Archive for category Pop Punk

Fall Out Boy: Save Rock And Roll Review

The review for Fall Out Boy’s return album is up on Diamond In the Rock now! Unless you lived underground and didn’t listen to music in high school, you must be curious as to how their comeback album is. Read here why Save Rock And Roll is worth your time!

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Paramore: Paramore Review

There were a lot of doubts about what Hayley Williams and company would sound like without the Farro brothers. But after all the drama, the answer to those questions are answered emphatically with ParamoreHere’s why the band’s latest album is their best work yet.

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Cartel: Collider Review Up Now!

Hey everyone, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to stop running this WordPress soon now that the website is up. But for the time being, I’ll be updating you all with new posts on here, Twitter and Facebook in addition to the website. But I wrote a review for Cartel’s new album Collider and it’s up on the website now, so click here to read the review!

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The Wonder Years: Get Stoked On It! Review

Although two sensationally appealing pop punk albums would follow in its wake, Get Stoked On It! was hardly a sign of good things to come for The Wonder Years. With the release of their debut album, fun is the ultimate and only objective from the outset, which the band largely achieves through amusing and often random lyrical premises and song titles. The end result is a highly enjoyable and entertaining experience, but the musical method that transports listeners there leaves a lot to be desired. The abundance of poppy synthesizers to accompany heavy guitar riffs and upbeat drumming creates a pleasant sound, but it feels overdone at times, especially when the electronic influences of Mikey Kelly’s keyboards persistently rage throughout entire songs. And while lead singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s rugged and unrefined vocals are sure to connect with the angst-filled pop punk kids the album is clearly targeting, they occasionally cross into unenjoyable territory. Fans of the band’s more recent albums will surely find something to enjoy from The Wonder Years’ inauspicious start, but a lot of Get Stoked On It! is inconsequential when compared to what the band’s doing now.

Standout Tracks

Between Mike Kennedy’s animated drum beat, the lively guitar riffs of Matt Brasch and Casey Cavaliere and some prominent synth rhythms, “Keystone State Dude-Core” quickly establishes the fun tone and heavier sound of Get Stoked On It! This highly entertaining leadoff also serves as an indicator of the hilarious and ridiculous kind of premises to expect the rest of the way as Campbell gives his version of truth on what it means to be young: “We’re six dudes from the Keystone State, we’re broke as f**k but we can’t complain / We haven’t showered in at least four days, this s**t’s a bust but we’ll get stoked on it.”

“Bout To Get Fruit Punched, Homie” has one of the most unique premises in the history of pop punk in addition to highly appealing synthesizers to back it up. Told from the point of view of Mr. Kool-Aid, Campbell tells an amusing and somewhat dark tale of betrayal on the part of his friend Cap’n Crunch. The concept of two childish and popular advertising cartoon characters peddling drugs and committing crimes is priceless and the serious tone of Campbell’s tragic story is too ridiculous and hardcore to not make the listener laugh, which allows the band to somehow accomplish their goal of fun without crafting anything overly complicated or masterful.

Josh Martin’s bass hook provides the underlying aggression for the other guitar riffs of “Zombies Are The New Black,” yet another entertaining but compositionally lackluster pop punk rocker. The heavier sound of Get Stoked On It! is most apparent here with some unclean vocals that don’t really enhance the quality of the song and feel a bit force, but the catchy, synth-ridden chorus makes up for it.

The Verdict

With its pop punk hooks and synthesizer-heavy setlist, Get Stoked On It! entertains at times but falls short of impressing anyone not paying attention to its clever and humorous songwriting. Campbell’s harsh vocals, constant guitar-chugging and overzealous synth rhythms will attract a fair share of pop punk fans, but the combination feels overused by the time this debut’s run its course. Fans of Motion City Soundtrack, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals, Fireworks, Man Overboard, Veara and The Starting Line should find something to enjoy here, but The Wonder Years’ artistic progression in later albums should be much appreciated after giving Get Stoked On It! a spin.

Final Score: 6/10

Rank: 3rd (three total albums)

Track List

  1. Keystone State Dude-Core
  2. Bout To Get Fruit Punched, Homie
  3. Buzz Aldrin: Poster Boy For Second Place
  4. Let’s Moshercise!!!
  5. What If We [Swam] Into Nothing?
  6. Racing Trains
  7. Zombies Are The New Black
  8. We Were Giants
  9. My Geraldine Lies Over The Delaware
  10. Dude, What Is A Land Pirate?
  11. I Fell In Love With A Ninja Master
  12. When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

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Jack’s Mannequin: The Glass Passenger Review

Everything In Transit was a surprisingly superior effort for Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon, who defied expectations with his new project after leaving Something Corporate. With is fun, pop punk vibes that called to California memories while still retaining a sense of poise, intelligence and emotional dexterity, making for a sensational and catchy debut. But soon before its release, McMahon was diagnosed with leukemia and his outlook on life took a slightly dimmer view. The hope and positivity of the lyrics and uppity piano rhythms didn’t disappear, but emotionally revealing songwriting and a weathered maturity gained prominence in the band’s sophomore album, The Glass Passenger. And despite that prominent emphasis on baring his soul through the lyrics, McMahon and company temporarily lose sight of the same fun that made Everything In Transit such a delightful success. It also doesn’t help how experimental Jack’s Mannequin gets with some slightly dystrophic tempos and McMahon’s vocal fluctuations, which display maturity at times but come off as unlikable during others. The Glass Passenger starts off strong and will surely enthrall McMahon’s loyal followers, but it won’t quite win anyone over the way Jack’s Mannequin’s debut did.

Standout Tracks

The calming guitar riffs of Bobby Anderson open the light and enjoyable “Spinning,” which features a typically catchy Jack’s Mannequin chorus dominated by Jay McMillan’s subtle but attention-grabbing drumming and McMahon’s strained but agreeable vocals. The guitar riffs, upbeat rhythm and pleasing piano in the background make this song however, which manages to leave a lasting impression despite its short length.

As the best song on the album, “Swim” best represents McMahon’s emotional struggle with cancer and his subsequent mental conquering over it. As McMahon encourages his listeners to stay strong and persevere through tough times, it’s hard to ignore the hopeful message coming from someone with plenty of experience who can still play the piano so beautifully. And as McMahon swoons during each synth-riddled chorus, he has the courage to proclaim in the midst of dark and dangerous waters: “I found a tidal wave begging to tear down the dawn / Memories like bullets they fire at me from a gun / A crack in the armor, I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun / I’m not giving in, I swim.”

The Resolution” follows up a solid ballad in “Hammers And Strings (A Lullaby)” with a more animated and fun jingle that would have been right at home on Everything In Transit. McMahon’s hope shines through in prominent piano and impassioned chorus vocals, while the guitar riffs and drum beat keep things light for their lead singer to testify. McMahon bears it all on the line as he admits he still has a ways to go, but still has his life and his self to be thankful for: “Yeah I’m alive, but I don’t need a witness to know that I’ve survived / I’m not looking for forgiveness, yeah I just need light, I need light in the dark as I search for the resolution.”

The Verdict

The incredibly open and honest songwriting of McMahon is commendable, especially considering his personal struggles, but they come off as a slight downer for a band that rapidly gained popularity for their happy, easy-going pop punk tunes. The energy and enthusiasm of McMahon is still felt in his passionately strained vocals and fervently affecting piano, but a dark cloud seems to hang over The Glass Passenger, especially for its lackluster second half. From the sloppy, all-over-the-map “Suicide Blonde” to the unenjoyable and undecided tempos of “Bloodshot,” Jack’s Mannequin fails to lift the mood in its second act, or at the very least, keep the audience entertained.  Fans of Something Corporate, The Fray, The Maine, The Academy Is…, The Rocket Summer, Dashboard Confessional and Cartel will likely find plenty to enjoy here, especially for the album’s terrific opening act, but this album won’t be remembered with the same fondness as Everything In Transit.

Final Score: 7.1/10

Rank: 2nd (three total albums)

Track List

  1. Crashin
  2. Spinning
  3. Swim
  4. American Love
  5. What Gets You Off
  6. Suicide Blonde
  7. Annie Use Your Telescope
  8. Bloodshot
  9. Drop Out – The So Unknown
  10. Hammers And Strings (A Lullaby)
  11. The Resolution
  12. Orphans
  13. Caves
  14. Miss California

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The Audition: Controversy Loves Company Review

Despite a raw rookie sound and apparent room for improvement with the release of their debut album, The Audition shows great promise with an addicting and entertaining dose of pop punk on Controversy Loves Company. Lead singer Danny Stevens’ infectious, drawling wails are clearly aimed at a younger crowd, but the blazing guitar riffs of Seth Johnson and Timmy Klepek that accompany them provide some context as to the band’s musical maturity and skill. Though imperfect and inconsistent at times, Controversy Loves Company pulses with contagious pop punk energy and a few melodramatically fervent rockers. The contradiction between Stevens’ melody and the raw resonance of blaring guitars shouldn’t work this well, but The Audition controls an ever-escalating tempo efficiently for the most part, although there are a few lapses that just sound like overexcited noise for the sake of energy. It’s not the most compelling debut the genre’s seen, but Controversy Loves Company lays down a solid foundation for the future.

Standout Tracks

“Dance Halls Turn To Ghost Towns” lays the groundwork for the rest of the album’s energy, leading off with a blistering and catchy first single. Stevens’ melodic whines and wails combine with frenetic guitar riffs to establish the tempo, while Ryan O’Connor’s contagiously rhythmic drumming is sure to induce foot-tapping. The Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde references aren’t exactly original, but they get the job done much like Joe Lussa’s underlying bass hook.

While the album’s leadoff track provides energy and pace, “You’ve Made Us Conscious” gives a look at The Audition at their most irresistible. Stevens dominates the proceedings with crystal-clear pitch that showcases his impressive vocal range, while the guitar riffs are less intense and more upbeat to convey the lighthearted and endearing mood of the pointed lyrics: “Oh look at what we’ve all tried not to become, another fabricated self-portrait / Oh take another glance and remember we’re the ones setting you up to take our fall.”

The rhythmic bluesy guitar riffs of “It’s Too Late” make it another early highlight of Controversy Loves Company, followed up by its memorable, sing-along chorus. Stevens is superb as he is for the majority of the album, but what really stands out are the guitar hooks, which simultaneously relax and escalate with the rising and falling tempo.

The Verdict

There are a wealth of catchy and fast-paced tunes to enjoy on The Audition’s solid debut, making it an enjoyable albeit inconsistent first try. A few songs fail to hold the listener’s attention, sounding like much of the same due to a lack of variety. But for the most part, Controversy Loves Company rocks with the energy, fun and angst of early Sugarcult that fans of Valencia, Hit The Lights, Just Surrender, Mayday Parade, This Providence, Every Avenue and The Starting Line can all enjoy. Between the upbeat and encouraging “Don’t Be So Hard” and the epic and groovy closer “Smoke And Mirrors,” The Audition provides an engaging and enticing glimpse of what they can be with more development and artistic progression, starting with Stevens’ ultra-infectious vocals. There’s a definite need for progression as far as compositional elements are concerned, but this band’s appeal and lyrical intelligence shouldn’t ever come into question. Because as up-and-down as Controversy Loves Company is, it’s a solid starting point and a sign of promising things to come.

Final score: 7/10

Rank: 3rd (four total albums)

Track List

  1. Dance Halls Turn To Ghost Towns
  2. You’ve Made Us Conscious
  3. It’s Too Late
  4. Approach The Bench
  5. The Ultimate Cover Up
  6. Don’t Be So Hard
  7. Lawyers
  8. Rep Your Clique
  9. La Rivalita
  10. Smoke And Mirrors

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Mayday Parade: Anywhere But Here Review

Mayday Parade thrilled and dazzled with one of the most enjoyable and profound pop punk albums in the history of the genre when they released their debut A Lesson In Romantics. Appealing dual vocals, fun but compelling lyrics and an infectious pop punk energy surged through the band’s highly enjoyable first album, making it an instant classic that raised the bar for all other pop punk acts to be judged by. So when vocalist, lyricist and guitarist Jason Lancaster (now of Go Radio) wasn’t getting credit for his contributions and left the band, there were serious concerns about what direction Mayday Parade would take without him. Would they be able to continue the same lovable brand of pop punk? Or would they succumb to Lancaster’s absence, turning in a product with dumbed-down lyrics and a less-than-enthralling singular vocals? Unfortunately, Anywhere But Here leans more toward the latter, barely getting by on the appeal of Derek Sanders’ voice and proficient guitar riffs and drumming. But although it comes nowhere near touching A Lesson In Romantics, this sophomore slump is a good album by its own right. In short, it’s about as good as Mayday Parade could be without Lancaster as they adjusted to making music without him.

Standout Tracks

While Sanders dominates the vocals for an entire record with the attractive dual vocals dimension gone, songs like “Anywhere But Here” show just how dynamic he can be as a lead singer. His pitch-perfect wailing lends itself to the agreeable whine of Alex Garcia’s guitar, while Brook Bettts backs them up with skilled rhythm guitar. Jake Bundrick’s steady drumming is as consistent as ever, but Sanders steals the show as he nails every chorus in this serious but fun title track.

Like the preceding track, “The Silence” offers a more dramatic take on Mayday Parade as epic guitar riffs, pensive drumming and Sanders’ urgent but composed singing builds up the tension of each verse before igniting in each stirring chorus. Despite their ambiguous nature, the lyrics of “The Silence” are probably the pinnacle of songwriting on Anywhere But Here, reflecting the drama of each guitar riff, drum beat and wail from Sanders, who proclaims, “Every night she cries and dies a little more each time / Say you love me / Nothing left inside, say you love me / And the silence will set her free.”

A Lesson In Romantics provided a large number of upbeat and happy songs, but what elevated it to another level was a collection of heartfelt and genuine ballads, an area that feels slightly lackluster on Anywhere But Here. However, “I Swear, This Time I Mean It,” the album’s only ballad, is a decent effort with enough emotion and sincerity to warrant some attention. Acoustic guitar, intelligent lyrics and Sanders’ silky smooth voice is all it takes here, and although it’s not flashy by any means, “I Swear, This Time I Mean It” shows that Mayday Parade isn’t completely lost without Lancaster around.

The Verdict

Although Anywhere But Here is catchy and entertaining, it certainly plays it safe and never presents anything new. While infectious songs like “Kids In Love” lend themselves to Mayday Parade’s greatest hits, the downright monotony of dumbed-down songs aiming for mass appeal like “Get Up” are almost sickening compared to the elite lyricism of the past. The emphasis on more blazing guitar riffs to deflect the attention away from Lancaster’s glaring absence is successful at times, like for an incredible guitar solo on the blistering “If You Can’t Live Without Me, Then Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?”. Fans of Go Radio, Every Avenue, All Time Low, The Maine, Forever The Sickest Kids, The Summer Set and A Rocket To The Moon can still enjoy this Mayday Parade outing. Because even though it won’t compare to A Lesson In Romantics, it’s still a decent album that gives hope for improvement in the future.

Final Score: 6.9/10

Rank: 3rd (three total albums)

Track List

  1. Kids In Love
  2. Anywhere But Here
  3. The Silence
  4. Still Breathing
  5. Bruised And Scarred
  6. If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?
  7. Save Your Heart
  8. Get Up
  9. Center Of Attention
  10. I Swear, This Time I Mean It
  11. The End

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