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Fire Next Time Announce International Tour

Fire Next TimeEdmonton, Alberta’s dark force of existentialism and folk punk fury, Stomp Records artists Fire Next Time have just unveiled plans for their most ambitious tour to date. The three continent-spanning tour is in support of their recently released vinyl version of Cold Hands and mark the first time the band has performed together overseas. 

Beginning in their home base of Edmonton, the band will head east across Canada before heading overseas to visit Russia and Eastern Europe, returning to Canada for the final dates. The tour will wrap up in time for the band to prepare for their first appearance at The Fest in Florida. 

The vinyl release comes from Ghost Buffalo Records and comes in two variants, smoke grey and electric orange.

Full tour dates can be seen below:

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Worst Days Down Premiere New Song, Heavens No

Worst Days Down - Hell NoEdmonton’s Worst Days Down has released the first single from their upcoming release. The premiere of “Heavens No” comes along with the early announcement of their new album, which is currently slated for a fall release. While prepping the album, the band will play a show in Calgary on July 20 with more tour days in the works.. 

The band began as a solo effort from Ben Sir (ETown Beatdown) and has grown to include members of Audio/Rocketry and Fire Next Time. The new track has a decidedly more punk rock flavour than their previous acoustic based work. You can check out the evolution of their sound through the stream below and grab the download from Bandcamp.  Read More…

The Bouncing Souls Debut New Song, “Up to Us”

Bouncing SoulsAs The Bouncing Souls fast approach their 30th anniversary, they are gearing up to release a new album, Simplicity. Prior to the album’s July 29th release on Rise Records, they have debuted the first single, “Up to Us.” 

Details about the upcoming release can be found here

You can hear the new song below.

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Anti-Flag Play Acoustic Benefit Show

Anti-Flag PosterAmerican political punk group, Anti-Flag have announced a special acoustic benefit show.

While on tour through Canada, the band’s schedule was disrupted as wildfires ravaged the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray causing the evacuation of 80000 people. The band had to cancel their show in the city, but acknowledged the natural disaster by not only providing free admission to displaced residents at their Edmonton show, but also announcing an acoustic show on May 5 with 100% of the proceeds going to support those who have been affected by the fires.

Tour openers Lee Corey Oswald are also on the bill, as well as local artists Ben Sir (Worst Days Down) and James Renton (Fire Next Time). 

showreviews

Ray Rocket/ KJ Jansen

Live In Calgary (4/22/16)

Dickens Pub
By

 
 

 

 

This was a special evening for fans of classic pop punk music. Not only was local legend KJ Jansen (Chixdiggit) gracing the stage, but Teenage Bottlerocket’s Ray Carlisle was making one of his first live appearances under his solo moniker, Ray Rocket. Add in Ryan Dix from Alberta’s second best pop punk group, Old Wives, and it was an undeniably stacked lineup. The coolest part of the entire experience is that it was an acoustic show, which provided ample opportunity for crowd interaction and smiling sing alongs.

 While the prairies of Western Canada are often overlooked by touring bands, all three of these artists have played countless shows in the province, which is always helpful when building excitement for a show. That being said, there were a few people in the crowd who were surprised when Carlisle stepped on stage because they didn’t realize who Ray Rocket was. 

While the venue was still filling up as Ryan Dix took the stage, he played a great set for those who were present. The short set consisted largely of Old Wives songs, such as Here We Go Again and It’s All Over, both of which worked well with the acoustic treatment. He included a cover of Joel Plaskett Emergency’s True Patriot Love, which kind of fell flat as most people appeared unfamiliar with the indie tune. It was a short and fun set, which worked well to kick the night off.

The floor filled up when KJ Jansen took the stage with his guitar. With a solo release reportedly in the works (judging from his recent solo tour mates, most likely coming out on Joey Cape’s One Week Records), I was eager to see him play solo for the first time. Chixdiggit are a punk institution in Alberta, the goofy southern counterpart to Edmonton’s more hardcore SNFU. For many of us in the 90s, these bands were our closest connection to the exploding LA punk scene and gained a certain legendary status because of this. For those who have seen Chixdiggit live, Jansen’s goofy sense of humour is intact when he plays solo as well. In fact, with the distraction free environment provided, his sharp wit was more evident than ever. He declared that he wasn’t using a set list and relied upon crowd requests, although there were a couple songs that he vetoed. At times the crowd was singing along loud enough to drown the man with the mic out, which is always a goosebump inducing moment. He cracked up laughing while trying to sing I Wanna Hump You after dedicating it to Old Wives’ Shaun Millard, who was celebrating his birthday. Jansen plowed through numerous fan favourites from throughout the band’s career (I Remember You, Chupacabras, Miso Ramen, Sikome Beach…) with plenty of banter interspersed between and sometimes during songs. It was a surreal experience, which was magnified when he led the crowd in singing my favourite song, I Feel Like Gerry Cheevers (Stitch Marks on My Heart)

One of the best parts of an acoustic show is the very small delay between sets. Shortly after Jansen left the stage, Ray Rocket made his Canadian debut. While the majority of the audience hadn’t likely picked up his recently released album, the fact that he rerecorded Teenage Bottlerocket favourites from throughout their discography made the songs familiar coming in. In addition to covering the majority of his solo release, Carlisle added in some other songs, such as the Top Gun salute Maverick and Minecraft referencing kiddie favourite They Call Me Steve. His Ramones medley was wonderful and showed anyone who might be oblivious where his musical roots lay. 

While he was visibly less comfortable with the between song banter than Jansen, the set was well received and a fun time. He told a story about his girlfriend and poked fun at her taste in music (Nickelback…) and was noticeably happy about her presence in his life. The only downside to the entire night was a group of four drunken bros who stood right at Carlisle’s feet the whole time and yelled obnoxiously. This was most evident when he closed the show with a tribute to his brother Brandon before singing a mournful First Time. While he was trying to talk about his brother’s death and explain how continuing to play music had helped him cope, these morons kept yelling and being idiots. Some people have zero concept of etiquette. Despite their best intentions, the set was a great introduction to the more restrained solo side of Teenage Bottlerocket’s Ray Carlisle and a perfect end to a great show.

While there is an abundance of corny Punk Goes Acoustic styled music projects out there, this was a well played execution of the concept. All three artists translated their melodic pop punk songs into the singer songwriter format, which allowed the crowd to sing along in a new way. Instead of crowd surfing and pogo-ing, everyone stood near the stage and sang as loud as they could to songs that they knew and loved. There are large festivals and wild punk rock club shows that are common in the scene, but every once in a while a unique show comes along that makes you realize how lucky you are to have been a witness. 

Interview: Belvedere

BelvedereBelvedere were one of the biggest Canadian bands to come out of the 90’s skate punk scene. They toured extensively, not only across the country, but into far reaching international territories. They showed up on Warped Tour when it was largely based on Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph skate punk bands, released four albums, built a strong following and then suddenly disappeared. After a quiet return to live shows a few years ago, including the large Groezrock festival in Belgium, the band is back with a new album and plenty of live dates to showcase their new songs and lineup. After a recent hometown show playing with Propagandhi, I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Rawles about their triumphant return to the stage and studio.

Read the interview here.

   
Belvedere

Belvedere

Steve Rawles

BirdAttack (US), Effervescence (FR), Funtime (BE), No Reason, and Lockjaw Records (UK).
By on April 23, 2016 at Calgary, Alberta

 

 

Belvedere were one of the biggest Canadian bands to come out of the 90’s skate punk scene. They toured extensively, not only across the country, but into far reaching international territories. They showed up on Warped Tour when it was largely based on Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph skate punk bands, released four albums, built a strong following and then suddenly disappeared. After a quiet return to live shows a few years ago, including the large Groezrock festival in Belgium, the band is back with a new album and plenty of live dates to showcase their new songs and lineup. After a recent hometown show playing with Propagandhi, I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Rawles about their triumphant return to the stage and studio.

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The King Blues

The King Blues

Off With Their Heads

Meatball Records
By

Rating: 4.5/5

 
 

 

 

After a hiatus which saw vocalist ITCH release an album of catchy pop songs, The King Blues have returned to the stage. Following quickly on the heels of their return to the stage, the band have released new material. It seems natural to feel some trepidation toward reunited bands new material. Personally, Refused are one of my favourite bands and “Freedom” is the biggest piece of garbage Dennis Lyxzen has ever been a part of in his various musical ventures. Would The King Blues fall into the same rut, embarrassing their political punk legacy with a blatant cash grab that mimics the downfall of Black Flag?

One of the things which has always made The King Blues special is their ability to experiment with their sound, never settling comfortably in one style, much like fellow Brits, The Clash. This helps the band avoid stagnation, as they have woven elements of ska, reggae, soul and more into their punk sound over the years. Their return follows this format, adding a variety of sounds to the songs. While only clocking at just over 21 minutes, the album is entertaining enough to have warranted double the length.

“Off With Their Heads” starts off with the title track, which is a rambunctious punk offering that is fuelled by ITCH’s vitriolic verses over snarling guitars and gang vocals aplenty. It is a great song and kicks things off with a bang. The band clearly have retained both their energy and political ideology. They may not be as well known as some of their peers, but they should appeal to fans of bands like “Grey Britain”-era Gallows or Star Fucking Hipsters, equal parts snarling punk and artistic musical blend of styles with a heavy political message throughout. On “Starting Fires” they do their best impression of Joe Strummer and friends, with a straightforward old school punk rock song. The tempo slows down for “Poems & Songs,” which features ITCH on ukulele, singing a sweet love song. Rather than derail the album, it manages to meld with their sound well. The band take on garage rock with plenty of swagger on “Opposable Thumbs” and it is a riot. Keeping things interesting, this is followed up with a mellow piano ballad, “Words” and the similarly mellow “Pure Fucking Love.” But the squealing guitars, fist pumping chants and snarling vocals of “Taxi Driver” show that these punks haven’t gone soft. 

Each song stands out clearly on its own terms and the album is better for it. ITCH spits out lines with vitriol, sounding like the bastard son of Johnny Rotten, with a heavy rap influence. As evidenced by his solo release, the other members of The King Blues add a much needed depth to the front man’s work though. This is a collective effort and overall an exciting blend of musical styles from one of England’s most exciting bands. 

Tsunami Bomb

Tsunami Bomb

Trust No One

Kung Fu Records
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

More than a decade has passed since Tsunami Bomb called it a day. Now the band have reunited and have plans to tour and have released a collection of rare tracks and demos from their early years. The band will be supporting the release with new vocalist Kate Jacobi taking lead, but these songs all feature the much beloved Agent M at the forefront, who is no longer with the band.

The 90’s were a time where skate culture was at its peak; elevated by Tony Hawk video games, the X Games and the love which both showed for punk and ska music. Teens across the continent were watching Blink-182 drop corny videos recorded in movie theatres and watching their counter culture awkwardly hit the mainstream. As the decade ended, the Warped Tour exploded and gave kids from remote rural areas an opportunity to spend the day with teens who loved the same bands as them. At some point, every kid into the music saw The Vandals, Tsunami Bomb and The Ataris on the stage, as Kung Fu Records became one of the more prominent of the second tier of independent punk labels (Fat & Epitaph claiming the almost major indie label status).

Those who were fans of the band in the 90’s will find much to love here. The raw production adds to the rugged punk rock sound. If you still spin Nitro Records’ samplers on occasion, this collection should appeal to your nostalgic tendencies. For a band that was so prominent on samplers and toured extensively, they released only a couple of full length albums, so this is a welcome treat. The lyrics are occasionally corny, which only adds to their charm. On the wonderful “Mushy Love Song,” Agent M awkwardly sings For our first day, we went to Dennys. We saw my grandma there and she said she liked your spiky hair. I was so shy cuz you are such a handsome guy. Like the recent revival of SLC Punk, it is a glimpse into a very specific time in punk music. Sure, your crusty uncle might rightfully claim it lacks the political punch of Exploited and your son might roll his eyes at the lack of pizza in the lyrics, but it encapsulates everything that was great about hot summer days singing along with friends at Warped Tour. Some of these songs have been heard before on EP releases, such as “Lemonade,” although this is an earlier recording of the song. For the most part, however, these songs will be unfamiliar to all but the most vigilant fans of the band. This is a new collection full of songs pulled from the vault, unheard tracks with an old school vibe. 

The vocals transcend the skate punk scene though. The howls are occasionally reminiscent of the powerful vocals in the Riot Grrl scene, owing as much to Sleater-Kinney as NOFX, which adds some depth to their sound. The garage level production sets this release firmly apart from much of the punk releases today. “…Not Forever” is a fiery blast of punk fury and howling vocals. The goth punk “Rotting Vampire Eyeballs” and “Cantare del Morte” are humorous tunes which come from their early Mayhem on the High Seas EP and have more in common with The Cramps than any of their peers.  

Trust No One is a rough collection full of likeable punk jams that could have been huge in the late 90’s. While the punk scene has been a little more open minded in recent years, there were only a small handful of prominent bands with female members back in the day and Tsunami Bomb were undoubtedly one of the greatest. This collection is a great reminder for fans and introduction for the next generation as the band plans to tour again. 

Medictation

Medictation

Graeme Philliskirk and Hugo Mudie

Paper + Plastick Records
By on Jan. 30th, 2016 at E-mail

 

 

 

Several years in the making, Medictation are a unique Trans-Atlantic project born from the ashes of Montreal’s The Sainte Catherines and Sunderland’s Leatherface. While both projects were laid to rest in 2012, the seeds of this musical combination began to sprout. Now, just over three years later, the fruits of that labour is finally available for general consumption through the fine folks at Paper + Plastick Records in the form of Warm Places.

We had a quick little conversation with Graeme Philliskirk and Hugo Mudie to discuss how this odd-ball collection of musicians formed Medictation.

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Video: Cayetana- freedom 1313

cayetana-tiredeyesPhiladelphia trio Cayetana have released a video for their song “freedom 1313,” which is featured on their latest release. The Tired Eyes single features this original track on the A-side and a cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent” on the B-side.

Watch the video below.

 

2015: Year End Review by Dustin Blumhagen

ThePunkSite.com’s Best Of 2015

Best-of-2015It’s that time of year again where we sit back, eat food, drink beer and reminisce about the past year’s best and worst, highlights and lowlights. The albums that forced us to sing our hearts out, the shows that struck a chord and the moments reverberated through our collected consciousnesses. We here at ThePunkSite.com, like everyone does this time of year, and looked back at our listening habits for the past 365 days and determined these the albums that truly left an impact with us.

Without further ado, select a contributor and see their year in review for 2015:

Bobby Gorman | Cole Faulkner | Steven Farkas Dustin Blumhagen | Tom Liveyns


2015: Year End Review by Dustin Blumhagen

I spent this year focused upon obtaining my Master’s degree, spending countless hours buried in research and writing endless essays. I was busy and I was ridiculously poor, so live shows were painfully rare in 2015. But 18 hour days spent on the computer and Spotify finally coming to Canada allowed for streaming of 1000s of albums this year. Some of my favourite bands were active this year, but my favourite part of listening to so much music was discovering new bands, which is something that I haven’t done in this capacity since I was a teen. Both Nothing Gold Can Stay and Sudden Suspension were surprisingly great pop punk releases this year and Casey Bolles’ acoustic songs are sure to delight City & Colour/ This Wild Life fans. Weaning the list down was insanely challenging this year, as I initially started with a 100 great albums, whittling down to one for each month of the year. I hope you find something on here that you haven’t listened to yet, give it a chance and fall in love with something new. Music is awesome that way. Thanks to Bobby for letting me hang around for another year!


Top Albums Of The Year

Frank Turner Positive Songs for Negative People

12. Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People X-tra Mile Records

It almost feels weird to think of Frank Turner in a punk context these days. He has successfully risen from the underground to become a mainstream radio artist, equally liked by college kids and their moms. But damn if he doesn’t write a good song. I admit that the last couple of releases from Turner didn’t impress me as a fan, but this one captured my attention once again. The evolution from solo troubadour a la Woody Guthrie to full literate rock band a la The Weakerthans had a couple stumbling points, but Positive Songs successfully reminds us why we fell in love with the self-deprecating, thick accented singer in the first place.

War on Women - War on Women

11. War On Women – War On Women Bridge Nine Records

Propagandhi have a new guitarist which gives hope that we might see a new album sometime in 2016. For now though, there are some great political punk bands filling the void. War on Women are a great recent discovery. This album is a solid collection of punk songs with purpose and a must listen for every douche bro out there copping feels at Blink 182 shows and spouting misogynistic garbage in their overly loud drunken slur.

Teenage Bottlerocket - tales from wyoming

10. Teenage Bottlerocket – Tales From Wyoming –Rise Records

The boys from Wyoming put out a solid slab of pop punk this year. The songs are exactly what long-time fans want. There are fun songs and serious love songs and it’s just a great time. Sadly, this was also the year that the world lost Brandon Carlisle, a fun loving staple in the punk scene.

Anti-Flag - American Spring

9. Anti-Flag – American Spring – Spinefarm Records

Some people grow out of caring about the world. They leave their teens and become obsessed with their job, stocks, raising kids, chasing the American Dream. But lots of people stay true to their ideals as they age. Not every adult is a right wing racist piece of shit. It isn’t an inevitable de-evolution toward a moronic Neanderthal state that ends with them shitting their pants all alone and forgotten in some rural old folk’s home. For those who refuse to sell out to the Capitalist system and still give a shit about their fellow human beings, bands like Anti-Flag and Propagandhi are here to empathize with the state of the world. The band sound reinvigorated on their latest release, which is their strongest in the past decade. This is a passionate piece of punk music from a band that still means something. Fat old men can dress up like clowns and snort coke, making a joke of the punk scene, but there are still artists with substance out there in the trenches. On top of this album, they released two other great albums (acoustic & B-sides) this year.

Isotopes - Nuclear Strikezone

8. Isotopes Nuclear Strikezone STOMP Records

Writing catchy pop punk songs about baseball is the forte of Evan October and his roster. Their debut full length is a little more polished than their previously released collection, but the charm remains.

H20 Use Your Voice

7. H20 – Use Your Voice – Bridge Nine Records

Those who love H20, love them a lot. Those who hate them won’t be swayed by their latest. Staying true to form, Toby Morse and company dish out an album of straightforward skate punk and melodic hardcore. It is criminally short, but definitely welcome. The songs are catchy and fun and have the classic H20 attitude in full display. Knowing that it may be the final album from this long running band adds additional weight to the music.

Night Birds – Mutiny At Muscle Beach

6.Night Birds Mutiny At Muscle Beach – Fat Wreck Chords

Fast, dirty and fuzzy. Scaling back on their surf tendencies, Night Birds hit hard with a classic punk sound. This was a pleasant surprise that stands up well to repeated listens.

Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes- Blossom

5. Frank Carter & the RattlesnakesBlossom –  International Death Cult Records

After stumbling onto a live set from Frank Carter’s Gallows on a Warped Tour sidestage a few years back, I was blown away. Not once since has a live band come close to matching their passionate fire. Grey Britain was a brilliant album, something that comes along once a generation, but they burned up before breaking through. The band members drug their name through the mud with a derivative mess that is best ignored and forgotten. Carter did an equally forgettable project, but has resurfaced with the Rattlesnakes at his back and holy shit is this a great album. Where Grey Britain interspersed moments of beauty with the rage, Blossom focuses more on a fast and angry blast of hardcore with little reprieve. Not as essential as his Gallows peak, but definitely one of the best hardcore albums of the year.

Youth Decay - The Party's Over

4. Youth Decay – The Party’s Over – New Damage Records

There are ragged throated party anthems that are reminiscent of the best Canadian pop punk bands, Living With Lions and Daggermouth. There is blistering hardcore speeds that make Comeback Kid sound like your grandpa’s favourite band. These guys announce their debut on the scene with a strong full length that shows up most of their peers. The relentless assault and tight musicianship of their live show is successfully harnessed on the recording, which is a rare feat.

Fire Next Time - Cold Hands

3. Fire Next Time – Cold Hands – STOMP Records

Cold Hands is Southern Gothic poetry at its finest. The sprawling songs swoop and weave between beauty and chaos, as the gruff throated vocals tear at your eardrums and heartstrings. Titus Andronicus may get the headlines, but Fire Next Time are the best band pushing the limits of punk rock.

The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven

2. The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven – Hopeless Records

It is hard to believe that this band also released the ridiculous “Get Stoked on It!” They have moved well beyond the confines of the pop punk genre, broadening their sound and improving the lyrics with each release. While bands like Blink 182 and NOFX seem content to exist as perpetual juveniles (& have strong fan bases of similar eternal manboys), it is heartening to see that bands can mature and still excel.

Defeater - Abandoned

1. DefeaterAbandoned Epitaph Records

A cathartic examination of the existential weight that accompanies loss of faith. The story arc continues through the viewpoint of a fallen priest, as Defeater continue to craft an engaging long form concept. It is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Very few bands could pull of such an intense art project, but Defeater seem to improve with each album.

Top Eps

  1. Nothing Gold Can Stay- Familiar Faces
  2. Sudden Suspension– There’s A Bigger Picture Here
  3. Modern Baseball– The Perfect Cast
  4. The All Brights– …Are Wild For the Night
  5. Casey Bolles- Freshmen

Best Non Punk Release

John MorelandHigh on Tulsa Heat

There is a punk subculture that contains a group of scrappy songwriters who have the ability to create the most beautiful pieces of art. Artists like Chuck Ragan, Neko Case, Ben Nichols, Austin Lucas and Jason Isbell fit in this scene. But none of them approach the pure distilled emotion of Moreland’s songs. If you are open minded and like to balance your punk music with something a little mellower, check this album out. It is a melancholy piece of art that should not be ignored.


Dustin Blumhagen is a reviewer, interviewer and news contributor at ThePunkSite.com 

Danzig -skeletons

Danzig

Skeletons

Nuclear Blast Entertainment
By

Rating: 3.5/5

 
 

 

 

As a long time fan of The Misfits’ early output, it was exciting to see Glenn Danzig don the face paint after decades of denouncing the importance of the band that gave his musical career its first big push. That being said, it was difficult to remain optimistic about the long awaited new album, as the quality of his output has arguably been decreasing steadily since the early 90s. The fact that Jerry Only released a horrendous covers album under The Misfits name only made the wait more nerve wracking. It only takes a few seconds into the opening track to realize that this isn’t an Only level mess.

The album opens with an obscure cover of “Devil’s Angels,” which is the closest thing to The Misfits that Danzig has recorded in decades. This is such a strong way to begin the album, with plenty of garage punk energy. The raw production on the album is a welcome return to the ragged edginess of early Danzig and serves the covers of songs from the 1960s to 1980s well. While he is generally known as a metal artist these days, many of the strongest songs in the Danzig discography are ballads, which allow his deep voice room to take the spotlight. There are a couple of great examples of that on Skeletons, the most obvious being “Rough Boy” which is a pleasant love song which highlights his fascination with the melodies of 1960s rock music. The punk influence is again obvious on “With A Girl Like You,” which sounds like a long lost Ramones recording. The sound leans more toward straightforward late 90s metal on “Find Somebody,” although there is a lot of melody at the course, which throws things off a little. 

Not every song deserved to make the cut. This could have been a very strong EP release, as there is noticeable filler that could have been cut. Glenn Danzig has a strong bluesy voice that has served him well standing out in the metal scene, but on a song like “Satan,” his caterwaul feels overdone and makes the song drag on much too long. The choice to cover Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” seems overly obvious and the vocal performance is uninspired. While his vocals often make ballads the strongest tracks on his albums, the production on “Crying in the Rain” sounds like he was singing into a tin can, which distracts from the song itself. 

The distance between the highs and lows on the album make for a lack of cohesiveness to the album. Some of the songs will appease fans of recent Danzig releases, while others have a more ragged, retro sound. As mentioned before, Glenn Danzig has a powerful voice which has long been his strongest gift, making up for oft corny lyrics. The song choices are interesting, with “N.I.B.” been the only predictable choice, instead choosing songs that will be obscure to most listeners. This works in his favour, as there is less comparison to the original, allowing him to put his own spin on the music and make it sound more like a proper Danzig release than a throwaway covers album. While Skeletons is definitely not one of the most essential releases from the artist’s extensive catalogue, it is an interesting listen and definitely one of his strongest in decades. 

Seaway

Seaway

Colour Blind

New Damage/ Pure Noise Records
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

With the release of their second full-length, Seaway is attempting to build upon the momentum they found with the recent release of their EP and some high profile tours in the U.S. and overseas with other rapidly rising bands on the scene, including fellow pop punkers, Neck Deep. Their debut, Hoser, was a tidy collection of catchy anthems with frustratingly poor production, but their EP All in My Head showed exceptional growth and gave insight to their potential. While Canadian bands have traditionally struggled to break through outside of the country, the increased exposure given to the band with their signing to Pure Noise Records in the U.S. coupled with relentless touring over the past couple of years has helped to launch the group to the forefront of the modern pop punk scene.

On their second full-length, the guys expand their sound in subtle ways, while still remaining true to their pop punk roots. There are echoes of emo that starts off lead track “Slam.”  The decision to lead with this song shows that they are willing to take chances with their sound, which is important. Too many bands in the genre stagnate early in their career and keep reproducing the same songs as if they were the pop punk AC/DC, which is something we could all do without. There are straightforward pop punk songs that fans of their debut will love, full of catchy choruses and teenage angst, but there is more variation as a whole. Dual vocalists add depth to the sound. Comparisons to New Found Glory are especially relevant when listening to the whiny vocals of Patrick Carleton , but the gravel-throated singing of Ryan Locke prevents them from being a knockoff like many of their peers, adding a Living With Lions vibe to some songs, which is as high of a compliment as can be given to a modern pop punk band. 

The songs still have a youthful energy that fans will expect from the band who made the hilariously corny Seaboiz video, but despite the obvious similarity of that video to Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” they reign in the juvenile humour and skip the idiotic dick jokes. The lyrics are occasionally a little cringeworthy, such as “I’ve got this funny feeling that you’ve got this funny feeling” (Best Mistake) or “So maybe I’m a freak, but you freak me out” (Freak). Overall, though, the guys deftly express the ups and downs of growing up. On “Stubborn Love,” the guys tackle a broken heart with plenty of melody, singing “Cause tonight your hair falls around your ears and it makes me want to stay, but I’m keeping at a distance for all the decisions that I’ve made” before the protagonist quietly slips out the back door. The song has a nostalgic tone that looks at both sides of a breakup, accepting that it is over while feelings still linger. It is one of the points where the band show how far they have come from the goofy songs on Hoser. They look at relationships from a different perspective on “Airhead” discussing a common problem for touring musicians as the guys trade off lines like “Being lonely is different than being alone, Like when you call and nobody picks up the phone.” It has a hopeful tone, showing some emotional maturity, as he admits to occasionally being a “fucking airhead” which shows how much the person the song is directed at loves and accepts him, faults and all. Those who fell in love with the band recently will be happy to hear “Growing Stale” which sounds very similar to “Your Best Friend.” The similarity is intentional, as the guys reprise the line “don’t you go crying now,” tying the tracks together. On “Day She Left,” Locke’s rough-edged vocals really stand out, as the band picks up the tempo for their strongest track on the album. Carleton channels Patrick Stump with his smooth vocals, which nicely contrast Locke’s.

In a very short career, Seaway has managed to grow as musicians efficiently. There is no denying that Colour Blind is a huge leap forward from Hoser, but the guys still manage to retain their youthful energy. It is refreshing to see a Canadian group getting recognition down South and overseas. Hopefully, this will open the doors for some of our other high-quality bands. For now, it is nice to see someone filling the void that Living With Lions left when they slowed down. 

State CHamps

State Champs

Around the World and Back

Pure Noise Records
By

Rating: 2/5

 
 

 

 

Pop punk means different things to different music fans. A long time Ramones fan would likely be very disappointed to have bought the latest State Champs release simply because they were recommended it based on the genre label. These guys are pushing the label to the extreme, arguably writing rock-edged pop music like their peers in 5 Seconds of Summer and All Time Low.

The title track is a simple ballad which features Jules Vera’s Ansley Newman, adding some much-needed variety to the album. The guys give “All You Are is History” an easycore edge, which contrasts nicely with Derek DiScanio’s smooth vocals. The majority of the songs lean toward mainstream alternative radio playlists, especially songs like “Breaking Ground” which is almost instantly forgettable moments after each listen. Those old enough to remember the short lifespan of 90s alt rock group Lit will have an idea of what many of these songs sound like, most notably closer “Tooth and Nail.” For the most part, the songs blend together after repeated listens with a couple of standouts already mentioned. 

The songs on this album are filled to max with catchy hooks that are sweet enough to cause cavities just from listening. They are well written and the lyrics generally avoid being cringeworthy. Perhaps like Fall Out Boy and Green Day before them, State Champs will serve as a gateway that causes young listeners to explore the history of pop punk. For those who are long-time fans of the genre, this is simply a mediocre addition and arguably the weakest release on Pure Noise in what has been a trophy worthy year for the independent label. State Champs have definitely released better music in the past. The over polished production and pop heavy music drags this album down, although quality doesn’t necessarily relate to quantity sold. The radio friendly sound seems constructed with sales in mind and this will likely be the most successful release to date for the group. Just ask yourself before you buy this album: which sold more copies, the latest Screeching Weasel or the latest Nickelback

H20 Use Your Voice

H20

Use Your Voice

Bridge Nine Records
By

Rating: 5/5

 
 

 

 

With just two original albums in the past 14 years, H20 aren’t exactly the most prolific of punk rock groups. Despite the long wait, their last release, Nothing to Prove is widely regarded as the strongest in their catalogue. The covers release provided an interesting gap filler, but it has been a long wait for fans of the band, making it seem like they are the hardcore version of Guns n Roses. However, unlike Axl’s aural mess, the release of Use Your Voice proves that H20 continue to get better with time.

All of the familiar parts of their music are still present, from the lyrics about keeping a Positive Mental Attitude to the melodic blend of hardcore and punk. The album is short and fast, decidedly more aggressive than its predecessor, raging fast and wasting little time. The majority of the songs clock in under two minutes, with none reaching three minutes in length. Toby Morse is arguably the nicest guy in hardcore, spreading a message of unity and equality in a scene that is too often dragged down with a tough guy meathead mentality. While the band have traditionally avoided political discussion in their music, the title track is a rallying cry of support for disillusioned youth (with a subtle nod to their musical idols Youth of Today). Their political leanings are more in line with hardcore than punk, tackling topics like self-empowerment and community. They do however address racism and rioting on “Still Dreaming,” a plea for solidarity in the face of divisive events in the U.S. On “Popage,” Morse celebrates his love of music, including mainstream pop sounds. Those who follow his social media already know that he is an unapologetic fan of Katy Perry and a fan of music in general and he defends his tastes eloquently here. His love of pop culture shows up again on closing track, “True Romance,” which is the sweetest hardcore love song ever yelled, using the line from the movie You’re so cool! to express his love for his wife who has supported his career for decades. While Nothing to Prove was a collaborative album, with an excessive amount of guest artists, the band made the conscious decision to streamline the process this time.

One of the common threads through H2O’s albums is inside nods to friends and heroes. They pay tribute to Youth of Today and The Descendents on the title track and “Popage.” Musically, despite their longtime connection to the New York Hardcore scene, the band continue to have a more melodic sound than their peers, more in line with Gorilla Biscuits than Agnostic Front. The positive hardcore lyrics are one of many reasons to enjoy this album, which feels more uplifting than a majority of the music coming out in recent times. While it feels like the short 20 minutes fly by (shouldn’t this technically be an EP at that length?), this is a solid addition to the all too small discography of a great band who are only getter better 20 years into their career. 

 

Defeater - Abandoned

Defeater

Abandoned (Deluxe)

Epitaph Records
By

Rating: 5/5

 
 

 

 

The commitment to carrying a narrative through multiple albums is admirable. Not many bands can successfully pull such an overarching theme off. For a time Maylene & the Sons of Disaster penned dark Southern Gothic tales of death and redemption, but by their fourth album they’d lost energy and have seemed to fade away in recent years. Comic book fans will remember Coheed & Cambria’s string of concepts, which were interesting as musical companions to the written stories. But in practice, releasing multiple albums that all serve as part of a larger story line has proven difficult. There are very few examples of success. Despite these overwhelming odds, Defeater has released their fifth collection that relates to a working class New Jersey family, this time focusing on the perspective of a Catholic priest. 

On Abandoned, Defeater expand their hardcore sound to allow for more experimentation. It is a bold move since they received flack for including four acoustic tracks on Empty Days, Sleepless Nights, even though they captured the fragile emotions of the protagonist perfectly. Add to that the expectations of purists who already lament their move from Bridge 9 to Epitaph and the band could have been excused for releasing a straight forward hardcore album. Instead they boldly move forward, exploring new musical terrain. The album leads with “Contrition,” an atmospheric track that has sparse vocals over beautiful melodies, reminiscent of Envy. It introduces the story in the form of a broken prayer from the lapsed Catholic priest, who struggles with faith and life throughout the album. 

Musically, the band are as aggressive as ever, but the balance the heavy with the moments of musical beauty. At times, such as during “Atonement,” they fit comfortably alongside their peers in La Dispute, with chaotic sounds and raspy vocals contrasting with calming melodies. The complexities of spoken word pieces and restrained guitars make this an album best appreciated through headphones. The layers of a song like “Vices & Regret” are more accessible in isolation. When the band lets loose, they can rage alongside the best modern hardcore bands. Fast beats and racing tempos (December 1943) bring to mind Comeback Kid, while the darker metal vocal moments (Spared in Hell) are reminiscent of Cancer Bats. The sing along chorus of “Borrowed & Blue” nods to the aforementioned Maylene & the Sons of Disaster. The music explores the limitations of the hardcore and post hardcore scenes, bouncing around from song to song and backing the story with consistently shifting soundscapes. They can be loud and they can do melody with equal skill, keeping the songs from blending into one another.

The deluxe edition includes two additional tracks, which stand out because of their resolutely non-hardcore sounds. On “Still & True” the band explore power pop. This is a great track with a strong 90s alt rock vibe that sounds much more like vocalist Derek Archambault’s other project Alcoa. The song has a healthy dose of melody and peppy whoa oh sing along harmonies. It is a glaring stand out from the rest of the albums harder edge. The album closes with the quiet, acoustic “Let Me Down,” which is the perfect finish to the story of the priest. The sweet vocals and spare guitar shine a light on the silent despair of the main character, as he reflects back on his story, before crooning you let me down with a quiver that sounds on the verge of tears. It reads like a suicide note, talking about covering up alcoholism and suffering from depression. It doesn’t make sense that they chose not to release these songs on one version because they are the perfect way to complete the concept album. Make sure that if you have the option, choose the deluxe version. These are not mere bonus tracks, but an important addition to the entire story.

While many hardcore bands focus on single song laments on love or self empowerment shout alongs, Defeater are driven by their story line. While the story of the family has always been interesting, the examination of the crippling self doubt and loss of faith that fuel the story of the priest may be the most emotional. The pleas go unanswered as he searches for meaning in a dark world. The fact that they make this very specific plot seem so relatable is testament to the skill of the lyricist. When Archambault cries out I was a good man once, but years of unanswered prayers have left me faithless. I was a good man once, Now hopeless and abandoned on “Unanswered,” you can imagine screaming the words toward an empty sky yourself. There are moments when life weighs heavy and the words of the priest ring true. Illness in the family or death of a loved one are reality and in the depth of those darkest days, many of us feel abandoned. 

While Ruiner has always been the most accurate musical comparison point for Defeater’s style of hardcore, they take full advantage of the move to a new label on Abandoned. While staying true to their roots, they have managed to expand their sound on their most fully realized concept to date. Much like the novels of literary masters, each chapter of this story shows maturation and growth. The existential conversations of the priest outline the downfall of a man, once proud and full of faith, now broken and bitter. Like the rest of the story, this a dark tale with intricate details that will begin to emerge after repeated listens. 

The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven

The Wonder Years

No Closer to Heaven

Hopeless Records
By

Rating: 5/5

 
 

 

 

During the past few years The Wonder Years have chronicled the highs and lows of depression and existential angst. The passionate lyrics found an audience who could relate, a group of outsiders looking for someone who could relate. Much like the early days of punk music, the music and its message showed listeners that they were not alone, that their thoughts and feelings were important and that somewhere out there existed people just like them. The evolution that the band has undergone throughout five albums is staggering in magnitude, from the embarrassingly awkward easycore beginnings through modern pop punk to the stylistically mature sound introduced on The Greatest Generation. After wrapping up their trilogy, the guys show that they are comfortable with their skills on the new release, which is a slighter shift in sound than we’ve heard from the band. Instead they build upon the high points of their last album with small explorations of new ideas. Constant touring and a larger recording budget have helped the band most fully realize their vision.

While Dan Campbell’s lyrics have always been a focal point for fans (although there is arguably nothing worth worshipping in duds like “Let’s Moshercise!”), he has significantly grown as a writer over the past couple albums. His appreciation of classic writers has never been a secret, but occasionally the lyrical tributes have been a little awkward. Hemingway’s straightforward prose and descent into alcoholism are appropriate touchstones, but the exceptional work of wordsmith Faulkner is out of Campbell’s wheelhouse, despite the fact that his Southern Gothic tales are also brimming with despair. While there is plenty of self reflection found, there are moments of social commentary that were absent in past releases. On “Stained Glass Ceilings,” he sings John Wayne with a God complex/ Tells me to buy a gun/ Like shooting a teenage kid is gonna solve any problems, touching a nerve that is all too relevant in the Orwellian world of the U.S. today. 

No Closer to Heaven fits thematically in the progression of the last three albums. Campbell expresses discomfort through deadpan realism, forcing listeners to ride along with his emotions as he explores the monotony of everyday life. There are moments of triumph to temper the melancholy, but there are no big surprises here. Strong songwriting and smart lyrics are balanced with capable musicianship and moments of experimentation. It wouldn’t be accurate to place his lyrics alongside masters like John K. Samson or John Darnielle yet, but at 28 years old Campbell has an excellent grasp on the intricacies of emotion.

If you recognize that “Brothers &” serves as a simple intro to “Cardinals,” No Closer to Heaven is 12 tracks of alternative music with some pop punk and folk tendencies weaved in. There are bonus tracks that can be found out there, but they take away from the completeness of the album. Which is exactly what this is, a complete album with wonderful artwork that tells a story of hopelessness. In a digital age, there are still artists who create entire albums as a piece of art (see Defeater’s Abandoned) and that is exactly what we have here. The songs are individually great, but better as a part of the whole, with common threads of birds and sadness tying it all together. Many of the songs will have a familiar feel, but those that expand their sound are the highlights that elevate this release above the rest of their discography. On “Stained Glass Ceilings” they experiment with emo guitar parts in the hushed beginning, which slowly builds toward an intense breakdown which features letlive.’s Jason Butler adding unexpected gravel throated grit that serves as a brilliant contrast from the melodic majority of the track. On “You in January” the music has a driving power pop sound in the vein of Third Eye Blind, which is interesting partnered with Campbell’s easily identifiable vocal style. There are times when the music reaches anthemic heights with soaring vocals (Palm Reader) and moments of 1960’s harmonies (A Song for Ernest Hemingway). Single “Cigarettes & Saints” is a restrained song that could have fit just as easily on an Aaron West & the Roaring Twenties release. These elements help to inject the music with depth, helping to distinguish it from previous releases.  

Part elegy to a lost friend, part autobiographical account of struggling to cope with depression, the album has an undeniable bleakness that weighs heavy. It is a concept album in the loosest of terms, more accurately a musical discussion of mental illness and the weight of societal expectation in the Western World. There are moments of tenderness found here, but at times the band is at their most aggressive. The balance between chaos and calm threads itself throughout the track list. Some listeners still insist on lazily labelling The Wonder Years a pop punk band, but their music evolved well beyond the stifling limitations of that scene albums ago. The literary approach to the lyrics allows the band to explore themes of death, faith and depression in depth. 

 

Blacklist Royals Premiere Cover of The Cure

The Rufus brothers are back with an EP of cover songs. The punk duo have debuted the second track from their three song release, Dead Time Vol. 1: Songs of The Cure. After previously showcasing “Plainsong,” Blacklist Royals return with one of the group’s most beloved tunes, “Pictures of You.” 

All three tracks will be available as a free download soon. In the meantime, you can stream “Pictures of You” here.

Nat Rufus explains that the song choice. 

Pictures of You has always been one of my favorite songs by The Cure, and just seemed like it would be kind of a challenge to cover. Our version of it was a little more laid back than the other two songs we chose, so we thought including it would make for a really well-rounded EP.

Those that missed the first track release can watch the gloriously 80s influenced video below.

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Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes- Blossom

Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes

Blossoms

International Death Cult
By

Rating: 5/5

 
 

 

 

Far from where the headliners were grandstanding, on a tiny stage near the edge of a raceway a small crowd stood quietly waiting for a band that most had never heard before to take the stage. As pop groups like 3OH!3 and Brokencyde took the stage alongside Canadian screamo giants like Alexisonfire and Silverstein, it was clear that the Warped Tour scene was transitioning away from its punk roots. But those who had remained through the heat of the day were lucky enough to witness a group of black clad young men emerge from the haze. Frank Carter and Gallows proceeded to put on one of the most cathartic live sets I have witnessed in decades of concerts. The angry Carter spewed venom like a rattlesnake, his vitriolic lyrics supported by the chaotic musical accompaniment. The band got out into the crowd and took a violent beating alongside those lucky enough to witness the spectacle. I immediately fell in love with bleak Grey Britain, which remains one of my favourite albums to this day. Few bands have ever lived up to that level of live intensity and most (The Chariot, Minor Threat, At the Drive In) no longer exist.

Like most great things, Gallows soon went down in flames. Frank Carter and his brother left the group, while the band continued on releasing mediocre music with Wade MacNeil (Black Lungs, Alexisonfire), as Carter worked on music with short lived project Pure Love

Frank Carter has returned with a vengeance on Blossoms. The album begins with the aptly named Juggernaut, a raging hardcore blast that easily eclipses anything his former band mates have released since Grey Britain. It a wildly angry call to arms, as he screams even on my own you can’t stop me. Listening to the rest of the album, it becomes clear that he isn’t boasting. This is an energetic collection of hardcore and punk tracks with some of the musical depth that made his final Gallows appearance so great. 

Lyrically, the album centres largely around dark themes. On Paradise, he attacks suicide bombers and their faith, slowing things down to a sludge metal level as he sings with a voice reminiscent of Silverchair’s debut. Each moment of calm respite is tempered with vigilance and Carter is back to tearing his vocal cords to shreds again on Loss, which chronicles everything that he has lost, as he screams it’s fucking lonely and we all die too. There is no escaping the darkness in his world, as everything crumbles. Tempos frequently shift to prevent monotony. He is singing again on Beautiful Death, which plods along at a crawling pace. It maximizes the effects of changing pace, in a way that only Envy could equal. Although most comfortable as a hardcore album, the dirty blues closer I Hate You is a wonderful way to end on a high note. Carter’s thick accent spews out angry lines like it makes me violently angry when I see you alive, while his singing vocals again bring to mind Silverchair’s Daniel Johns. 

Frank Carter has returned with a vengeance, smashing sonic stereotypes and aiming his hatred at anyone unfortunate enough to get in his way. While always underrated in previous roles, he has honed his performance to deliver his most solid release yet. The Rattlesnakes effectively back up their leader’s vocals with relentless energy and expanded musical talent. A solid release from start to finish, Blossom showcases a musician at the top of his game. 

 

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Frank Turner

Positive Songs for Negative People

Xtra Mile Recordings
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

Frank Turner has come a long way from the hungover punk quietly strumming his guitar on a side stage at a folk festival. With his last two albums, he clearly announced his intentions to cater to the arena crowds, adding plenty of accompaniment to supplement his sing-along anthems. Somewhere during this transition his songs began to play on mainstream radio and his shows became an awkward blend of young drunken frat bros and old punk rockers. Having released six albums, three compilations, a live recording, splits and numerous EPs in only the past nine years, Turner is undeniably a prolific recording artist. But this tendency to release every snippet of song has resulted in some dead weight in the past, including the bulk of his previous full-length, Tape Deck Heart

Thankfully, Positive Songs is a refreshing song collection from North America’s favourite troubadour with a funny accent. This isn’t a complete departure, rather it seems like a logical progression in his continued album cycle. There are many England-specific references that most people won’t get (although you don’t need to know Winnipeg to appreciate The Weakerthans), lots of references to roads and plenty of charming songs about love, sadness and travelling. Where the last release seemed like an awkward glimpse into his personal diary of heartbreak filtered through Foo Fighters styled arena rock, this time around we see glimmers of hope. This isn’t exactly hardcore PMA though, Turner’s knack for self-deprecation and sad bastard barroom sing-alongs are still present. The juxtaposition suggested in the title is aptly played out in the song list, as a choir sings rejoice, rebuild, the storm has gone (The Next Storm) seconds before Turner makes the proclamation that I am so much worse than I have ever been (The Opening Act of Spring). But the dominant emotion on the album is channeled on Get Better, which is a triumphant call to healing, as he sings repeatedly We can get better because we’re not dead yet as the song ends. 

While musically the album is not a large departure from what we have seen before, there is enough variation to keep it from feeling stagnant. On Glorious You a funky bass line drives the song as the lyrics celebrate what makes a friend great. The backing vocals from talented Canadians Billy the Kid and Lindi Ortega  add some interesting harmonies. The ghost of Frank Turner’s punk rock past briefly shows up on Out of Breath, which effectively blends post-hardcore, arena rock and a dose of Celtic punk. While it sounds like a recipe for disaster, the lively track provides a welcome change of pace in the album and adds to its diversity, which is where Tape Deck Heart failed so miserably. On Josephine, the music is reminiscent of The Killers, as he sings a love song with plenty of whoas in the background. The music at the start of Love Forty Down sounds like he is attempting a folk punk cover of a pop punk song. It’s both ridiculous and wonderful at the same time in a way that only he could pull off. On the final track, he completes the cycle that started with the restrained folk of the opener. Song for Josh is a live acoustic track that laments the suicide of a friend. It is a strong finish to the album. 

On the first listen through it is clear that this is a great album. It is a long way from the scrappy folk of Campfire Punk Rock, but it is one of the strongest of his many song collections. Perhaps it is just the gradual realization that he is an artist who is going to play what he wants.Many people felt a similar level of acceptance when Against Me! released Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which came from a completely different musical world than Reinventing Axl Rose, but was just as great. I accept the fact that I might be standing next to a kid half my age at a Frank Turner show. Good music is simply good music.

The Wonder Years Announce New Album & Unveil First Single

Wonder YearsPhiladelphia pop punk group The Wonder Years have announced first details for their upcoming album. 

Hopeless Records will release No Closer to Heaven on September 4, 2015.

The album features an appearance from letlive. vocalist Jason Aalon Butler.

Full tracklisting can be seen below. Preorders are available here. The first single from the album, Cardinals, can be heard below.

 

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Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Familiar Faces

Independent
By

Rating: 5/5

 
 

 

 

From the frozen wasteland of Edmonton, Alberta comes fresh new pop punk group Nothing Gold Can Stay. With a raw sound that blends emo and punk sounds with heartfelt lyrics, they immediately stand out as one of the most exciting groups to enter the scene from Canada. As Pure Noise Records snaps up groups like Seaway and Like Pacific, it seems like there may finally be some appreciation for the music of the north. But bands from Ontario have traditionally had an easier time breaking through in the U.S. due to their geographical location. Still, the fact remains that the greatest Canadian punk bands have come from the prairies (Chixdiggit, Propagandhi, SNFU), so it seems fitting to acknowledge that Nothing Gold Can Stay easily outshine all of their peers in the currently oversaturated pop punk scene.

Staying true to the recent trend of expanding musical territory in the pop punk scene, Familiar Faces bears little resemblance to the straightforward bubblegum punk made famous by Ramones. Instead, their sound sits somewhere between the gritty hardcore and skate punk influenced pop punk of Living With Lions and the literary emo blend made popular by The Wonder Years. The brief lead track What’s Left of Us Now? introduces the softer side of the group, with a melodic intro that eases the listener into the album. At times, there are echoes of grunge that add depth to the tracks. On No Place Like It the music takes on a rougher edge with plenty of 90’s style, although the sweet vocals ensure that the song stays rooted in pop punk. Lead single Everything I Ever Loved is a solid track that expands this sound further, increasing the tempo and adding in soaring vocals. The guys delve into easycore on All That I Hate, with gang vocals and a heavier sound, although once again the lead vocals are sweet enough to contrast. On the title track, they switch tempos effectively, alternating between aggressive punk and pop sing-alongs with organ accompaniment. While the EP is frustratingly short at only six tracks, the acoustic version of Everything I Ever Loved provides a suitable wrap up to the album. After the shifting musical explorations found on the rest of the album, this allows for a mellow reprieve. The song is well written and the simple arrangement allows for attention to focus to the structure and lyrics.

If the band themselves had not stated that they took their name from the New Found Glory album, it would be easy to assume that they were fans of poet Robert Frost. This isn’t cookie cutter mall punk, nor is it watered down scene chasing music. The gritty edge to the music ensures that this won’t be lumped in with Neck Deep, even when the smooth vocals approach Patrick Stump territory. His ability to adopt a throaty growl at will adds a depth that is lacking in a lot of pop punk bands today. Despite the presumedly low budget that an independent band has to work with, this album sounds far superior to many of the current releases from bands with much higher profiles. Imagine what they could do with label support?

Nothing Gold Can Stay are an excellent new band who hail from a city far removed from the rest of the scene. Their geographic isolation is no doubt a hindrance to the band, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they have compiled what is so far the best pop punk release of the year. 

 

The Story So Far

The Story So Far

The Story So Far

Pure Noise Records
By

Rating: 3/5

 
 

 

 

The Story So Far release their third album knowing that they have earned themselves a certain amount of comfort with the success of their previous two full-lengths. After the success of Under Soil and Dirt and their first hit single, Quicksand, the group found themselves launched to the top of the current wave of pop punk just as it exploded. Despite the common belief that a self-titled album heralds an artistic evolution for a group, the band instead made the safe choice to revisit the sounds that made them household names.

With ten songs covering a half hour, the band manages to avoid the trappings of excess. When they drag on a little long like on How You Are, it is obvious where an unnecessary instrumental sprawl could have been edited out. For the most part though, the songs are succinct and are stronger for it. Parker Cannon’s vocals are still easily recognizable, although he appears to have toned down the screaming a little bit this time, preferring to focus on singing more often. Yet two albums later we find that a song like Nerve is virtually unrecognizable from Quicksand on first casual listen. With time, intricate differences become clearer, but it is evident that the band are comfortable sticking with a well-worn formula. The sole standout track is the meandering Phantom which has a strong early Jimmy Eat World vibe. It is a wonderful track that serves as a reprieve from the whiny singing that makes most of the rest of the album indistinguishable from itself. 

The Story So Far have adopted the AC/DC musical theory, choosing to appease fans with more of the same rather than taking a chance with the slightest artistic experimentation. This is a good album and sits well alongside their previous releases. The songs are strong and catchy and show why the band deserves the recognition that they have. Despite this though, there is still a bit of disappointment knowing that they chose the safe route. What if The Wonder Years were still making music like the mess that was Get Stoked on It!? The pop punk scene has been criticized for stagnation many times over the years, whether it is bands trying to copy the Ramones or Green Day chord for chord. This is an enjoyable album with few obvious faults, but let’s hope that the band makes the bold move to expand their sound on the next release, if only to prove that they are more than a one trick pony. This is a decent release, but hardly a necessary purchase when there are thousands of other equally talented bands waiting in the wings for your hard earned dollars. 

Nothing Gold Can Stay – Everything I Ever Loved

Nothing Gold Can StayIn the wake of their recent split release with England’s Highlives, Edmonton pop punk group Nothing Gold Can Stay have released a music video for the first single off of their new EP release.

The Familiar Faces EP will be available for download through Bandcamp and the guys will have physical copies available on their upcoming Eastern Canadian tour. 

The full band version of Everything I Ever Loved can be viewed below.

 

Man Overboard

Man Overboard

Heavy Love

Rise Records
By

Rating: 3/5

 
 

 

 

 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that I never really cared for Heart Attack, which felt like a less vital release than the pop punk group’s self-titled album. So naturally, with such different views of their past releases, listening to Heavy Love for the first time was met with great trepidation. Music is such a personal experience that it is difficult to separate one’s current life circumstances from their view of any given song.

Like their name suggests, there are more than a few moments where Blink 182’s influence shines clear. But Man Overboard are more than a simple tribute band. Their sound has grown over the years, perhaps bolstered by their extensive recording catalogue. Some bands release 10 songs every 3 years, whereas these guys consistently release acoustic songs, live tracks and other random musical offerings for fans. While their style leans more toward the pop end of the spectrum than pop punk groups like The Story So Far or Four Year Strong, they have more to offer than bands like All Time Low or 5 Seconds of Summer.

While the vocals are easily identifiable as Zac Eisenstein, the music explores a wider territory than the band have ventured into before. In the past we’ve seen a heavy emo influence on stand out tracks like Montrose, but for the most part the group hasn’t strayed too far from their pop punk roots. This time around we see elements of power pop on Now That You’re Home and alt rock on the 90s radio friendly Deal. Unfortunately, both of those tracks fall flat and beg for the skip button. Much like the new stuff from Fireworks, these sort of tracks fit awkwardly alongside pop punk. The band excel with straightforward tracks like For Jennie. Their boundary pushing does work sometimes, such as on the loud and fast Cliffhanger, which is an easycore gem in the vein of Set Your Goals. This is a solid track which has hints of skate punk and hardcore, which help it stand out on the album. On Invincible the band adopts a swing swagger, which is vaguely reminiscent of Green Day’s Hitchin’ A Ride if the trio were raised on Blink 182 rather than the Descendents. It is an undeniably interesting track.

The album feels a little bit disjointed as the guys explore a wide range of influences. The thread that weaves it all together is an appreciation of pop music, but the variety of sounds fails to create a cohesive album. In a modern world where some people thrive on buying single tracks, this won’t be an issue, but those who prefer their albums as a whole, this is a strange offering from an established band. 

Casey Bolles

Casey Bolles

Freshmen

Pure Noise Records
By

Rating: 4.5/5

 
 

 

 

 

 With a never ending supply of new music coming from places like Spotify and Bandcamp, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Bands start to sound the same as they attempt to imitate their influences and chase trends. Originality suffers at the expense of being heard. On rare occasions, something exciting jumps out of the crowd and surprises the listener. Casey Bolles is one of those artists who stands apart from his peers with an engaging collection of acoustic songs.

On Freshmen we are introduced to an artist who relies upon his acoustic guitar and quirky delivery to convey his poetic lyrics. There are of course influences that appear at various times, from the Max Bemis vocalization on Brain Sweater to the occasional warble that brings to mind Modern Baseball. With Cowboy Killers, he may have managed to write the mellowest track with the most metal title ever. These are catchy acoustic tracks that are supported by Bolles’ strong voice, which is surprisingly strong in spite of his young age. The melancholy tone and sleepy music make this a perfect rainy day listen. While not as intellectual as Bright Eyes, it does contain many of the qualities that make Connor Oberst’s music appealing, such as the ability to evoke emotion from simple melodies and spare guitar accompaniment.

The spare accompaniment ensures that the focus remains on the vocals and the lyrics, which both contain a wealth of barely restrained emotion. This is an amazing debut from a young artist. Rarely do debuts contain so much maturity. Granted, the lyrical content is focused on self-involved themes like young love, but it is portrayed in an interesting way that exhibits enough originality to stand apart from Bolles’ peers. This is an album that should be listened to at least once, if only to hear something refreshingly honest in a creative manner. 

Sudden Suspension

Sudden Suspension

There's A Bigger Picture Here

Bad Timing Records
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

 There is no denying that pop punk has been enjoying a resurgence in the past few years. The genre has expanded to include a much wider range of styles than the Screeching Weasel and Ramones sound that gave birth to the label. The current wave of pop punk bands have combined influences as diverse as shoegaze, 90s grunge and power pop. Some bands sing about pizza and teenage romance. Others focus on existential crises as the singer’s 30s rapidly approach. It is an extremely broad definition, which includes bands like Sudden Suspension and Teenage Bottlerocket, who share very little in common beyond an appreciation of catchy lyrics and punk-related music.

The seven songs on this release lean toward the style that has been made prominent by bands like Real Friends and The Wonder Years. While the lyrics are well written, there is a noticeable lack of maturity. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as they are more universally relatable. Nothing confuses me more than seeing 13 year old kids passionately singing along to Aaron West & the Roaring Twenties, when they couldn’t possibly relate to the empty existentialism of aging into your 30s and the heavy weight of divorce. But most people have experienced broken hearts and failed relationships in their life, which is where this album focuses.

The vocals have a slight whine, which suits the emotional lyrics. On As Good As It Gets they put forth a message for the To Write Love on Her Arms generation, singing I guess this is as good as it gets for now / My friends keep telling me to just wait it out. That is where this music excels; it contains both melancholy and hope, balancing two emotions that reoccur throughout life. They provide the requisite acoustic track on We’ll Always Have Each Other, which is a pretty song that slows things down for a moment.

This is a short EP that blows by in about 15 minutes. Luckily, it warrants repeated listens. For a relatively new band, Sudden Suspension manage to stand out in a flooded scene by recording solid modern pop punk with emotional lyrics. Rarely does a new band stand so strong among their established peers, but this release proves that this trio deserves a closer listen. With their increasing growth displayed on each release, it will be interesting to hear their eagerly anticipated full length. As life alters their perspectives and guides them toward maturation, there is a good chance that these guys will solidify their sound and rise to the top of their scene. 

Four Year Strong

Four Year Strong

Four Year Strong

Pure Noise Records
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

Four Year Strong have a bipolar history. Ignoring their raw demo It’s Our Time, their legitimate debut album was a great example of raw pop punk blended with hardcore that helped define the group as one of the leaders of the Easycore movement. They made the odd choice to follow that up with a terrible covers album. But on Enemy of the World, the guys focused their sound to create a definitive album of modern pop punk with catchy choruses and plenty of riffs. They managed to hold their own on tours with legendary live bands like Every Time I Die and logged a lot of miles on Warped Tour. Then they released their next album, which was panned by critics and fans alike, at which point they went the way of their scene buddies Set Your Goals and disappeared for a while. Looking back at their four full length releases, it would seem that it would be appropriate to judge the music by the cover. Their odd number releases have had wild cover art, which supported the goofy song titles and great music within. Their even releases have mundane covers, which gives warning to the forgettable music within. Based upon this logic, one would assume that their self-titled album suggests a return to the fun Four Year Strong that fans love.

Once the squealing feedback of the opening track fades away, it becomes clear that this is indeed a return to form. The synths are still absent, but this only helps strength to the hardcore riffs that are the backbone of their sound. The breakdowns are tempered by the pop infused catchy choruses. The dual vocals add depth to the songs, a ragged form of harmony bringing layers to the music. There are moments of creative guitar work that push the boundaries of the genre, but they are used sparsely which adds to their effect. At times the guitars have an 80s metal tone, such as the noodling on The Sound of Your Heart. Lyrically, the thematic material is familiar. There is an underlying positivity threaded throughout, with messages of self-empowerment more effective than those of the average straight edge band.  At the same time there is a simmering anger present, which is perhaps backlash against those who wrote the band off after their last full length.

The self-titled album often heralds a rebirth for a band. After the lackluster presentation from their last full length, Four Year Strong have returned with force with an album that revitalizes Easycore, adding in some new elements while staying true to the pop punk and hardcore formula. It is a powerful return to form for a great live band. 

Thursday Detail Waiting 15th Anniversary Edition And Debut New Music Video

Thursday - Collect RecordsDisbanded New Jersey post hardcore group Thursday released a special edition 15th anniversary version of their debut album, Waiting on March 23.

The new version of Waiting will include the original 9 songs from the debut, plus 3 previously unreleased tracks from that era. It is being released on vinyl in addition to CD and digital versions, with a 7″ containing the bonus tracks. The project is being released through singer Geoff Rickley’s Collect Records.

To celebrate the release of the special edition re-release, Thursday have debuted a new official video for “This Side of Brightness,” which can be viewed below.

Physical copies can be ordered here. Full track listing can be seen below.

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Rancid Tribute Album Details Announced

RancidRancid fans have long awaited the mythical Hooligans United tribute release. Details have finally been released!

On April 14, 2015, Smelvis Records will release the tribute which features 51 punk and ska bands covering songs from throughout the Rancid’s career. The immense project shows promise with a number of high quality artists contributing songs. 

Contributing artists range from the obvious (The Interrupters, Street Dogs) to the surprising (Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Kepi Ghoulie). 

The album will be released as a double CD, 3 x 12″ vinyl or a digital download which features 3 additional tracks.

Pre sales begin today at Smelvis Records site. 

Full track listing below.

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