I haven’t seen the sun in days,
food has started to lose its taste,
spelling “goodbye” with the blood on the floor,
nothing feels good anymore.
(Fading Signal, “Staring at the Sun”)
Leaving aside my daughter, music was pretty much the realest thing going on in my life for the past twelve months. The world’s fucked and you just need this little island to go to every once in a while. This island where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. 2021 saw me landing on this island on a frequent basis, nah, let’s just say I was camping there nonstop…
You gotta cling to the positives of the last two years’ happenings. Music made it pretty easy for me. Sure, you got to invest the time and the passion yourself, but if you did, you were served so much amazing music as a reward. Even if this sounds all too melodramatic, but when no one was there for me in 2020/21, music was! It became a big part of my life again in 2020, after somehow losing my dedication to it. And I guess I wasn’t alone in that regard. 2020/21 saw many new bands being formed, many defunct bands coming back together, and the ones that already existed did have much more time for the core aspect of their work: The music. Also, as much as I can’t stand the whole digitalization and want to go back to the times where the world wide web was an innocent fun place, I gotta admit, that it paved a way for many bands to still come togehter, writing, recording and releasing their art.
Altogether, in 2020/21 bands were mainly concentrating on writing and recording and this totally paid off. 2021 was an extraordinary year for music, with tons of creativity, tons of great releases and much time to stick one’s teeth into. Time probably needs to settle the dust on it, but as of now, I could imagine 2021 being one of the best years of the young decade. So, what was the magic all about?
First of all, a shitload of great music, from different (sub-)genres I’m following. The “success story” of the year, no doubt, was that of good ol’ Hardcore. I don’t know why, but there really IS a new wave of Hardcore-bands running strong and 2021 proved that in a convincing manner. It’s all too fitting that TURNSTILE’s “Glow on” entered numerous album charts worldwide, peaking 30th at the Billboard and even 9th at the German charts. At the end of the year they also had the opportunity to perform at “Late Night with Seth Meyers”, one of the biggest Late Night-talkshows of the United States. Who knows for what worth? Maybe we’ll moan in 5 to 10 or so years about all the copycats and sellouts that were inpired along the way, like back in the early to mid 2000s. Even if it won’t go this way, it doesn’t have to. It’s cool that HC gets some sort of recognition once again and I’m not talking about mainstream recognition only. I’m talking about the recoginition of young guys listening to MINOR THREAT and BLACK FLAG or AMERICAN NIGHTMARE and BANE and forming their own bands. I’m talking about young listeners, who get drawn in by those young bands. That’s the way it should be!
In 2021 we got many releases that were somehow inspired by all those classics of the 80s, the 90s and the 2000s. The Youth Crew-kind-of-style is running strong, we got stuff that sounded like the 90s-New-School-stuff of SNAPCASE et al, we got refreshing Post-Hardcore that was rather in the vein of FUGAZI than in the vein of SILVERSTEIN. And we got many exciting releases in between there. Let’s just mention this new kind of Emo-Hardcore-Pop-thingy of bands like KOYO, STAND STILL, SOMERSET THROWER or SPARING. You might not know these bands (yet), probably you never will, but to me it’s a cool nostalgic act, that there are bands who are doing something in the lines of early TAKING BACK SUNDAY or early THRICE. Not with money on their mind, but with honest passion, HC-spirit and a DIY-attitude. Just like the aformentioned big players did in their humble beginnings.
This whole movement might lead to something or it doesn’t, though it’s not really important. What’s important is, that it’s happening, that it has lots of potential, that it fits into the whole feeling of the early 2020s and last not least, that it seems that these local HC-scenes are rising again. Let’s take the North American east side for example. It’s unbelievable how many worthwhile HC-records came out of this side of the country. I don’t wanna leave out the stuff that was being released out of other destinies, especially the ever pulsating L.A.-scene, but Eastside-HC was just striking in 2021. Did you ever hear something about NCHC? Me neither, but 2021 told me. Bands like FEVER STRIKE, FADING SIGNAL and NO LONGER AT EASE did.
What’s welcomed too is the whole Label-driven dynamic of HC, that once again seems to flourish. I was missing that in the 2010s or even the latter half of the 2000s. It might have been nice for some bands to attract attention on their own, without a label or some kind of manager/mentor. But solid running labels can further deepen the concept of local scenes. They have the possibility to arouse interest for the whole genre. And finally they give their bands the opportunity to get “a stage” worldwide. Labels like Patient Zero (out of Massachusetts), Safe Inside (out of California), Irish Voodoo (out of California), New Morality Zine (out of Illinois), Sunday Drive (out of Texas), or Triple-B (out of Massachusetts) were doing just that. All of these labels were either formed in the last couple of years or were coming really into their own in the Mid-2010s.
I also wanna mention Run for Cover Records (out of Massachusetts) and their evolution. Starting out as a small HC-label in 2004 with releases from the likes of THIS IS HELL and SINKING SHIPS, they garnered a lot of attention with the popularity of TITLE FIGHT, TIGERS JAW or BASEMENT, leaning to a more Indie/Emo/Pop-Punk-kind-of-style. Now they seem to have the status that Victory Records or Vagrant Records had back then, being a haven for bands who play the very popular TITLE FIGHT/BASEMENT-style and even proving some open-mindness when signing a band like ONE STEP CLOSER, who don’t fit exactly in there. With PORTRAYAL OF GUILT they went totally “off-topic”, but that’s something I really like.
I could go on, writing in-depth stuff about other HC-related genres, like Midwest-Emo or Screamo, but that would probably go beyond the scope. Midwest-Emo or Indie-Emo made a nice progression in 2021, with labels like Counter Intuitive (out of Massachusetts) or Lauren Records (out of California), labels you could count on. Also Deep Elm Records (out of Hawaii) is still running, 26 years after forming and 24 years after releasing the first “Emo Diaries”. The most important thing in Midwest-Emo was probably the full force comeback of Count your Lucky Stars Records (out of Michigan) and their boss Keith Latinen as a musician itself. Screamo was once again in good hands of Zegema Beach (out of Canada) and Middle-Man Records (out of Indiana), with the help of dozens of small DIY-labels around the world. That’s the label-philosophy I was talking about, on a steady diet. It’s never ending and it pays off quality-wise, year after year. Screamo probably is the most constant sub-genre ever and you just gotta love that. 2021 in Screamo couldn’t beat 2020 by a whisker, though it was still a treat.
Traditionally I will drop a few small lists here, before decorating my top EPs and LPs of 2021 in the days to come. But first, I gotta thank everyone who was somehow a part of this site’s 2021. Thanks to all the labels and bands for putting out great music and thanks to everyone clicking, reading, sharing and caring. It was a pleasure!
>> LABELS <<
* Count your Lucky Stars Records
Good to have the Latinens back full force, as their label is still important for Emo. In 2021 they released three of my favourite EPs, with the ones from EN GARDE, PARTING & MT. ORIANDER.
* The Ghost is clear Records
TGIC, out of Kansas City, Missouri, were on a roll in 2021. They hit home with their outputs, more often than not. Highlights include RID OF ME’s “Traveling”, INFINITY LAND’S “Honest Comedy”, EYECANDY’s “The Promontory” as well as the debut-EP from CHILDREN’s LETTERS TO GOD. I too liked the releases of SCENARIO, BIG WATER, END YOU & GLOWING BRAIN. On top we got a solid 3-Way-Split with INFINITY LAND, HEEL TURN & VIRGIN MOTHER.
* Middle-Man Records
Somehow few releases by Middle-Man Records fly under the radar. But if it comes to Screamo, you can’t do no wrong with their releases. Once again Shawn Decker helped to put out neat LPs (SNAG, DERACINE, LIVING CONDITIONS, TO FORGET, CLOSER, SCENARIO A), EPs (DEFACTO EN SCRIPTURE, LIZAREL, LACRIMA) and also a very good Split at the end of the year with “Another Year in Hell”.
* New Morality Zine
Arising out of a HC/Punk-Zine, the Chicago-label is as important as ever. They are a young and fresh label releasing exciting music by young and fresh bands. Highlights of 2021 include stuff from STAND STILL, SWEET SOUL, SPACED, BROKEN VOW, PORCUPINE, COLONIAL WOUND and HOLY FIGURES.
* Patient Zero Records
Out of Massachusetts, Patient Zero are another symbol for modern day HC and I’m glad they were around in 2021. My favourite release of theirs was definitely the FEVER STRIKE-LP, followed by that FIRE & FLOOD-EP and the NEAR DARK-Demo. I too liked the records from DARE TO BE, ALWAYS GREENER, HUNDREDS OF AU and that BURNING STRONG/QUALIFIER-Split.
* Sunday Drive Records
Sunday Drive is one of my favourite labels right now. What I especially like about them, is that they cater to the Hardcore crowd as well as to Emo listeners and everything inbetween. On the HC-site of things you got EPs by NO LONGER AT EASE, BROKEN VOW, and the UTMOST./BORE-Split. In terms of Indie/Emo the label gave us the FEVERCHILD-EP and the BROKEN HEAD-EP, while something like SPARING’s “Old Dreams” or that DULL MOURNING-Single was a mix of both worlds.
* Zegema Beach Records
ZBR have their reserved spot right here. It seems like everything that’s good about Screamo comes together on Dave Norman’s label. 2021 was an extraordinary year for Zegema Beach! Highlights include the LPs by HAWAK, YON, ORPHAN DONOR, KARLOFF, CAMPBELL TRIO and MASADA and that DEMERSAL-EP. Not to forget albums by YOUTH NOVEL, TENUE, SNAG, PIET ONTHEL and TO FORGET as well as EPs by SCENARIO & LACRIMA. Once again the label ouf of Canada was the go-to-place when it comes to Split-records. LETTERBOMB/PORTREIT, OUR FUTURE IS AN ABSOLUTE SHADOW/KOMAROV and that 4-Way-Split are all worth buying if you dig Screamo!
>> DEMOS <<
This One-Man-Lo-Fi-project offers quiet and laid back Indie/Emo. I really liked that this sounded like nothing else in 2021.A young HC-band out of Buffalo, New York, marching the way that TURNSTILE paved. This is explosive, groovy Hardcore with energetic female vocals.
04. Near Dark
Another group out of New York, this time featuring Melodic-Punk in the vein of THE MOVIELIFE or LIFETIME. Looking forward to that EP in 2022!
03. xUntold Sufferingx
This was my 90s-metallic-mosh-flavour of the year. Uncompromising stuff, reminiscent of MORNING AGAIN, UNBROKEN or their fellow countrymen ABOLITION.
This has got to be the most original sounding Emo/Emocore I’ve stumbled over this year. The band out of Germany has tons of passion and they just do their own thing. Pure love from the bf-base!
The band out of Linköping, Sweden, plays frenetic Melodic-Hardcore, with powerful gang-vocals, wave-y melodies and fast rhythms. This is full of heart and just too good to be a Demo! Thankfully Genet Records hasn’t slept on them and already signed the Scandinavians.
>> SPLITS <<
06. Our Future is an Absolute Shadow/Komarov
Sureshot from Zegema Beach, especially KOMAROV’s site is fine, if you like mosh-y Screamo in the vein of BATTLE OF WOLF 359 and the whole Bremen-Style.
This is heavy as fuck. GULCH were one of the most exciting Heavy Hardcore-acts of the last few years. A cut like “Bolt Swallower” is a fine way to go out! SUNAMI was new to me but they can definitely hang.
Two Screamo-bands out of Europe and both know what they’re doing. LETTERBOMBS from Finland are melodic and playful, while PORTREIT from Germany lean more on the Emoviolence-kind-of-site. Impossible to choose a favourite here, cause both groups find themselves on the same, high quality level.
03. Two Thumbs Down/Courage Mother – Impostor Syndrom
These are two young bands out of the Washington D.C.-scene. They both match in terms of attitude, but differ a bit with their music. While TWO THUMBS DOWN play a mix of Indie and Melodic-Punk with some Emo thrown in, COURAGE MOTHER are way more destructive. It’s like Post-Hardcore meets Alt-Rock. Nice findings, indeed and a well balanced Split. I really love the artwork, as it’s a testament to the bond these two bands share together.
02. Bore/Utmost. – A New York Split
The befriended bands coming together, showing different sites of the NYHC-scene. While BORE are playing Metalcore in the vein of BOTCH or DISEMBODIED, UTMOST. continue with their groovy, punchy, yet totally unpredictable and not to fuck with form of New-School-Hardcore. Great Split!
01. Overo/Punch On!/Zochor/Coma Regalia – Another Year in Hell
OVERO start with the Title Track “Another Year in Hell” and they continue with their nice Emocore. COMA REGALIA do what they do best with their three new songs, while I didn’t know the two british bands. PUNCH ON! play volatile, yet melodic Screamo. ZOCHOR is the new project of Joe from WHAT PRICE, WONDERLAND? and you can totally spot that. Since I miss WPW and this kind of Emo is getting rare nowadays, I’m more than pleased with their songs. This is what I love about Splits, when bands you already like introduce you to new, exciting bands!
>> SONGS <<
Aspartame – “Conservation Effort”
Baby Keem – “Trademark USA” / “Lost Souls”
Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – “Family Ties”
Bone Idl – “Kaleidoscope” / “Second to One”
Botfly – “Lower than Love”
Breeze Brewin – “Bumpy Johnson”
Delta Sleep – “Planet Fantastic” / “Hotel 24”
Demersal – “To decorate the End+Worry”
DYSE – “Laicos Neidem”
Eyecandy – “The Wheel”
Fabio – “Was ich immer wollte”
Fading Signal – “Skinwalker” / “How the Wind got its Chills” / “Wasting Words”
Fire & Flood – “Outta Sight, Outta Mind”
Happy Case Scenario – “Grey”
Hate it too – “Harrison Ford”
Hawak – “Realign”
Home is where – “Assisted Harakiri”
Infinity Land – “Insect Fingers”
Lygo – “Uwe, Erdgeschoss links” / “Zusammen im Bett”
Militarie Gun – “Disposable Plastic Trash” / “Don’t pick up the Phone when you’re on Drugs” / “All Roads lead to the Gun”
Mt. Oriander – “Nothing after nothing came bursting out”
Origami Angel – “You won’t” / “Neutrogena Spektor” / “Bossa Nova Corps”
Orphan Donor – “Unraveling”
Parting – “Stapler’s Monster” / “Ratt Michards”
Portrayal of Guilt – “…where the Suffering never ends”
Quicksand – “Brushed”
The Raging Nathans – “Out of Touch”
Rid of Me – “Pit” / “Dealing” / “True (Blue)”
Sad Park – “Cash in” / “I’m ok with Lying if you are too” / “Sell Out” (Chad’s Home-Version)
Stand Still – “ID” / “The Cave”
Teamonade – “Young”
Triggerman – “Long Way Down” / “A Place in the Sun” / “How did we get here?”
Turnstile – “Underwater Boi” / “Blackout” / “T.L.C.”
Two Thumbs Down – “The Rat King of Burke”
Utmost. – “Big Dose”
xUntold Sufferingx – “No Compromise”
Young Mountain – “Cherry Knot”
Zack Fox – “Get off my Dick”
Zochor – “Have you considered going there?”