, Retox, Head Wound City, etc) helped define the kind of chaotic hardcore that's still influencing new bands today, and he's still doing great stuff himself as well. His new-ish band Deaf Club (with members of ACxDC, Weak Flesh, Run With The Hunted, and The Manx) released their debut EP in 2019 and now they're set to put out their first full-length, Productive Disruption, on January 6 via Three One G. Its new single "Don't Forget To Live" is an 88-second racket full of discordant guitars, mathgrindy rhythms, and all the over-the-top chaos that Justin brought to his classic work.
Pressure Cracks - "Cancel Couture" (ft. James Hart of Eighteen Visions)
Jason Aalon Butler is probably most famous for his former band letlive. and his current band Fever 333, but if you're more into raw, aggressive hardcore/metalcore, don't miss out on his other band, Pressure Cracks. They've got a new song out featuring James Hart, frontman of Eighteen Visions, and it hearkens right back to the early 2000s metalcore sound that Eighteen Visions helped shape. It's the kind of metalcore that's in touch with the genre's hardcore punk roots and eschews the radio-friendly side, and it's a rager.
Dang!t - "Split at the Seams" (ft. Omnigone & Flying Raccoon Suit)
Dang!t is the self-proclaimed "ska-djacent punk rock" project of composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Joey Weisenritter, who's been releasing singles since 2020 as he gears up for his debut album. His new single "Split at the Seams" features a rich horn section made up of Flying Raccoon Suit members, but it's not ska; it's a 68-second hardcore punk ripper, and the venomous lead vocals of Omnigone frontman (and former Link 80 member) Adam Davis seal the deal.
Every Time I Die - "Thing With Feathers" (ft. Andy Hull)
I'm sorta breaking my own rules here but bear with me (or just consider this a bonus pick). I only include one song per album in these lists, and I included Every Time I Die's "A Colossal Wreck" in the December 2020 edition, but that was nearly a year before Radical came out and "Thing With Feathers" is a unique beast of a song that's like almost nothing else in ETID's discography. It deserves its own spot. Whether you're a lifelong Every Time I Die fan or never really got into them, "Thing With Feathers" is worth your time. It's a duet with Manchester Orchesta's Andy Hull that blends elements of indie rock, post-rock, post-hardcore, and more, and it's one of the most addictive rock songs I've heard all year. It kind of sounds like the exact midpoint between Every Time I Die and Manchester Orchestra, but also sounds different than the music that either band usually puts out. It's also one of Radical's most powerful, emotional songs; it's a tribute to frontman Keith Buckley and guitarist Jordan Buckley's sister Jaclyn, who passed away after a battle with Rett syndrome. Knowing the meaning behind it, the lyrics hit even harder.
Read my full review of Radical.
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.