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 five best songs from September.
If you haven't seen it already, I'd like to turn your attention to our recent feature on the current ska & ska-punk scene, which highlights Bad Time Records, Asian Man Records, and Ska Punk Daily's recent Ska Against Racism benefit compilation; includes interviews with Mike Sosinski (Bad Time Records, Kill Lincoln), Jeremy Hunter (JER, Skatune Network, We Are The Union), Mike Park (Asian Man Records, Bruce Lee Band, Chinkees, etc), and members of Catbite, Bite Me Bambi, Half Past Two, Call Me Malcolm, and The Best of the Worst; and contains a playlist of 60 recent ska/ska-punk songs, 15 recent album recommendations, and more.
Other recent punk features and news we posted:
* 18 early 2000s melodic punk & hardcore albums that are still essential today
* The Offspring's best deep cuts -- 14 songs that rival their biggest hits
* Q&A with Rise Against on first song in 3 years, punk protest music, pandemic life & more
* Q&A with Motion City Soundtrack on “lost” Mark Hoppus-produced song, social justice, COVID & more
* Touche Amore discuss musical influences on upcoming album Lament
Read on for my five picks (in no particular order) of the five best songs of September 2020 that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella...
JER - "R/Edgelord"
Jeremy Hunter has become one of the leading voices in the current ska / ska-punk scene, thanks to gaining a huge following by doing covers as Skatune Network, joining We Are The Union and writing the horn arrangements for their great 2018 album Self-Care, and lending their talents to other artists like Jeff Rosenstock, Omnigone, and more. After sharing some demos on Skank For Choice's 2020 Quarantine Compilation and contributing a song to Ska Against Racism, Jeremy made the official debut of their solo project JER in September with "R/Edgelord." The song -- which was produced and mixed by We Are The Union vocalist Reed Wolcott, and which features tenor sax by Trosso from Abraskadabra and drums by Woody Bond -- is a fresh, inspired take on ska-punk that fuses ska rhythms and horn arrangements with the sounds of today's DIY indie-punk scene. Jeremy had already proven themselves as a musician with an ear for rich horn arrangements, but "R/Edgelord" proves they've got a knack for irresistible hooks and biting lyricism too.
Catbite - "Asinine Aesthetic"
There are so many great new songs on the Ska Against Racism compilation and honestly I recommend just checking out the whole thing, but in the interest of this list being five songs long, I'm gonna pick just one of my favorites and go with Catbite's "Asinine Aesthetic." If you're unfamiliar with this Philly band and their great 2019 self-titled debut album, they've got a swaggering 2 tone/garage rock blend that exists somewhere between The Clash (who they covered this year) and The Selecter (ditto), and they also incorporate elements of more traditional ska and rocksteady, soul, and surf music, the latter of which very much informs this song. Like a lot of the tracks on Ska Against Racism, "Asinine Aesthetic" reminds you that music can be bouncy and fun while also having a strong message, and this song nails that divide remarkably.
To hear the song, pick up Ska Against Racism for $1 or more, with all proceeds going to The Movement for Black Lives, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Alpha Institute, The Conscious Kid, and Black Girls Code. Catbite also recently played it on a live session and released a minute-long clip of it:
Soul Glo - "(Quietly) Do The Right Thing"
Philly's Soul Glo have been offering up a ruthless blend of unflinching politics and chaotic hardcore for a few years now, and they've now got a new EP called Songs to Yeet At The Sun coming November 6 via Touche Amore/Hesitation Wounds frontman Jeremy Bolm's label Secret Voice. The first single is opening track "(Quietly) Do The Right Thing," which points a middle finger at deception and empty promises, and sounds like a mix of '80s hardcore and '90s screamo, played as fast as Soul Glo can possibly go. The energy and the anger in the song are both endless and addictive, and every time this two-minute rager ends all I wanna do is re-click play.
War On Women - "Wonderfull Hell"
I named War On Women's 2018 album Capture The Flag the 15th best punk album of the 2010s, so naturally I am very excited that they're finally following it with Wonderful Hell on 10/30 via Bridge Nine. The lead single/title track picks right up where Capture The Flag left off, with mind-racing metalpunk riffs, a huge soaring chorus, a call for action that's fueled by anger but delivered in a way that sounds genuinely inspirational. We won't stop this fascist creep (as the song calls for us to) by waiting around, and War On Women don't want us to wait. They want us to raise some wonderful, beautiful hell.
The Sonder Bombs - "What Are Friends For?"
The Sonder Bombs are gearing up to release a followup to their great 2018 debut album MODERN FEMALE ROCKSTAR, which they made in quarantine with Hop Along's Joe Reinhart producing, and this new single is a very promising first taste. They're a rare indie-punk band whose main instrument is a ukulele, which gives the music a unique tone, but what really drives their songs home is how strong the songwriting is. That's very much the case on the very catchy "What Are Friends For?," which finds the middle ground between 2010s DIY punk and 2000s stadium-sized pop punk and should appeal to fans of both. It's a bright, happy sounding song on the surface, and the song title might seem like it's being delivered with a smile... until you hear the rest of the line: "What are friends for, if not to treat like shit or completely ignore?"
Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.