Autumn is approaching, and at least in NYC we got our first taste of fall weather this week, so it feels like a good time to look back on some great music that came out during the warmer months of 2023. Here are 10 albums we love from spring and summer that fall somewhere under the post-hardcore and emo umbrellas in one way or another. Some lean pop punk, others lean indie rock, and others lean hardcore, and all of them are very worth listening to if you haven’t already.
Read on for the list. What other records in this realm have you been digging lately?
Angel Du$t – Brand New Soul
Justice Tripp has laid out his mission statement before, like on Trapped Under Ice’s classic “Pleased To Meet You” (“I don’t want to be followed by sheep… [I’m] walking amongst those people with open minds”), and he does it again on Angel Du$t’s recent single “Love Slam.” He spells out all the things that “they” don’t like Justice to do: free his mind, let go of the past, rock all night, jump into the ground. His response? “But I love slam. Turn around and do it again!” It’s direct, without metaphor, and a little meta, and it’s a way of reminding you–again–that Justice isn’t interested in what other people expect of him or want him to do; he’s only interested in being his truest self in any given moment. Sometimes that means playing a mosh part and jumping into the crowd, other times it means pulling out an acoustic guitar and playing a jangle pop song. On Brand New Soul, Justice gives you both extremes and lots of middle ground in a way that he never has before. It feels like the culmination of everything that Angel Du$t have been working towards ever since Justice launched the project a decade ago to explore a wider variety of musical styles than he had with the heavy hardcore of Trapped Under Ice. It’s the most aggressive Angel Du$t album since 2016’s Rock the Fuck On Forever, and it also shares a knack for prettier, more tender moments with the last two Angel Du$t albums. It’s his first album made with his current touring band–though it does also feature contributions from past members Daniel Fang and Pat McCrory, both also of Turnstile, as well as guest vocals from Mary Jane Dunphe and Citizen’s Mat Kerekes–and it’s Justice’s first album where he took on the role of producer. The approach made for an album where Justice could truly call all the shots, but also engage in collaboration and let everyone’s individual talents shine too. It marks an exciting new chapter in both Justice and Angel Du$t’s careers, and Justice wrote an extremely satisfying collection of songs to mark the occasion.
Listen to our podcast episode with Justice Tripp for more.
Fiddlehead – Death Is Nothing To Us
Run For Cover
It might seem hard to believe now, but when Fiddlehead formed in 2014, none of them thought they’d be a consistently active band with three full-lengths nearly a decade later. At the time, it was just one of many bands that vocalist Pat Flynn was doing after the breakup of Have Heart, including Clear, Wolf Whistle, Sweet Jesus, and Free, the latter of which also featured Have Heart/Fiddlehead drummer Shawn Costa. Not to mention Pat also remains busy with his full-time job as a high school history teacher. Guitarist Alex Henery, meanwhile, had just re-activated his band Basement that year for their biggest shows ever, and they’ve been mostly active since. Fiddlehead would regroup for their first full-length, Springtime and Blind, in 2018, and the following year Have Heart would reunite for their biggest show ever. Then COVID hit, and when shows opened up again, Fiddlehead re-entered the world with an energy that they’d never had before. Springtime and Blind became a sleeper hit, and I think most fans would agree that their expectations were exceeded on the even better Between the Richness in 2021. Now, they release their third album Death Is Nothing To Us, which completes a thematic trilogy that Fiddlehead never even originally intended to write. “his album sort of rounds out some of the stages of grief that weren’t addressed previously,” Pat says, “especially this feeling of stickiness that a depressive attitude can have.”
As always, Pat’s lyrics are profound–with observations on life and death and references that hold literature, philosophy, and hardcore/punk culture in equal regard–and the songs are Fiddlehead’s strongest yet. Their music continues to be rooted in a long history of post-hardcore and melodic hardcore that spans from the late ’80s Dischord era to the mid 2010s Run For Cover era, and at this point, Fiddlehead have come up with a version of that sound that always stands out as their own. You know it’s Fiddlehead as soon as you click play, and these are their most melodic, hook-filled songs yet, and also some of their hardest-hitting. Expectations were even higher for this one than they were for its predecessor, and once again, I think fans will agree that Fiddlehead have exceeded them.
For more on this LP, read about what influenced it.
Heart Attack Man – Freak of Nature
In classic punk and pop punk fashion, Heart Attack Man are irreverent but that doesn’t mean they don’t take themselves seriously. On their new album Freak of Nature, there’s one song where the narrator compares themselves to an assassinated Kennedy and another from the perspective of a stalker threatening to kill Heart Attack Man vocalist Eric Egan in his sleep. Many of the songs are informed by, in Eric’s words, “feelings of isolation, loneliness, and freakiness,” but for all the dark shit on Freak of Nature, it’s consistently a fun, lighthearted album. It mixes the influence of the most radio-friendly of pop punk bands (blink-182, Sum 41) with beloved underground gems (Sugar, Piebald), and there’s also some weirder stuff like the Butthole Surfers/Beck-influenced “Late to the Orgy.” H.A.M. embrace a handful of familiar, by-the-book pop punk tricks, yet they do it in a way that’s entirely artistic, and they retain a level of grit that was often lost during the genre’s Y2K-era boom that Heart Attack Man pull from. They’re a rare band who feel catchy enough for arenas and punk enough for basements all at once.
For more on this LP, read the band’s track-by-track breakdown.
Home Is Where – The Whaler
Home Is Where’s I Became Birds is a unique, brief, six-song album that came out in March of 2021 and became the band’s breakthrough release thanks to a gradually-increasing amount of word-of-mouth excitement that primarily existed outside of the usual hype machine platforms. Not long after its release, band leader Brandon MacDonald had a nervous breakdown, and that’s when the idea for The Whaler came to her. The band calls it a “concept record about getting used to things getting worse,” and Brandon adds, “With Birds being so personal and inward, for this one, I wanted it to be less about me and more about how a person navigates this postmodern, late capitalist hell world that we’ve built around us. There’s still something personal in that though, even though it’s much more external.”
Across the album’s 10 songs, The Whaler recalls anything from Neutral Milk Hotel to Fugazi to pageninetynine, often within the same song. It’s tied together by musical interludes and recurring themes and lyrics, with sentiments that range from questioning religious beliefs (“An all-knowing god doesn’t know what it’s like to not know anything at all”) to processing national tragedies (“And on September 12th, 2001, everyone went back to work”) to a song where an image of Dale Earnhardt pushing a shopping cart turns into a metaphor for the end of the world. It’s an album full of songs that take you by surprise even after multiple listens, like when “Lily Pad Pupils” builds a bridge from dusty alt-country to dissonant skramz and then goes into “Yes! Yes! A Thousand Times Yes!,” the album’s poppiest and weirdest song. They made the album with Jack Shirley, who Brandon calls her “favorite contemporary producer,” particularly because of Jack’s work with Jeff Rosenstock and Deafheaven, and Home Is Where have managed to become a band who would make sense on tour with either one of those artists. Sometimes The Whaler becomes harshly shrieked extreme music, other times it becomes towering post-rock, other times it becomes breezy, catchy folk rock. All throughout, Brandon sings about subject matter that feels real and authentic and depressing and I’d imagine it’s widely relatable to anyone that’s given up hope for a better world.
Hot Mulligan – Why Would I Watch
If the phrase “fifth wave emo” means anything to you, then Hot Mulligan is probably already a household name in your house, but if they’re not, let Why Would I Watch be your introduction to this great band. It’s their best album yet, and it has the power to transcend the niche corners of emo and pop punk that Hot Mulligan have occupied these past few years. It’s got the huge, sugar-sweet hooks of pop punk, but Hot Mulligan come at them with post-hardcore grit. Vocalist Tades Sanville is always on the verge of screaming, even when Hot Mulligan are at their catchiest, and every song finds this band swinging for the fences, playing as hard as possible, intent on winning over anyone who’s listening. Within those throat-shredding hooks are some genuinely heavy topics that range from addiction to death to familial issues to severe anxiety to internalized Christian guilt, and Hot Mulligan sing every song like they mean it. Recent tourmates The Wonder Years are an easy comparison to make–both bands mix unabashedly poppy melodies with intensely raw emotion–but Why Would I Watch also takes some thrilling detours away from that sound, like with the American Football-esque “This Song Is Called It’s Called What It’s Called” and the scrappy acoustic track “Betty.” And even when Hot Mulligan tone things down, they’re just as arresting as when they’re screaming their hearts out.
For more on this LP, read the band’s track-by-track breakdown.
Militarie Gun – Life Under The Gun
On their first full-length album, Militarie Gun boldly branch out from their hardcore roots, take a massive leap forward from their already-great EPs, and come out with one of the best rock albums of the year. We’ve got a lengthy feature up with much more on this remarkable LP.
Pick up our exclusive pink marble vinyl variant.
Origami Angel – The Brightest Days
Counter Intuitive Records
Origami Angel are calling their new eight-song record The Brightest Days a “mixtape” because of the stylistic differences between each song, and indeed, this thing is all over the place, even within individual songs. Lead single “Thank You, New Jersey” connects the dots between pop punk, Beach Boys, and bossa nova. The record-opening title track goes from acoustic indie pop to metal riffs to power pop. Like some past Gami songs, “Picture Frame” offers up guitar heroism that bridges the gap between Mike Kinsella and Eddie Van Halen. “Kobayashi Maru” works a ska part and a metalcore breakdown into what’s otherwise an emo-pop song. The list goes on. It borders on being too ridiculous, but you can tell that Gami have genuine appreciation for all the styles of music they incorporate, they’ve got the chops to play it all, and they’ve got such a distinct sound that even while hopping between vastly different genres, they sound entirely like themselves.
Pick up our exclusive clear w/ green galaxy vinyl variant.
Scowl – Psychic Dance Routine EP
Having built up a reputation as one of the brightest new voices in hardcore, Scowl expand their musical palette with their remarkable new EP Psychic Dance Routine. It fuses the band’s hardcore influences like Negative Approach and Ceremony with ’90s alternative rock bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Hole; it finds vocalist Kat Moss mixing it up between piercing screams and anthemic clean vocals; and it’s got the band’s strongest songs yet. Read our new feature on Scowl and listen to our podcast with Kat for more.
Spanish Love Songs – No Joy
Spanish Love Songs singer/guitarist Dylan Slocum calls their new album No Joy “the closest we’ve ever gotten to figuring out how to translate what I hear in my head with more clarity,” so maybe that’s why–despite being their fourth full-length in eight years–No Joy feels like a grand introduction. Since forming a decade ago, Spanish Love Songs have been stirring up a melting pot of punk, emo, and heartland rock, and at this point they sound like much more than a product of their influences. There’s a distinct Spanish Love Songs sound, and that sound really comes alive on No Joy. The heartland rock elements are more pronounced than ever, and the band’s emo/punk sincerity is at an all time high. Despite the gloomy title, Dylan says the album is about finding joy, even in the moments where that feels impossible, and as a result, the album feels both melancholic and hopeful. And as much as No Joy feels like the culmination of everything that Spanish Love Songs have been working towards, you can also feel that the band is still chasing something, still yearning for something more. To stop chasing, Dylan says, “To me, that’s death.”
Taking Meds – Dial M For Meds
Taking Meds know that “fun music” and “smart music” don’t need to be mutually exclusive. For their new album Dial M For Meds, vocalist/guitarist Skylar Sarkis wanted the band to focus on their streamlined, accessible side, and the result is a collection of big, loud, catchy punk songs that you could picture hearing on a soundtrack for one of the classic Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. At the same time, you hear the influence of more intricate bands like Dinosaur Jr, Jawbox, and Sonic Youth, and Skylar’s lyrics are deeper than you might expect from the simplicity of the hooks. Taking Meds are the kind of band that some people might call a “band’s band,” and maybe part of that is because of how directly Skylar sings about band life on this album, but the Taking Meds of Dial M For Meds are built to be an everyone’s band. With energy and melodies that are both this addictive, Dial M For Meds is a party that everyone is invited to.
For a deeper dive into this album, read Skylar’s track-by-track breakdown of the whole thing.
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