if you're feeling Anxious
a little bit of everything
People keep hitting me up to ask what I think about the new Anxious LP, which makes sense because the new Anxious LP is very, very much in my wheelhouse. It also dovetails nicely with my affection for the latest One Step Closer LP (if you’re unaware, OSC share members and a record label with Anxious), as well as the recent footage of Long Island darlings Koyo out of FYA. It’s a great time for that special East Coast brand of music that exists within the nebulous liminal space between melodic hardcore, post-hardcore, pop-punk, and emo. (A more cynical person would argue that what distinctions exist between those labels is limited at best; luckily, I’m something of an idealist.)
It’s a tradition that stretches at least as far back as Turning Point and Gorilla Biscuits, saw an inflection point in the mid-90s with Set Your Goals and Lifetime, and watched itself cross over into the semi-mainstream in real time during the early 2000s with bands as varied as Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, and the Movielife, who presumably aren’t as retrospectively popular as the first two for lack of having a day of the week in their name. What ties all these bands together, despite various disparate interpretations of the style, is that they’re all from the East Coast and they all have deep roots in hardcore that, for many of them, persist to this day. (For just one example, The Movielife’s Vinnie Caruana is now the vocalist for Constant Elevation, which also features Sammy Siegler on drums, and they fuckin’ rip.)
While Koyo openly flaunt their influences from that lane (their 2021 EP, Drives Out East, came with a Victory-reminiscent sticker that advertised them to fans of Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, and The Movielife), they’re also stalwart in their dedication to the hardcore scene. With members of bands like Typecaste, Rain of Salvation, and Hangman, all of whom make soundtracks for broken noses, Koyo’s love from the hardcore scene is as logical as it is deserved. Drives Out East is light years ahead of its already-impressive predecessor, Painting Words Into Lines, parlaying their intense energy into songwriting that is both thematically and sonically rich with depth. It’s their Has A Gambling Problem— their big fuck-it moment that announces them as a major player. The feverish reaction their performance elicited speaks volumes to their stature.
Anxious and One Step Closer, though no less loyal to their hometown hardcore scenes (OSC vocalist/Anxious guitarist Ryan Savitski is also the guitarist of the gritty Wilkes-Barre/Scranton outfit Choice to Make, for example), have recently moved past the EP stage and made the leap into widescreen with their respective debut LPs, This Place You Know and Little Green House, both of which were released on Run for Cover. Anxious’s offering— the more recent of the two— is the one that’s been most on my mind the last few weeks, its lushly produced and fizzy anthems ticking the same boxes in my head that Saves the Day did well over a decade ago. Not to imply that Anxious are a nostalgia play— they’re simply working within that same rich pocket of sound.
And while on previous releases I was quick to notice the influence that Anxious took from mid-era Title Fight— particularly in their gorgeously murky guitar tones and in Grady Allen’s desperate, heart-pounding vocals— Little Green House feels like a real maturation moment, where everything comes together with just the right level of texture and polish to create something truly artful and fun in equal measure. The first half of the LP, especially, feels like an effort to merge the sonic foundations they’ve already built with the bubbly melodicism of their greater ambitions, with wild amounts of success; the back half kicks the aggression up a notch, with the scales tipping more towards vulnerable emotionality than the controlled pop gems of the first half. Regardless of what side of themselves they emphasize, though, everything Anxious does feels grounded in the world of hardcore; much like Koyo, they play like gangbusters with hardcore audiences.
Despite being released in September of last year, it took me a little bit to catch up with the One Step Closer LP, which is especially odd because their 2019 EP From Me to You was one of my very favorite releases of that year. Luckily, I eventually corrected this error. This Place You Know blows One Step Closer’s more hardcore-oriented sound into something that sounds as big and crisp as it does warm and organic. Guitar tones are reminiscent of mid-80s genre forbears like Embrace or mid-era Government Issue, offset by vocals that demand attention in both their articulation and sweaty intensity. I’ve seen claims that on this LP One Step Closer are channeling anything from the “amazingcore” days of The Hope Conspiracy and Have Heart to the dour, tuneful-and-powerful sound propagated by the likes of Balance & Composure in the halcyon days of the mid-2010s. The truth, again, is that One Step Closer are channeling a lineage that goes back further than any of those bands, and they’re doing it phenomenally well.
If you’re a fan of this current wave of East-Coast-descended melodic hardcore/post-hardcore/emo soup, I’m gonna go ahead and suggest a couple of underrated favorites that happened to have worked within that time-honored tradition:
Inside- Seven Inches to Wall Drug. Out of all the bands that helped blaze the trail for Long Island’s explosion into MTVmo consciousness in the early 2000s— which could be traced back to bands with approaches as varied as the woozy technicality of Mind Over Matter, the tightly written and performed aggression of personal favorites Vision of Disorder, and the Big Bang that was the almighty Silent Majority— Inside are probably the most underrated. Picking up where Eddie Reyes’s previous band, Clockwise, had left off, Inside played a driving, heady, melodic take on hardcore that took as much from jangly indie rock as it did from basement-based intensity. This will be a recurrent theme here.
Walleye- Familar, Forgotten. Walleye was a fucking killer Jade Tree band that definitely strayed more towards the hardcore end of the spectrum— including a split with one of my personal favorite 90s hardcore bands, Damnation— but in my opinion deserve to be mentioned in the same conversations as bands like Grade and Falling Forward in terms of applying a really creative and tuneful approach to melody within a more dissonant, less accessible framework.
Copper- Drag Queen. These guys are on my personal shortlist for most-unfairly-forgotten bands of all time. In Copper’s case, they tend to be overshadowed by the fact that their bassist, Garrett Klahn, went on to do vocals for definitive New York emo band Texas Is the Reason, which leads a lot of people to either never learn about Copper or assume that they’re some sort of TITR-lite. This couldn’t be further from the case— Copper play a more alt-rock-indebted take on the emotive hardcore sound, which along with their creative and forceful song structures, as well as Meaghan Ball’s sensitive-yet-powerful vocals, really serve to set them apart.
Dahlia Seed- Valentine Kid’s Litter. Yet another unfairly-overlooked band from the early/mid-90s heyday, Dahlia Seed benefited greatly from the diaristic lyrics and electric performance of vocalist Tracy Wilson, but where they really excelled, songwriting-wise, was writing a distinctly hardcore-informed take on the early-90s indie pop/rock sound as best exemplified by bands like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf. Really great, interesting stuff.
Garden Variety- Garden Variety. I tend to think of these guys as the East Coast take on Samiam, and you probably know what to expect from that description: spiky vocals; songs that split the difference between driving and meandering with perfect pitch; an emphasis on dreary mood-setting and pop songcraft grafted onto a base of otherwise-straightforward emocore. I like Garden Variety a whole lot and rarely see them talked about as much as they should be. For some reason people compare them way more to Jawbreaker, and that never sat right with me.
Midtown- Save the World, Lose the Girl. This is definitely the best-remembered band I’m mentioning here, mostly because Gabe Saporta ended up forming the pop group Cobra Starship with Alex Suarez (of Florida screamo legends Kite Flying Society). Don’t hold that against Midtown, though, who are probably the least-appreciated example of that turn-of-the-millennium post-Through Being Cool New Jersey pop-punk sound. All of their albums are good, actually, but I’ve always gravitated most towards their debut because it has a buzzy, amateurish (honestly, borderline-sloppy) energy around it that always gets me stoked whenever I listen.
The Grievance Club- Joymaykr. I’m cheating doubly here— this album isn’t actually out yet, and this isn’t an East Coast band (they’re from Ohio). But if you read this newsletter and you dig the new Anxious album, I’d say there’s probably about an 80% chance you will really love this album when it comes out later this month. Full disclosure: I did this band’s bio, but that has nothing to do with me singing their praises here. It’s the type of record that made me feel instantly nostalgic for both that early 2000s pop-punk wave and the early/mid-2010s “emo revival” stuff, and did so effortlessly without sacrificing its own identity. Smart lyrics, smart songwriting, passionate performances. Keep an eye out for this one.
Thank you so much for reading. Please don’t forget to hit that subscribe button on my Patreon, or hit up my Venmo at xyoudontneedmapsx if you’d prefer to show your support with a one-time donation! If you’re interested in a band bio or some freelance writing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to hash out the details. If you’d just like to read dumb jokes, follow me on Twitter.