‘In Defense of the Genre’: Best Punk & Emo Songs of September

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.

It's officially fall, September is a wrap, and it was a very busy month in the punk world. There were some major punk-centric fests -- I attended Riot Fest, where I caught the My Chemical Romance reunion, the live debut of L.S. Dunes (members of My Chem, Circa Survive, Thursday, and Coheed), Misfits playing Walk Among Us, and much more, and I sadly missed Furnace Fest, but judging by videos, it looked awesome. Riot Fest was also just one stop of My Chemical Romance's ongoing, very eventful reunion tour -- we also caught them in Brooklyn and I have tons of FOMO about missing their first NJ show back that saw Gerard Way singing "Jet Black New Year" with Thursday, Geoff Rickly singing "This Is The Best Day Ever" with MCR, and other surprises.

September also brought the news that NOFX are breaking up in 2023 (and releasing a new album), and here are some other punk-related features we ran this past month:

* The Wonder Years on fatherhood, Mark Hoppus, and making a record that's RIYL The Wonder Years

* Title Fight's Floral Green at 10 -- the story behind a landmark of modern punk & hardcore, featuring interviews with Ned Russin and Will Yip

* Jimmy Eat World's 10 best deep cuts

* 10 hardcore releases not to miss from summer 2022

* Descendents' insanely classic Milo Goes to College turns 40

* Sugar's perfect Copper Blue turns 30

* A look back on AJJ's People Who Can Eat People… for its 15th anniversary

* Buck-O-Nine's Jon Pebsworth on how Buddhism and music helped him recover from a heart attack

* Regulate on how their new LP was inspired by James Brown, Bloc Party, Bad Brains, Santana & more

We've also got new podcast episodes up with David Knudson (Botch, Minus The Bear), John Nolan (Taking Back Sunday, Straylight Run), and Dan Campbell (The Wonder Years).


September album reviews: The Wonder Years, City of Caterpillar, The Callous Daoboys, Mindforce, The Mars Volta, Death Cab For Cutie, Regulate, OFF!, High Vis, Hippie Trim, No Devotion, Holy Fawn, Excide, The UpFux/Noise Complaint, and 156/Silence.

We've also got an exclusive Furnace Fest vinyl collection with limited variants of Drug Church, Fiddlehead, Spiritbox, The Acacia Strain, and Stretch Arm Strong. Other newly-added titles to the punk section of our online vinyl shop include the expanded 20th anniversary edition of Thrice's The Illusion of Safety (exclusive splatter vinyl), the 25th anniversary edition of The Get Up Kids' Four Minute Mile (exclusive "dreamsicle" vinyl), the 10th anniversary edition of Basement's Colourmeinkindness (on exclusive black/purple swirl), the new Tigers Jaw 7" (exclusive coke bottle clear), the 20th anniversary edition of Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends (silver vinyl), the 10th anniversary edition of Anti-Flag's The General Strike (red vinyl), the 25th anniversary edition of The Promise Ring's Nothing Feels Good (blue & white vinyl), Home Is Where's I Became Birds (tangerine/blue splatter), Mustard Plug's Evildoers Beware (25th anniversary silver vinyl), and much more.


Read on for my picks of the best songs of September that fall somewhere under the punk umbrella, in no particular order...

Paramore - "This Is Why"

The lineup (and title) of the upcoming My Chemical Romance and Paramore-headlined When We Were Young has caused multiple people to refer to it as an "emo nostalgia" festival, but nostalgia be damned, both headliners have released some of the best music of their career this year. My Chem were in this column back in May for their killer new song "The Foundations of Decay," and now here's Paramore with the first single and title track off their highly-anticipated new album. "This Is Why" is the first taste of new music from Paramore we've heard since 2017's After Laughter, which reinvented Paramore as a sharp, spiky new wave band, and which was not just one of their best albums yet but also one of the best albums of the 2010s. "This Is Why" picks up where those new wavey vibes left off -- I've seen it compared to anything from Can to Talking Heads to Bloc Party, and all feel apt -- but it also brings back some of the angst of early Paramore, as Hayley Williams sneers about conspiracy theorists and bigots who just have to publicly voice their opinions instead of showing an ounce of empathy. It gives that "they're back!" feeling that you crave whenever a band's taken as long a break as Paramore has, and it also feels like a step forward. This is unmistakably the work of Hayley Williams, Taylor York, and Zac Farro, but it also covers entirely new ground for them. Based on recent interviews, it sounds like "This Is Why" is just a small taste of all that the new album will have to offer, and I can't wait to hear what other directions the record will go in, but for now, this song alone feels momentous.

Pre-order the new Paramore album on clear or standard black vinyl.

Jivebomb - "Primitive Desires"

There's something in the Baltimore hardcore scene's water, and local label Flatspot Records has long been on top of it. One of the label's latest signings is Jivebomb, and their upcoming EP Primitive Desires looks like it'll be yet another great addition to this amazing year for hardcore. It was was recorded with J Robbins collaborator Matt Redenbo and mixed and mastered by Jon Markson (Drug Church, Regulate, etc), and Jivebomb are one of the bands tapped to open the upcoming Scowl tour, alongside other names that recently graced this column like Anklebiter and Strange Joy. And if you like all of those bands, I think you'll like Jivebomb. Like Scowl, Jivebomb pull from the punk side of hardcore -- it's easy to see why they've been compared to classic bands like Negative Approach as well. Primitive Desires' title track is a 64-second ripper with no fat at all; just thick power chords, driving rhythms, and a ferociously pessimistic bark from vocalist Kat.

Arm's Length - "Object Permanence"

Ontario emo band Arm's Length's self-released 2021 EP Everything Nice was one of 2021's best punk releases, and on the first single from their upcoming debut full-length Never Before Seen, Never Again Found (due 10/28 via Wax Bodega), they sound bigger than ever. The quiet parts are quieter, making the loud parts even more explosive, and "Object Permanence" finds them diving deeper into a towering, atmospheric post-rock side that really adds depth and space to their sound. The heavier song is matched by some of the band's darkest lyrics yet; if you like the intense, dead-serious emo of bands like Thursday and Pianos Become the Teeth, don't sleep on this band.

Gatherers - "Gift Horse" (ft. Geoff Rickly)

Speaking of Thursday, Geoff Rickly guests on the new single by fellow NJ band Gatherers, which will appear on Gatherers' upcoming album for No Sleep, ( mutilator. ). This song sounds nothing like Thursday though; it takes an admitted influence from early 2000s Deftones, and you can very much hear that coming through in the dissonant, atmospheric guitar work and singer Rich Weinberger's flailing, expressive voice. (It sounds like Glassjaw too, but Deftones and Glassjaw always shared DNA.) Even if Gatherers wear their influences on their sleeve a bit with this one, they do a lot of justice to those influences, and "Gift Horse" is really a stunning song that goes far beyond idol worship.

Folly - "Walter White Whale"

I hope you like ska-punk, because there was a lot of great stuff in that realm this month. First up: the first Folly song in 14 years! If you're unfamiliar with Folly, the NJ band released two albums for Triple Crown in the early/mid 2000s (and a few EPs), and they mixed metallic post-hardcore and upbeat ska in a way that pretty much no other band at the time was doing. They're a rare band who were firmly planted within the hardcore community and the ska community, and to this day, they remain revered in both. They've also become influential on other likeminded fans of both ska and heavy music, including fellow NJ band The Best of the Worst, whose new split with Folly is where "Walter White Whale" lives. It's the third installment of Bad Time Records' Wavebreaker split series, which pairs an artist from one of ska's previous waves with an artist from the genre's current generation, and Folly and TBOTW is truly a match made in underground music heaven. "Walter White Whale" starts out as something heavy enough to fit on the classic Trustkill or Ferret Records catalogs, and it eventually morphs into dubby ska without missing a beat. Just like Folly's classic records did, "Walter White Whale" fuses these two seemingly disparate genres in a way that works perfectly.

Noise Complaint - "Suburban Warfare"

For a much different type of ska-punk, here's Noise Complaint's "Suburban Warfare." It's off the band's Bad Time Records-released split LP with The UpFux, Coastal Collapse, and it's a ska-punk/ska-core ripper in the vein of stuff like Operation Ivy, Choking Victim, and Against All Authority. It's also a lyrically powerful song that was inspired by the police brutality that took place at the many Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Even as we're in the midst of a fast-growing ska renaissance, the genre is still frequently the butt of jokes, but if you're a punk fan who's still unsure about ska, Noise Complaint would be a great entry point. Anyone who likes raw, gritty, purposeful punk should be able to feel the impact of "Suburban Warfare."

The UpFux - "Drowning"

On the other side of that Noise Complaint split is six songs by NJ's The UpFux, including "Drowning." The UpFux pair perfectly with Noise Complaint and likely share a lot of the same influences, and "Drowning" is a scorcher that deals with alcoholism and all the anxiety, regret, and physical pain that comes along with it. It's a fun song about moments that are anything but.

Faintest Idea - "Nose Dive" (ft. Riskee)

One last -- but definitely not least -- ska-punk song to highlight from this month, and this one's from UK band Faintest Idea. It's off the band's upcoming first album in seven years, Road To Sedition, and it's a great example of this band's very UK style of street punk-infused ska, sounding like a cross between Cock Sparrer and Culture Shock. The song deals with trying to be politically active while you also have your own life to deal with, and wondering if you're doing enough but also feeling like you have no time to do any more, and Faintest Idea get an assist from Riskee of the accurately self-proclaimed "grime-punk" band Riskee & the Ridicule. As the song dives into the effects of being overworked and underpaid, it's a reminder that so much of the personal is political, and vice versa.

Punitive Damage - "Drawn Lines"

"A lot of hardcore stuff tends to have some trite bullshit about ‘my brotherhood’ or ‘don’t disrespect me,’ but those things just aren’t super relevant to me," says Punitive Damage vocalist Steph Jerkova (who also plays bass in Regional Justice Center). Instead, Steph says she "wrote a lot about what I saw and felt as the daughter of immigrants, and the resulting isolation, friction, and disapproval that came from being Mexican in a country with little next to no Mexican or Latin American community." The band's Taylor Young-recorded debut LP This Is The Blackout arrives 10/14 via Atomic Action Records, and the first taste is the truly gnarly "Drawn Lines." Steph sounds like she's gargling gravel as she shouts over a backdrop that goes from bouncy groove-based hardcore to whiplash-inducing punk in less than a minute's time.

Origami Angel - "penn hall"

Emo fifth wavers Origami Angel's 20-song double album GAMI GANG was one of the best punk albums of 2021, and they followed it in September with the surprise three-song EP re: turn. The new songs find the band going in a breezy jangle pop direction without abandoning their DIY emo spirit, and these immediately feel right up there with Gami's best material. (The vibe's also a little bit like the new Oso Oso album.) The change in direction seems like yet another reminder that this band is never going to do what you expect them to, especially since they followed it today with a straight-up hardcore EP. Who knows if they'll continue to explore this style down the line, but for now, I really like this side of them.

Tigers Jaw - "Old Clothes"

Tigers Jaw's 2021 album I Won't Care How You Remember Me is one of their best records yet, so it's very good news that they've got even more songs from those same sessions coming out as the Old Clothes EP. The title track is out now, and it's up there with the very best songs on I Won't Care How You Remember Me. Like the rest of that album, it's got a big, clean, accessible sound that -- compared to Tigers Jaw's scrappier emo roots -- continues to remind me of the jump Jimmy Eat World made on Bleed American. And "Old Clothes" is one of the catchiest songs from those sessions. One listen and I was hooked.

Pick up our exclusive coke bottle clear 7", limited to 300.


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:

* Best songs of August

* Best Songs of July

* Best Songs of June

* Best Songs of May

* Best Songs of April

* Best Songs of March

* Best Songs of February

* Best Songs of January

For even more new songs, listen below or subscribe to our playlist of punk/emo/hardcore/etc songs of 2022.


Browse our selection of hand-picked punk vinyl.

Read past and future editions of 'In Defense of the Genre' here.