Album Review: ROAM – Great Heights & Nosedives

I loved ROAM’s last album. It showed a very talented new band making their first steps into the music world. It was a little rough around the edges. but what else can you expect from a new band? I feel like rather than taking away from the record, it made it even more charming. And the band definitely know how to write hooks, and big ones at that. But from a great debut like that, where do you go? Do you give the fans more of what they want and expect, or do you try and refine your sound and writing skills. This album is definitely more of the latter, and here’s why.

It’s evident that the band have improved massively from the beginning of the first song, ‘Alive’. The production has improved massively, with everything sounding crisper and clearer than anything the band have ever released before. Their writing is also much improved, proven by the fantastic ‘The Rich Life Of A Poor Man’, which contains probably the best chorus the band have ever written.

Other great songs include ‘Playing Fiction’ and the slightly slower ‘Curtain Call’, which is absolutely anthemic. There are some missteps however, as ‘Guilty Melody’ doesn’t sound quite right, while ‘Left For Dead’ is a little too generic for me. These do little to deter listeners though, as the rest of the songs are not only just catchy, but great quality too.

This is an album of two halves really, and while the first half is fairly middle-of-the-road other than a few songs, the second half really shows how far the band have come. The hooks are better, the vocals are refined but powerful, and everything sounds much clearer. Best of all though, everything just sounds bigger. Where the first album was a rough collection of okay songs with great hooks, this feel so much more like an album from an accomplished band, who really know what they’re really doing. If you’re looking for an album to warm you up as winter approaches, this is it.

Best songs: The Rich Life Of A Poor Man, Curtain Call, Scatterbrained

Score: 7/10

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Is Pop-Punk Getting Stale? Part 2

So after the first part of this piece, which was a rather critical look into the world of pop-punk, I think a more positive point of view is necessary. So here is a list of pop-punk bands who are really pushing boundaries and doing things right at the moment.

Neck Deep

Neck Deep are one of the most popular bands on this list, and for good reason. Their brand of pop-punk is catchy, energetic, and while it does adhere to a lot of pop-punk conventions, it is far from generic.

Listen to: In Bloom, December, Nineteen Seventy Sumthin’, Where Do We Go When We Go

As It Is

As It Is sound very different from any other pop-punk band, mainly due to their choice of using a lot of clean guitar sounds as well as the distortion. The vocals have an interesting dynamic too, thanks to having one English and one American singer. Not only this, but their new album (okay.) contains songs from all over the pop-punk spectrum, from the very poppy to the dark and sinister.

Listen to: Pretty Little Distance, Soap, No Way Out

State Champs

Similarly to Neck Deep, State Champs do stick to a lot of pop-punk conventions, but that’s fine when your music is so catchy! Honestly, this band has a knack for writing choruses like no other band on this list.

Listen to: Around The World And Back, Losing Myself, All You Are Is History

Blink-182

Despite being veterans of the scene, Blink-182 are still pushing and developing their sound to this day. Things had began to become stagnant with Tom DeLonge causing problems in the band, but now he’s been replaced by Matt Skiba of the Alkaline Trio, the band are back and better than ever. Their latest album, California includes some of their best work to this date, and the deluxe edition includes some incredible experimental cuts. They might just be the best pop-punk band of all time.

Listen to: 6/8, Misery, What’s My Age Again, Bottom Of The Ocean

Seaway

Seaway just take pop-punk, instil it with as much life and energy as possible, and then put it out into the world. Their latest album, Vacation, is a blast of summery energy, and is one of the most fun pop-punk records I’ve ever heard.

Listen to: Lula On The Beach, Something Wonderful, 40 Over

New Found Glory

Despite their age as a band, New Found Glory are still making fresh, relevant pop-punk. There’s not much else to say other than it’s well produced, catchy, and doesn’t sound like any other band out there.

Listen to: Happy Being Miserable, Party On Apocalypse, My Friends Over You

Against The Current

I’m not sure whether I’d call these a pop-punk band any more, but I’m going to put them in this list anyway just because they make great music. They blend smooth pop melodies with pop-punk style and it works perfectly.

Listen to: In Our Bones, Forget Me Now, Fireproof, Paralyzed

Waterparks

The rest of this list wasn’t in any particular order, but I’ve definitely saved the best until last. Waterparks make catchy, entertaining and unique pop-punk better than anyone in the rock world. Every song is different and unique in a way bringing different ideas to the genre, and they are exactly what pop-punk needs at the moment.

Listen to: All of Double Dare; it’s too good to miss anything from it.

Album Review: Coldfront – Float Around

Coldfront are an up-and-coming pop-punk band from Ontario, Canada. Musically, they make energetic, but melodic pop-punk with a bit of a rougher edge than a lot of the band in the scene. At this point, alarm bells will be ringing in your ears if you know about my opinions on the state of modern pop-punk. But read on, because I have a bit of a different opinion on this one…

The first thing I noticed about this band was that their sound was a little more rough around the edges than your average pop-punk band. The vocals are very rough but also melodic, treading the line between intensity and melody perfectly. This is shown really well in the first song, ‘So Typical’, which has a really catchy chorus, but rough vocals that even break into a scream at one point.

Speaking of catchiness, this album has it in abundance. ‘Everything You Want Me To Be’ is one of the pop-punk songs of the year, whereas ‘It’s Hit Me’ is a two-minute bomb of energy. The album does blur a bit in the middle sections with songs like the title track and ‘Blame Me’ not quite hitting the mark, but that can easily be forgiven with the quality of the surrounding songs.

For a debut album, the sound and quality that Coldfront have created is really impressive. Over all, this is a great debut, and if you’re a pop-punk fan, you should check this out.

Best songs: So Typical, Everything You Want Me To Be, It’s Hit Me

Score: 6/10

Album Review: Makeout – The Good Life

Makeout are a band that seem poised to make it big in the rock world. Blink-182 have praised them as the future of pop-punk, and their new album has been produced by John Feldmann, essentially a ticket to fame in the rock world. Having said that, I’m less than impressed by their new album. Here’s why…

The album is catchy, that’s for sure. The melodies are great, and have a way of getting into your head. But unfortunately, that’s a necessity in the pop-punk world. Beyond that, there’s really not much substance to the album. A great example of this is the first song, ‘Childish’. Is the melody catchy? Yes. Is there energy? Tonnes of it. Is there anything more than that? Definitely not.

The album goes on in a similar way; high on production, melody and energy, low on anything else. But there is a bigger problem with this album, and that is the fact that the whole album seems so childish. For example, the asides in ‘Lisa’ don’t make me like this band anymore. In fact, they make me dislike the lead singer. He comes across as childish, arrogant and a bit nasty. Furthermore, ‘Secrets’ sounds incredibly immature, and ‘You Can’t Blame Me’ just completely rips off a Blink-182 riff.

If you’re looking for a new, revolutionary rock band, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you can stomach the lyrics, then maybe you’ll at least enjoy the musicality of this record. If not, avoid it at all costs.

Score: 4/10

Is Pop-Punk Getting Stale? Part 1

Pop-punk. Once the most exciting word in the rock world, this genre fuses punk attitudes and guitars with pop melodies to create incredibly catchy rock songs. After around 2007 it began to rapidly decline, in both quality and the number of bands in the scene. It hit a really low point around then, but it has been making a resurgence of late, with bands like Neck Deep, State Champs and Knuckle Puck rising to prominence. But I personally think that there are two sides of this resurgence. With every great band it has brought, 100 copycats have followed, imitating the music in everything but quality. So that begs the question, is the pop-punk world growing stale? There are two sides to this argument, and I will dissect both sides of them in this post.

The first is the negative point of view, that the scene is growing stale, one that I personally agree with. As a rock music critic, I review a lot of pop-punk albums. Even three months ago, the thought of a brand new pop-punk album to review would fill me with joy, but now it fills me with dread. The problem? Most of the pop-punk albums I review are terrible. Like, truly awful. When I first reviewed them, I’d always put a positive spin on it, saying something like ‘just add a bit more variety and you’ll be fine’. The problem is, nothing changes with a large number of pop-punk bands. No matter how many albums I listen to, I hear the same drum beat, the same guitar lead, and the same whiny, often misogynistic vocals. There are definitely a lot of bands in the pop-punk world doing great things, but a lot of other bands are piggybacking off their success, making boring, emotionless, and passionless music. And because there are so many bands doing this, the pop-punk world is going stale. Even though a lot of bands are doing great things, they are being suffocated by the lack of creativity of so many others.

On the other hand, there are a lot of good things going on in the pop-punk world. For example, bands like Waterparks, As It Is and Neck Deep are making creative, exciting music. Even scene veterans like Blink-182 and All Time Low are bringing new ideas to the table, although the latter had mixed results in their new album. And by all means, these are the bands at the forefront of the industry, the ones making the music that people hear. People are more likely to hear their music, as that is the music that is pushing boundaries, creating something creative, and gaining more fans in the process. So the scene is polluted with dull, uninspiring music, but that’s not what’s getting any publicity and airtime.

I can still conclude from this that pop-punk is still getting stale though. The problem is that compared to the bad bands, the good bands are so few and far between, that not enough of a proportion of them exist to make pop-punk a popular genre. If someone thinks ‘I’ll listen to some pop-punk today, chances are that music won’t be all that great, and that needs to change for pop-punk to be a more respected genre.

EP Review: 7 Minutes In Heaven – Symmetry

7 Minutes In Heaven were named after the Fall Out Boy song of the same name, which could either be a great thing or a bad one. Either they’ll attract loads of fans of the same type of music, or they’ll never live up to the name of their band. For that not to happen, this EP needs to be good. So it it?

Well opener ‘Better Off’ shows a lot of promise. The musicality is great, with smooth verses and intense choruses. You can easily imagine this being a huge singalong live. ‘Sweetest Sin’ is also a great song, showing some of the band’s smooth side without losing any of that pop-punk energy. This song alone shows a lot of promise, and it’s clear this band knows how to write a great chorus.

Then there’s the bad. Songs like ‘LOTL’ and ‘Symmetry’ are just a collection of pop-punk clichés, ironically borrowing from the style of bands like Fall Out Boy. The songs are okay, but just listening to them feels like I’ve heard them before. In amongst the thousands of pop-punk bands out there, you need to do something special to stand out, and these songs are nothing special.

There is another silver lining towards the end of the EP with the rip-roaring ‘Wishing Well’, by far the best song on the record, and yet more proof of the band’s writing skill. The problem with this EP is that this band’s talent is clear to see, but it isn’t shown enough. There is too much generic material on this record for it to really stand out, which is frustrating, because this band is clearly very talented. This is a disappointing EP, but with so much promise.

Best songs: Wishing Well, Sweetest Sin

Score: 5/10

Album Review: The Movielife – Cities In Search Of A Heart

The Movielife haven’t been around for a while. And by that, I mean their last album was released in 2003. After that, the band broke up, but rumours of a reunion kept circling around, all the way up until 2014, where the band officially reunited. But not every reunion goes to plan; so how good is this album?

Well after 14 years, you’d expect at least a little change in the band’s music, and that’s definitely the case. With age, the band’s music has slowed down, tending more towards the emo side of their music than the pop-punk. This definitely isn’t such a bad thing though, and the music hasn’t lost any of its’ intensity, despite the slight change in style. For example, opener ‘Ski Mask’ holds nothing back, showing the contrast between their old style (‘I could smash in your windows and slash all your tires’) and their new one (‘Can we just do this the easy way?’).

From then on, the album stays at a steady pace, reaching the heights set by the first song. ‘Pour Two Glasses’ is an emotional ballad, complete with violins, while ‘Ghosts In The Photographs’ contains by far the best chorus on the album. The standout song however, is clearly ‘Mercy Is Asleep At The Wheel’, a great fusion of styles that grows into the heaviest song on the album towards its’ end.

This band may have been gone for a while, but they haven’t lost it in their time away, and this could be one of the comebacks of the year. A must listen for fans of classic emo rock.

Best songs: Mercy Is Asleep At The Wheel, Ghosts In The Photographs, Hearts

Score: 7/10