The best screamo releases of 2020
So far! In my opinion! Plus, some older classics!
A photo I took of An Albatross a long time ago. Don’t remember where or when.
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Two years ago, I wrote a four-part series called Summer of Screamo in which I recommended some oddball hardcore releases from around the world. Like everything on the internet, some people liked it, some people did not. I got paid either way and did not care. But occasionally I’ll get somebody in my inbox or my menchies telling me that they discovered a band they like because of it. So I see it as a net positive.
And since I still get the occasional stray request to bring it back, I figured: why not. So, here are some good screamo/grind/hardcore-of-the-non-mosh-variety records that have come out this year, which I’ve organized into a column that is similar in nature to (but for legal intellectual property purposes different than) Summer of Screamo.
An Albatross - Return of the Lazer Viking
I was surprised and absolutely god-damn-delighted to learn that Philly’s An Albatross came back this year to release new material. Even if it’s just two songs, even if it’s under four minutes, I will gladly take it. I saw these lazer vikings open many, many a show in the tri-state area in the early 2000s and it was so fun to watch their evolution in that time. Not so much their sonic identity (which came out pretty fully formed) or their live show (which was always a spectacle), but more in their aesthetic, particularly in their singer, who at first kinda just dressed like a Gravity Records scene nerd, then morphed into a punk Mick Jagger, and now seems to have gone full health goth. I hope I get to see them again one day. The best 12-minute set money can buy.
Soul Glo - Songs to Yeet at the Sun
I recently heard an advance copy of the new Soul Glo record and I don’t think I’m surprising anyone when I say that it positively rips. I really can’t think of another band that can swing between extremes so well—from blistering hardcore to absolutely filthy hip-hop beats. Musical styles just seamlessly spiral around each other in these five songs. Truly wild, and I will be buying this if for no other reason than to dig into the lyric sheet.
STORMLIGHT - Natoma
Featuring members of Loma Prieta and Lord Snow, STORMLIGHT released an LP back in May that is disorienting and comforting at the same time. Sometimes fragile, sometimes absolutely crushing. Sometimes both simultaneously.
Infant Island - Beneath
I hopped on the Infant Island train pretty early on because I enjoyed the sheer desperation packed into their initial work. With Beneath, though, they’re a bit more comfortable in their own skin and are morphing into something else—an entirely new strain of hardcore that feels at once delicately beautiful and grimly apocalyptic. Like watching a glacier burst into flames.
dana sterling - departure
Minneapolis’ dana sterling relies on a lot of the same techniques I loved about United Nations—desperate singing coupled with angry screaming, backed by crushing bricks of melody and schizophrenic tempo shifts.
Pictures of June - Ghost of the Feast
“Kevin Spacey Kill List” is a contender for top song title of the year.
Envy - The Fallen Crimson
At this point, it’s hard for Envy to disappoint. The Japanese behemoth has been a reliable force in heavy music for nearly two decades. At the same time, it sometimes feels hard to be blown away by new Envy releases. Sure, they are one of the loudest bands to ever exist, but how do they outdo themselves at this point? That was my thinking for about four songs into their new record, The Fallen Crimson, and then this angelic, delicate voice swooped in on “Rhythm” and it felt like ascending to the heavens. This is an ethereal experience and I apologize for ever doubting the mighty Envy.
regrets are killing me - My own carelessness.
God I’m a sucker for Japanese screamo. Or any non-English screamo, really. I think it relieves me of the burden of making vain attempts to make out lyrics, allowing me to just enjoy the sounds of someone full-volume yelling at me.
Portrayal of Guilt - “The End of Man Will Bring Peace to This Earth”
Possibly my favorite heavy band going right now. Not to brag but they played me some new stuff they’ve been working on and they are really perfecting this charred punk thing they’ve got going. But I keep going back to this song they released earlier this year on a split with Slow Fire, for the title, certainly, but also the final lyric: “I weep at the thought that this is our reality.”
Como Regalia - Marked
Lightning-speed emotional hardcore from one of the most prolific bands in the genre. They also recently added to their evergrowing catalog with a four-way split with 소나기, obroa-skai, and Indisposed.
Frail Hands - parted/departed/apart
Ever since hearing their split with LA’s Ghost Spirit, Frail Hands has been one of my favorites in the nu screamo movement. (If Nu-Screamo™ catches on, I would like royalties please.) They released a new LP to start the year and are as frantic and immediate as ever.
COMPA - S/T
Blistering Brooklyn hardcore aimed at dismantling white supremacy.
Just take those old records off the shelf!
Let’s also revisit a few classics that I’ve been re-listening to recently for various reasons…
Swing Kids - Discography but it’s newer than the old discography
Looks like Swing Kids are reissuing their entire discography, which I guess is just like their nine-song discography CD which everyone in the world owns but with two more songs on it. So, at this rate, we should have a full 20 Swing Kids songs by 2050. (LOL jk jk there won’t be a 2050.) But hey, there’s a new video too.
Shikari - S/T EP
Very unexpectedly, the Dutch screamo band Shikari came up in my research for the book I’m currently writing. So I gave their catalog a re-listen and all their records still sound fresh, but especially this seven-inch. There’s a sort of hollow clink to their vocals that I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on, like they were recorded under sheet metal or something.
You & I - The Curtain Falls
Also popping up in My Book research was New Jersey’s You & I. I hadn’t listened to their discography in a while but it’s all on Bandcamp now. And while you can’t really go wrong with their records, I think their final LP, The Curtain Falls, was where they hit their stride—a high note to go out on. (There was also a retrospective interview with the members published recently if you wanna read about New Brunswick.)
Reversal of Man - Revolution Summer
I also recently found Reversal of Man’s catalog on Bandcamp, and the Revolution Summer 10”? Still rocks. And I swear to god I’m not just saying this to patronize hardcore fans… one of the songs on this EP is also mentioned in My Book.
Hot Cross - Cryonics
By this point I was pretty deep into my Bandcamp hole and found the Hot Cross discography and gave Cryonics a spin for the first time in a long while. The material the band released prior to this was not yet fully formed, and the material that came after it saw them trying to be something they weren’t. But this LP was the sweet spot that caught them at their peak. Each song has such a distinct way of starting that I could identify it within five seconds. A pretty perfect record.
SEYARSE - Congealed Releases
Oh god yes. Emo violence the way The Lord intended it. The mid-2000s Chicago band recently had their discography reissued on cassette (with some live songs) so that seems as good a reason as any to revisit.
Song Of Zarathustra - bote des zorns
Not to sound all Old Man and what not, but in the Before Streaming Time, I remember hearing this band on a comp CD and struggling for the longest time to track down one of their releases. Now everything is readily available online and it makes me feel lazy but oh well. The Midwest’s answer to Swing Kids.
Welcome the Plague Year - S/T
Out of curiosity, I was checking Discogs to see how much my copy of Welcome the Plague Year’s LP is worth ($35!), and realized what an apt band name this is for 2020. Also, this a ludicrously underrated LP.
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