‘In Defense of the Genre’ September 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 September.
Before I get into this month's roundup, one thing I'd like to point out is that this Monday (10/4) at 7 PM ET, I'll be moderating a BrooklynVegan-presented virtual panel on American ska with authors Aaron Carnes (In Defense of Ska), Marc Wasserman (Ska Boom! An American Ska & Reggae Oral History), and Kenneth Partridge (Hell of a Hat: The Rise of '90s Ska and Swing). That goes down on the BrooklynVegan YouTube channel, and in conjunction with the panel, you can pick up a reduced-price bundle with all three books in our store for a limited time only. AND, we'll be giving away a copy of the limited-to-100 gold vinyl edition of the new Abraskadabra album (out now on Bad Time Records) during the stream. Enter the contest HERE. The only place you can purchase the album is in our stores. I also interviewed Abraskadabra last week.
New exclusives in our vinyl store: American Football's classic debut on limited splatter vinyl, the new Mom Jeans album on limited blue vinyl, the debut 7" from Serpents of Shiva (a project from Scott Vogel of Terror) on limited marble/clear vinyl, The Aggrolites' s/t on limited yellow vinyl, Heavy Heavy Low Low offshoot Bone Cutter's new EP on limited swirl vinyl, and more.
Read on for my picks of the best songs of September 2021 that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...
SeeYouSpaceCowboy - "Misinterpreting Constellations"
SeeYouSpaceCowboy's highly anticipated sophomore album The Romance of Affliction (due 11/5 via Pure Noise) features guest vocals from Every Time I Die's Keith Buckley and Underoath's Aaron Gillespie, and it feels like a real passing-of-the-torch moment. Those are two of the most important and distinct metalcore bands of the past 20 years, and SeeYouSpaceCowboy already seem like they're on their way to achieving a similar status. They're almost single-handedly responsible for the renewed interest in the loosely-defined sasscore subgenre, but they aren't restricting themselves to that niche description. New single "Misinterpreting Constellations" would fit in perfectly next to any of the metalcore, post-hardcore, or emo-pop of the early/mid 2000s, and SeeYouSpaceCowboy aren't just reviving it; they're reinventing it.
Pre-order our exclusive splatter vinyl variant of SYSC's new album.
Scowl - "Bloodhound"
The Santa Cruz hardcore scene has been on fire lately, and one of its most buzzed-about newer bands is Scowl. They recently signed to Flatspot Records, who will release their debut LP How Flowers Grow on November 19, and first single "Bloodhound" is very promising stuff. Over an absolutely rippin' classic punk/hardcore-style backdrop, vocalist Kat comes in with a pissed-off bark that sounds dripping with venom but still full of clarity. It's not "melodic" hardcore, but it's a little more tuneful and approachable than some of Scowl's metallic neighbors. If you like hardcore that breaks from tradition but doesn't abandon it entirely, don't miss this one.
Pre-order the new Scowl LP on limited orange vinyl in our store.
Taking Meds - "Lifesaver"
Taking Meds solidified themselves as staples of the NYC punk scene before the pandemic hit, and since then singer Skylar Sarkis put out music with a couple other projects: his solo project Growing Stone and his political hardcore band Highway Sniper. Now Taking Meds are back with a Kurt Ballou-recorded album due this November via Smartpunk Records, and they sound better than ever on lead single "Lifesaver." It's as sludgy as Dinosaur Jr, as melodramatic as Jawbox, and as punchy as Superchunk, and it never comes off as pale imitation.
Erase Them - "Blue Herd"
Travis Tabron used to front the metalcore band Varials, until he left on seemingly not-so-great terms, but now he's back with a new band, and they rip. Erase Them's "Blue Herd" pulls from chugging early 2000s metalcore, but its message is current and urgent, taking aim at the police brutality that continues to plague communities of color. Travis' lyrics point a middle finger at the cops who "profit from fear," and he delivers them with a scream that sounds truly ruthless.
Heart Attack Man - "Pitch Black"
Heart Attack Man's new song "Pitch Black" opens with vocalist Eric Egan singing and strumming an acoustic guitar, sounding like a jangly '90s alt-rock band, but it's a red herring. The full band quickly kicks in, and it turns into a ripper that occupies the exact middle ground between hardcore and pop punk (think The Movielife, Title Fight, etc). It's thrilling right off the bat, but by the time the chorus hits, it becomes a total earworm. If new EP Thoughtz & Prayerz (due 11/5 via Triple Crown) has more like this, we'll be in for a real treat.
Comeback Kid - "No Easy Way Out"
Comeback Kid helped define melodic hardcore in the early/mid 2000s, and they've never backed down since. It's been four years since they've released a new album, but maybe that gap is about to close, because they've just returned with this new single. To say they're in fine form would be an understatement; they sound even more furious on this song than they did on some of their classic records.
Chastity - "Pummeling"
A lot of Chastity's stuff is more in the indie/shoegaze realm, but they've experimented with post-hardcore, punk, and emo in the past, and new single "Pummeling" is straight-up pop punk. It's off their upcoming LP Suffer Summer, which comes out in January via Deathwish and features PUP's Stefan Babcock on two songs and Alexisonfire's Dallas Green on one, and it's a bright, punchy, upbeat song that mixes Drive-Thru era pop punk with modern indie rock restraint, giving you all of the sugar rush and none of the cringe.
Billy Talent - "End of Me" (ft. Rivers Cuomo)
Billy Talent have always been a big deal in Canada, but they haven't had a hit in the US since their 2003 debut album, so if you're a Stateside listener who hasn't checked in with them in a while, you may not be alone. And if that's the case, I implore you listen to their new single "End of Me," which not only sounds like classic Billy Talent, it's also one of the best Rivers Cuomo songs I've heard in ages. The band asked Rivers to sing on it after writing a song that was clearly influenced by '90s Weezer, and it resulted in some real-deal Blue Album style magic.
Couplet (ex-You Blew It) - "Old Elba"
Having started out as one of the original emo revival bands, You Blew It went in a more expansive, post-rocky direction on 2016's Abendrot, which -- for my money -- is the best and most interesting album they ever made. It got me really excited for where You Blew It might go next, but as fate would have it, they broke up after its release. So it's a very exciting thing that now YBI singer Tanner Jones finally has a new project, Couplet. Tanner wrote all the songs for Couplet's debut album LP1, and then handed them over to Into It. Over It.'s Evan Weiss and Sincere Engineer's Adam Beck, who "re-imagined, arranged, and produced" them. On lead single "Old Elba," it resulted in glitchy, emo-adjacent art pop that sounds like The Postal Service, and it's some of the more convincing stuff I've heard in this realm not written by Ben Gibbard himself.
PLOSIVS (Pinback, Rocket From the Crypt, Against Me!) - "Hit The Breaks"
PLOSIVS is a new supergroup led by the songwriting partnership of Rob Crow (Pinback, Goblin Cock, etc) and John Reis (Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes, etc), and the lineup reunites John with former RFTC drummer Atom Willard (who currently plays in Against Me! and also played in The Offspring, Angels & Airwaves, and Social Distortion). Jordan Clark (Mrs. Magician) is on bass. Their debut single "Hit The Break" is an indie-punk ripper that basically sounds like the middle ground between Pinback and Hot Snakes. It's super catchy, void of frills, and leaves you wanting much, much more.
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.
ENTER TO WIN a free Abraskadabra album below and tune in to our virtual ska panel on Monday to see if you won!