Showing posts with label pop punk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pop punk. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

video review: 'morbid stuff' by PUP

I know, I'm late to this... and will be late to my next review too, so stay tuned! 

album review: 'morbid stuff' by PUP

You know, it's funny, I was talking with a fellow Canadian music writer when I was catching a few punk bands performing in downtown Toronto and mostly making fun of the label guys who are clearly too cool for any of this and aren't nearly as inconspicuous as they think they are, and I was wondering why the hell they were even here. Sure, punk can move units on the festival circuit, but that scene is nowhere close to the market share it was even a decade ago. But then she pointed out something obvious: they had to be there. Even if the majority of those bar bands would turn out to be nothing or would flame out or become the underground lifers for which music is a hobby, every so often you'd get an act like Fucked Up or Japandroids or PUP, and whatever's left of larger rock/punk labels would need to find them somehow.

And it was that conversation that leaped to mind when I went through PUP's back catalog again for this review: because man, I've heard a lot of pop punk bar acts that fit close to what PUP is delivering. Huge abrasive riffs, shouted vocals, far better guitar and drum work that you wouldn't expect from the old pop punk set in the 2000s thanks to a lingering post-hardcore influence, lyrics ripping sheets from the third wave of emo - really, the bands that blow up with this sound are the ones that actually can write sticky songs and hooks, and that's what PUP had. I'll freely admit not quite loving what PUP brought to the table - I've long felt the band had missed some tightness in their first two projects even if the hooks were there, especially on the debut which I think I like more than The Dream Is Over - but given how much critical acclaim has fallen on their third album Morbid Stuff, which many have suggested is their most refined and paradoxically raucous project to date, I really had to make time to check this out, so what did we get from Morbid Stuff?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

video review: 'sister cities' by the wonder years

Man, this was long in coming - and holy shit, this was awesome! Definitely happy to have covered this.

Next up, before I tackle Laura Veirs, I've got a crossover in the works, so stay tuned!

album review: 'sister cities' by the wonder years

So here's something as a music critic I'm very conscious of, but I doubt is noticed by anyone else: the 'token' album. And even if you're not a critic you've probably seen evidence of this in "I don't like x genre but I like this". Now on the one hand the records that typically fall into this narrow category can hit universal appeal that even those who might not be fond of the genre can't deny the greatness, but when you have musical subgenres that don't tend to get critical respect, there's an air of condescension that comes with these picks that can be pretty obnoxious. Now I've already mentioned this can happen with artists like Kacey Musgraves, but she was making an obvious play for crossover appeal - what we're going to be talking about today are artists who are damn great within their own genre and yet get picked up as critical darlings as the 'token band' by folks and critics who'll never deign to go deeper.

And yet with a band like The Wonder Years, you'd think critics would have learned. Coming from the fertile intersection of pop punk and the 2010s emo revival, their early work may have been slagged as formulaic, but by 2011 they had hit a serious stride with Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing, tapping into the decay of American suburbia and existential teenage angst on a much broader, more universal scale. This is a group that fused the layered, personal detail of emo with the huge hooks of pop punk, and it was a synthesis that won over fans of the genre very quickly, especially on their follow-ups The Greatest Generation and No Closer To Heaven, records that are pretty damn great even if I personally prefer Suburbia. But those records started to get picked up by some critics as their 'token' pop punk or emo act on year end lists, and as much as that could feel galling from the outside, it did mean their newest record Sister Cities was starting to pick up a lot more attention... which might have come a rough time, as many of the longtime fans were saying this record didn't quite hold up to earlier releases. But hey, I still wanted to cover it given that I've been criminally late to the party with this group before, so how is Sister Cities?

Friday, September 22, 2017

video review: 'the peace and the panic' by neck deep

Okay, this was worth covering. Definitely a solid record, definitely worth your time.

And on the topic of surprises that were definitely worth covering... stay tuned!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

album review: 'the peace and the panic' by neck deep

Yes, I know I'm late to talking about this one. I also know that if I wanted to I could have voted to cover this record earlier, and I didn't - it got to the top of the schedule organically, and that's fine. And if any of this sounds like I'm not looking forward to covering this, I wouldn't quite say that's accurate - more that I've got a swathe of records that attracted a lot more interest, and... okay, might as well deal with this now: I don't review a lot of pop punk, as you probably all know at this point. I don't mind the genre fusion, it's definitely catchy and can bring a certain verve and energy to spice up my schedule, but it's not something I actively seek out the same way I will indie country or indie rock or black metal or certain strains of hip-hop. Most of this is because while pop punk at its best captures the electricity and firepower of both its component genres, there's a whole lot of material that I just find okay without being truly interesting. And yes, a big part of this is songwriting, which can feel near-permanently adolescent, but another factor is that when the band does get older or wants to experiment towards power pop or indie rock or emo or just plain punk rock, the sound often gets more diverse and interesting - I've heard a lot of pop punk, don't get me wrong, but a factor of that is a lot of the mid-tier bands really start to run together for me.

So what about Neck Deep, a Welsh group that broke out in the 2010s with some reasonably well-received EPs before signing to Hopeless for two albums? Well, I'd probably classify them as a prime example of what I'm talking about: a decent enough band that occasionally took some chances in composition, but the writing never really grabbed me beyond isolated moments of cleverness and they definitely wore their influences strongly, like Blink-182 and especially A Day To Remember - which makes sense, given the frontman of that group produced their 2015 album. But shortly after that album was released their founding guitarist Lloyd Roberts left the band on ugly terms - replaced by Sam Bowden, a hardcore guitarist formerly of Blood Youth - and they connected with producer Mike Green, who you might recognize from behind All Time Low, Pierce The Veil, and a few of the poppier-leaning bands in this genre. Not a bad thing, and the band took a little more time to iron out the kinks, so this could be worthwhile, so what did I get from The Peace And The Panic?

Friday, April 21, 2017

video review: 'you're not as _____ as you think' by sorority noise

I can't be the only one who is a little surprised that of the emo revival records I've covered (and that's precious few indeed), the first out of the gate is deconstructionist. Huh, looks like my audience knows me.

Anyway, before I get back to the schedule we're going to be taking a little detour on a special collab I've got coming up, so stay tuned!

album review: 'you're not as _____ as you think' by sorority noise

So I probably should have covered this band earlier. Indeed, if you were to look at my past few years of music reviews, an in-the-know follower would spot there's a considerable hole in my reviews, a subgenre that has experienced quite the critical revival that I haven't covered. 

And that subgenre is emo - and yes, I'm referring to the musical subgenre that broke off from hardcore punk and post-hardcore in the early 90s, not the overwrought aesthetic that was beaten into the ground in the mid-to-late 2000s. Now as I mentioned in my Falling In Reverse review, my knowledge of post-hardcore is a little more lacking than I'd prefer to admit, and as such I was exposed to emo music like the majority of people were: through the mainstream crossovers. Oh, I know there were some people who were on the ground floor for Rites Of Spring or Jawbreaker, but I got exposed to it most when I started hearing Jimmy Eat World and then the more theatrical bent that came a few years later - which, if I'm being brutally honest, I tended to like more. From there I took in a lot of the mid-2000s scene with my general liking for Say Anything and I've made some inroads into back catalogs whenever pop punk adjacent to the subgenre gets covered, but when I heard about the emo revival from acts like Touche Amore or The Hotelier or The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die... well, I just wasn't interested. And that's not a judgement on quality, believe it or not - there was just other stuff I'd prefer to talk about and explore, trying to plug as many of my other knowledge gaps like electronic music and black metal.

That said, when I have found the time to listen to more of the emo revival, I've found acts I like, which takes us to Sorority Noise. Thanks to Patreon they wound up on my schedule and going through their first two albums, I found a lot to like - they had a good knack for hooks, some modestly clever and honest writing, and there was real progression from their debut Forgettable to their more melancholic but more tuneful and refined Joy, Departed in 2015. As such, I had every reason to think I'd probably like their newest album You're Not As _____ As you Think, especially if the confessional honesty hit some interesting new places and the tunes were as strong. So, what did we get?

Monday, April 17, 2017

video review: 'coming home' by falling in reverse

So yeah, this... actually not quite as painful as I was expecting, but it's pretty bad all the same. Eh, whatever.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and a record I've been eagerly anticipating all year, so stay tuned!

album review: 'coming home' by falling in reverse

Well folks, we finally got there. We've finally landed in the territory that I was dreading but knew with Patreon knew it was only a matter of time before I hit - the sort of Warp Tour band dregs that came in the aftermath of the pop rock boom of the mid-2000s and hasn't gone away. You know the place: where post-hardcore blurred with all the trends of modern pop and rock that nobody wants to hear to mutate into genres like crabcore, electronicore, deathcore, and a brand of pop punk blurred with screamo that traded insight or heartfelt power or even raw cleverness for pure obnoxiousness.

Hey, can you tell I'm talking about Falling In Reverse yet? Yeah, just because I've avoided them like the plague before this review doesn't mean I didn't know about Ronnie Radke's project after Escape The Fate fell apart. I actually had my first exposure to the group from seeing them - along with a lot of other horrible bands I hope to never cover on this show - on Mues' show First Impressions, and characteristically my first impression was a significant amount of revulsion. Yeah, their lead guitarist could pick up a tune on the solo and they could build to a decent if utterly derivative groove, but Radke's mugging delivery and the sense he bought into all of the lyrics he brayed made him utterly impossible to like. At least when Fall Out Boy gave the middle finger to their audience on Save Rock And Roll you can tell there was craftsmanship in the writing or experimentation - whereas that same year, Falling In Reverse released Fashionably Late which tried to pile in the synth against painfully gated drums, a ridiculous mishmash of genres, and utterly insufferable writing. And while there was a part of me that thought they might have been doing this ironically, sort of like the alternative metal genre blend Icon For Hire did, revisiting the record for this review convinced me otherwise - painfully. Thankfully, the band pivoted back to their blend of post-hardcore and pop punk with their 2015 record Just Like You - granted, that presumes you like a lot of post-hardcore, which for the most part I just don't. It at least felt like a ballpark where their sound and writing fit better... which they looked to be abandoning on their very next project which was going straight into pop punk space rock. I'm assuming that's the only reason why someone requested this - maybe as revenge for being ambivalent on that Starset record I've already forgotten - but whatever, there was a certain morbid curiosity in seeing how Ronnie Radke's brand of mugging would translate to the stars, so what did we get with Coming Home?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

video review: 'eternity, in your arms' by creeper

So this was a fun review to put together. My voice is still a little fried from being sick, but overall, pretty pleased with how this turned out, great record.

Next up, another cut from deep within Bandcamp, so stay tuned!

album review: 'eternity, in your arms' by creeper

Before we begin, let's go back about a decade to the pop rock scene in 2006-07. These were the years of My Chemical Romance, Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy, and the peak of the mainstream emo boom that would turn about a third of teenagers scene that year. Now as I've said in the past, I wasn't really one of them - I was knee-deep in symphonic and power metal at the time, clearly I was embracing darker, heavier material - but that didn't mean I wasn't aware of or appreciate the music that was getting airplay. But it became a little hard that beyond the catchy, radio-friendly melodies, mainstream pop rock was embracing a certain image that was a little more baroque, for lack of better words, drawing on horror kitsch to craft a plainly theatrical image. 

And of course this was not new - the mainstream music scene has a habit of pulling on horror trends to construct weird or creepy instrumentals, often using the theatricality to blunt things from getting too weird - with the exception of the 90s alternative scene, of course, which frankly got away with a bewildering amount. But it tends to come in waves of popularity, often crashing hard at the point of overexposure, which last time in mainstream emo and pop rock around 2009. 

Fast-forward to now and the debut of an English horror punk band called Creeper, who had been building some buzz in their native country with a few EPs since their formation in 2014. Now I had heard good things going in - not just inspired by My Chemical Romance, but also calling back to glam rock, the Misfits and even Meat Loaf in their embrace of theatrical bombast. Now the last time I had heard someone adjacent to this vein cite some similar inspirations was Kyle Craft, and his debut album last year Dolls of Highland was a criminally underappreciated masterpiece, and thus I had a lot of curiosity going into this, especially as it's been getting frankly astounding amounts of critical acclaim. So with Eternity, In Your Arms, are we on the cusp of something big here?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

video review: 'life without sound' by cloud nothings

Well, this was way too long in coming, but I'm kind of happy it happened. Also, the horizon line on the album cover somehow synced up with my couch and it's unnerving as all hell, I can't not see it...

Anyway, more indie rock next, stay tuned!

album review: 'life without sound' by cloud nothings

I tend to talk a lot about artistic progression in these reviews, how artists choose to evolve or mature their sound over time, placing everything in context. But here's the unfortunate other side of all of this: sometimes an act might grow or mature or evolve in a particular way that might be good for the band, but not always to my tastes as a critic. And I can't tell you how unbelievably frustrating that is, especially if you can tell the level of quality remains the same - but it happens. Sometimes it just doesn't catch your ear in the same way, it doesn't resonate on the same level.

So take Cloud Nothings for instance. Like most people, I really loved their 2012 Steve Albini-produced album Attack On Memory for its bite and smart hooks and well-defined writing. And yet when they released the follow-up two years later... see, it wasn't that the album was bad, but it didn't have the same edge. Part of which I will blame on a change in producers to John Congleton, but the hooks just weren't as sticky to me, it just didn't feel as sharp, partially because of the loss of their main guitarist and partially because the production seemed to muddy the band's strengths by pushing into fuzzier territory. It just didn't feel as immediate or gripping, and when word was coming down the pipe that this new project Life Without Sound was going to be both a little cleaner - courtesy of producer John Goodmanson, known for his work with Sleater-Kinney and Deathcab For Cutie - a little brighter, a little more relaxed... well, I had concerns. But hey, did Cloud Nothings surpass my expectations?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

video review: 'near to the wild heart of life' by japandroids

Well, this was actually a fair bit of fun. It's not as strong as Celebration Rock, but still, if you're a fan, you'll dig this.

Next up, though... yikes. Stay tuned!

album review: 'near to the wild heart of life' by japandroids

So here's a confession about me: I didn't really cut loose or run wild in high school. 

I know, that's totally shocking, but the truth is that for as much as I was dipping my toes into metal and anarchist philosophy in the mid-2000s, I wasn't really a wild kid. A big part of that was sports - I was huge into track & field and I basically managed to drag all of my D&D group along with me onto the team - a big part of it was my own academic ambitions - I went to university out of province to study physics of all things, I needed high grades - and if you couldn't tell by the previous D&D reference, I'm a huge nerd. Coupled with the fact I went to a private Catholic school with a graduating class of less than forty kids that was really too small for many cliques, I was involved on the debating team and a bit of musical theater, and my parents gave me a considerable leash to prove my responsibility, which included access to a car, I didn't really have a drive to rebel that hard outside of a few too many car accidents.

Look, the reason I'm saying all of this is that despite liking a lot of the pop punk explosion in the mid-2000s, it wasn't really the soundtrack of my teenage angst... mostly because I wasn't really an angsty kid growing up. Hell, my sullen misanthropic phase was in my second year of university, and the soundtrack to that was mostly Top 40 club hits - it was a weird phase, let me tell you. But it also can make for a fascinating listening experience going back to acts like Japandroids, a Canadian punk duo who dropped their debut album Post-Nothing in 2009 full of scuzzed out guitar work and anthemic crunch that made their material natural for unsettled for teenage emotion, complete with the sharper writing that made them a critical darling nearly immediately. And when they followed it with the even catchier and sharper Celebration Rock, which took much of the lo-fi sound and refined it into more incisive, recklessly exuberance, it looked like Japandroids could go in any direction and still connect with remarkable power. And yet five years later, what did they deliver with Near To The Wild Heart Of Life?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

video review: 'night people' by you me at six

Man, I got absolutely nothing out of this record. I mean, it's not unlistenable but it has so little distinct personality and what it does have is obnoxious... ugh, not a fan, at all.

But hey, to switch out for entirely too much personality... well, stay tuned!