Next Turnstile? 10 hardcore bands to watch in 2022
Will Turnstile's success open the doors for more hardcore bands? This edition of 'In Defense of the Genre' looks at 10 ships that Turnstile's rising tide should lift.
Since releasing their third album Glow On in August of 2021, Turnstile have brought hardcore closer to the mainstream than it's been in decades, if not ever. The album cracked multiple major year-end lists, including from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NPR, NME, and The Guardian -- often in the top 10 (it was our #1) -- and the band went on to play late night TV, do a Tiny Desk concert for NPR, and get booked on Coachella. A lot of bands in the '90s and early 2000s hit the mainstream that came from or were inspired by hardcore, but it's very rare to see a band reach this many people outside of hardcore while still keeping one foot within the scene and still honoring hardcore traditions.
If a rising tide truly lifts all ships, that means all the attention on Turnstile is probably going to lead to the success of some likeminded bands, and because people always want to find the "next" version of any moment-defining band, there's probably gonna be a lot more people looking for their new favorite hardcore band in 2022 than there were in 2021. (As hardcore expert and Drug Church/Self Defense Family frontman Patrick Kindlon pointed out in an interview with David Anthony for Stereogum, we're probably in for some pale imitators too.) There almost definitely will never be a "next Turnstile," just like there was no "next Nirvana" -- they're a once-in-a-lifetime band -- but there are plenty of great bands within today's hardcore scene who are making music that could appeal on a more mass scale, and if you're looking for a new favorite band that scratches a Turnstile-type itch, we've put together a list of 10 hardcore bands to keep your eye on this year that do just that.
Read on for the list, in no particular order. What hardcore bands are you excited about this year?
Philly's Soul Glo have been making truly revolutionary hardcore since the mid 2010s, and they only continue to get better throughout their steady rise. They reached a wider audience than ever with 2020's Songs to Yeet at the Sun EP -- released on Touche Amore frontman Jeremy Bolm's Secret Voice label and called one of the best releases of the year by Thursday's Geoff Rickly, Jeff Rosenstock, and Converge's J. Bannon -- and the following year saw the band sign to Epitaph and put out two short-but-sweet EPs on the label that run the gamut of everything from blistering hardcore to Latin polyrhythms to grimy hip hop. Now set to release their first full-length for Epitaph/Secret Voice, Diaspora Problems, more eyes are on Soul Glo than ever and lead single "Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future))" is one of the best, biggest-sounding, and most accessible songs the band have ever released, without sacrificing any of their musical grit and lyrical venom. The song embodies the sound and spirit of classic '80s hardcore, but it's not tied to the past, also incorporating the chaos of '90s screamo, the cadences of modern hip hop, and an entirely fresh perspective to lyrics, production, and overall vibe. Its appeal goes far beyond hardcore, but even if you're a hardcore purist, you'd be hard-pressed to find a realer hardcore band in 2022 than Soul Glo.
One Step Closer
Outside of Turnstile and the career-high comeback from Every Time I Die, the best punk/hardcore album of 2021 was the debut album by a much newer band, Wilkes-Barre's One Step Closer. Their passionate, emotional, melodic hardcore exists in the lineage of hometown heroes Title Fight and fellow "Wave"-ers Touche Amore, and their approach to defying the hardcore genre without abandoning it makes them a very likeminded band to Turnstile. Their album, This Place You Know (released on Run For Cover), marked a massive step up from their already-great 2019 EP From Me To You (released on hardcore label Triple B Records), incorporating piano, clean guitars, and clean vocals that shimmer like the prettiest moments of '90s emo. "We're still a hardcore band, but I think we wanted to see what we can do with it and how far we can take the band," vocalist Ryan Savitski told us in a recent interview. If LP2 continues the progression they made with This Place You Know, OSC should end up taking the band very far. Meanwhile, they'll be spending (at least) the first half of 2022 on tour, including a North American run opening for Drug Church, so go see 'em before they're playing way bigger venues.
Buggin only released one original song in 2021, but that was enough to earn the Flatspot Records-signed Chicago band a spot on this list. Not only did it totally blow away their promising 2020 debut EP (released on the New Morality Zine label when they were called Buggin Out), it scratched the Turnstile-type itch for me more than any other song in 2021 did until Glow On came out. Recalling the best moments of Time & Space like "Real Thing" and "Generator," Buggin's "Brainfreeze" can really groove and really pop, but it's also a fired-up, floorpunch-inducing rager that does not soften Buggin's hardcore attack by any means. The crisp production (by former Weekend Nachos member Andy Nelson) gives the song the clarity that a powerful band like this deserves, and also of note is the song's B-side, a cover of the Beastie Boys' Check Your Head highlight "Gratitude." At that point in their career, the Beasties had honed in a sound that seamlessly moved between '80s hardcore, hip hop, and the '90s alternative rock boom, and Buggin seem like a band who could pull off a similar feat today.
Anxious aren't really a hardcore band, but like One Step Closer (who they share members with), they were on hardcore label Triple B Records before signing to Run For Cover, they've been in the hardcore scene for years, and they carry themselves like a hardcore band. They also do take clear influence from classic youth crew and straightedge bands, and some of their songs are pretty screamy, so yeah, Anxious belong on this list. They just released their debut LP Little Green House on Run For Cover, and as with OSC, it's a massive leap forward from their EP on Triple B. It owes just as much to gritty hardcore as it does to harmony-laden power pop, and it ends up sounding kinda like early 2000s emo, with songs that soar like Bleed American-era Jimmy Eat World and others that rip like The Movielife, another band who stayed in touch with their hardcore roots no matter how popular they got. Likewise, Anxious may not always sound hardcore, but it seems like there will always be a place within hardcore for them, and I suspect they'll be a band who become responsible for introducing people to new sounds. Maybe they'll be the reason a hardcore kid picks up a copy of Pet Sounds, or maybe they'll turn an indie rock fan onto Turning Point or Bold.
Tour dates with Knuckle Puck, Hot Mulligan, and Meet Me @ The Altar here.
UK band Higher Power already seemed like they were following in the footsteps of their Roadrunner labelmates Turnstile on 2020's 27 Miles Underwater, and now that Turnstile are bigger than ever and Higher Power are gearing up for a new album, it'll be interesting to see if 2022 puts more eyes on Higher Power too. 27 Miles Underwater was an album that owed as much to alt-rock giants like Jane's Addiction and The Smashing Pumpkins as it did to underground hardcore, and new single "Fall From Grace" keeps that going, but it also gets a little screamier and more post-hardcore-tinged towards the end. And, after working with veteran alt-rock producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters) on 27 Miles Underwater, the new album reunites them with frequent UK hardcore producer James Atkinson, who produced their earlier material, and it'll be exciting to see how they take what they learned from working with Gil and apply it to a record that -- to at least some degree -- finds them returning to their roots.
If Higher Power are following in Turnstile's footsteps, then not far behind both of them is the Carolinas-based, New Morality Zine-signed band Excide. They came out in 2020 with the three-song Two of a Kind EP, followed by the even better "Actualize"/"Radiation Reel" single, and the latter's mix of underground hardcore, '90s alt-rock hooks, and metallic psychedelia clearly shares some DNA with both of those bands. You can hear plenty of other influences in there too -- from Jawbox to Helmet to Earth Crisis -- and Excide do an increasingly good job of making these influences their own, and writing songs that stick. They confirmed in May of 2021 that their debut LP is on the way, followed by a cryptic teaser in July, so it seems very likely that we'll be treated to it this year. With the world hungry for more alt-rock-infused hardcore, the timing couldn't be better.
Like recent tourmates Anxious, Long Island's Koyo aren't exactly a hardcore band, but the members play in a handful of notable hardcore bands (Hangman, Rain of Salvation, Typecaste), they look like a hardcore band on stage, they frequently play hardcore shows, kids mosh to them like they're a hardcore band, they're signed to Triple B, and the hardcore influence is undeniable. Also undeniable is the melodic emo influence, that pulls from hometown heroes like Silent Majority, The Movielife, and early Taking Back Sunday. All of those bands came out of the LIHC scene, way before emo ever hit MTV, and Koyo connect emo to its hardcore ancestry more consciously and explicitly than most bands during the early 2000s emo boom did. With songs as absurdly catchy as the ones on their 2021 EP Drives Out East, it's no surprise that they're already drawing in some fans who might not otherwise listen to hardcore, and the fast rise that they've been on doesn't seem like it'll be slowing down anytime soon. The band told us last summer that they've been working on a debut full-length for some time, and they're now promising new music this year, so get ready for what's likely to be Koyo's biggest year yet.
Soul Glo isn't the only real-deal hardcore band who got scooped up by Epitaph in 2021. The very deserving Drain inked a deal with the powerhouse label too, and their debut Epitaph single "Watch You Burn" has us very excited to see where they go next. It picks up where the thrash and groove metal-tinged sounds of their 2020 debut LP California Cursed (released on Revelation) left off, but Drain add a warmth and a brightness to these historically tough sounds, making for something that feels a little more inviting but still makes people wanna tear shit up in the pit. Drain also remind me of another much-loved band who started out in the hardcore scene before taking over the world, Power Trip. Like PT, Drain channel '80s thrash without any of the cheeky retro vibes that so many modern thrash bands have, and even their heaviest, most antagonizing songs feel accessible. No word yet on when they plan to release LP2, but meanwhile, they'll be on tour this spring.
Initiate took the hardcore world by storm with their 2020 EP Lavender, which was initially self-released before getting picked up and re-released by Triple B Records a few months later, and at the tail-end of 2021, the band confirmed that they entered the studio to start recording a new full-length. Throughout its six songs, Lavender offers up big, chunky, riffy hardcore that's as moshable as it is danceable, and vocalist Crystal Pak cuts through the mix with all the energy and passion in the world. On top of all that, the EP incorporates a climactic, instrumental intro as well as a gorgeous instrumental called "Beverly" that's closer to post-rock than hardcore. Lavender sounds like the work of a band who can barely contain all of their ideas, and here's to hoping it all spills out on LP2.
Clocking in at just 15 and a half minutes, Scowl left a big mark on the hardcore scene with their Flatspot-released debut LP How Flowers Grow, which came out in late November and was quickly acknowledged as one of the best punk albums of 2021 in multiple places. The songs are fat-trimmed and furious, taking on personal and political issues without mincing words over a backdrop of breakneck-speed power chords. Kat Moss usually favors a venomous growl, but there's one song -- "Seeds To Sow" -- where she pivots to airy, melodic clean vocals as the band brings in X-Ray Spex-style sax, and if Scowl do more of that and mix it in with their hardcore stuff as their career progresses, they could easily become one of the most genre-defying hardcore bands around. Considering Kat cites musical influences as diverse as Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, and Billie Eilish, Scowl already seem like they have no interest in limiting themselves.
Tour dates with Touche Amore here.
Listened to everyone on this list and want even more promising new hardcore bands? Here's five more hardcore bands to keep an eye on in 2022:
Read past, present, and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.