Review: PUP – The Dream is Over

PUP - The Dream is Over

PUP’s aesthetic isn’t a cool one. It’s not wrapped in two layers of irony, obsessed with a worldview, or holier-than-thou. Words that can describe both the band and The Dream Is Over are simple ones: loud, brash, louder, unsettled, loudest. In fact, naming their album The Dream Is Over is probably the most complicated thing about it, if only because it requires a backstory. (A doctor gave singer Stefan Babcock an apocalyptic diagnosis after observing his shredded vocal chords. But you know that already.) Everything else is pretty straightforward.

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Review: Knuckle Puck – Copacetic

Knuckle Puck - Copacetic

Man, what a tall order it must be to create a pop-punk record in 2015. In a genre that went from maligned to mall playlist and back, it’s not surprising that bands are a little bit flummoxed as to what works and what should be left in a 9th grade trapper keeper. Knuckle Puck, perhaps more than any of their peers, toe this line delicately. While the music has grown up, offering instrumental denouements and actually interesting slow numbers, the lyrics are still firmly entrenched in the world of paralysis through heartbreak.

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Review: Real Friends – Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing

Real Friends - Maybe This Place Is The Same And We're Just Changing

It seems a little strange that this feels less like a review for Real Friends first full-length Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing and more like a State of the Scene Address. After like a year of “outsiders” talking about “our” bands, people seem to be up in arms that an entity like Real Friends are getting discussed at all. Like it somehow ruins this faux-popularity that they didn’t even really like in the first place. Regardless of what you think about Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen and to a certain extent someone like Noisey’s Dan Ozzi, a vast majority of diehard fans have spent the past few months wondering if all of this emo proselytizing is even a good thing. Leave it to the Internet generation to find a new way to condemn bands for selling out, like being good at your fucking job is some sort of cross to bear. 

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Review: Neck Deep – Wishful Thinking

Neck Deep - Wishful Thinking

As a somewhat educated apprentice of pop-punk, one inevitably asks the question, “Shouldn’t you just meet some new friends?” Lots of the problems detailed in an album like Neck Deep’s debut Wishful Thinking could most likely be fixed by a simple change of scenery. Stop talking to girls in beanies and high heels! There’s nothing cute about a Grey Goose keychain! I don’t know, we were all young and some of us always will be. And it can certainly be excruciating to be constantly reminded over smashing drums and snotty vocals that the whole world is filled with garbage people. We take public transportation and wait in line at the grocery store; we don’t need reminding.

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Review: Into It. Over It. – Intersections

Into It. Over It. - Intersections

Just short of admitting all of my neuroses to a bunch of strangers, it seems pertinent to start a review of Intersections with the beguilingly cliche statement that you’ll like this if you often find yourself alone. Evan Weiss has become known for his sheer proliferation of music, a sort-of workman in the emo age. Which is fine and true, but what you really get on a stellar album like Intersections is a painting of a person forced from the safehaven of their mind. It’s music with all of the intricate guitar, soft singing and autumn-hued loneliness we love about Into It. Over It., but these one-on-one conversations (or more often one-on-none) carry more weight. Mr. Weiss is far from talking to himself these days, and as a mouthpiece for those of us tripping through our twenties, he’s someone we need to hear.

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Review: The Story So Far – What You Don’t See

The Story So Far - What You Don't See

It’s wrong to say The Story So Far have grown up. Their wonderfully juvenile debut LP was one of those fuck-you-motherfucker releases us nihilistic douchebags turned into cuddle up music. “You’re the worst you terrible idiot,” is me paraphrasing – but also pretty accurate. So then, what now? Well, a couple of years go by and we get something like What You Don’t See. Should singer Parker Cannon still be so pissed he can barely stand? Should the band still run through every single Set Your Goals song as if they’ve had a couple extra sips of (2010-era) FourLoko? Enthusiastically, yes!

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Review: Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired

Joyce Manor - Of All Things I Will Soon

Joyce Manor are a very interesting band. That may seem like lazy reviewing, and it probably is, but after putting to e-paper my thoughts over 350 times (sad and lonely brag), saying something like, “Band X actually do something creative and memorable,” starts to take on quite a bit of weight. And that’s what I can’t help but think when singer Barry Johnson cuts through with his somehow apathetic yet forceful voice. It’s also what I think when an early 2000s-ish punk influenced pop-punk band records a searing and catchy cover of “Video Killed The Radio Star.” Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired is just completely enthralling. 

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Review: The Jealous Sound – A Gentle Reminder

The Jealous Sound – A Gentle Reminder

t’s safe to say the last time we heard from The Jealous Sound – whether that was on 2008’s too-short-but-sweet Got Friends EP or on their now-classic 2003 LP Kill Them With Kindness – we were all different people. (And if the last you heard of Blair Shehan’s gravelly pipes was on a Knapsack album, well, how are your kids and/or grandkids?) Whatever. Point is, it hasn’t so much been a wild ride, but a slow, meandering one. The fact that this release is even coming out is in and of itself sort of a punk-rock miracle. And the fact that A Gentle Reminder (GET it?) packs the same post-midwest-emo-blah blah as the band’s earlier landmarks is even more special. 9 years may have passed, but not a step has been missed.

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Review: The Dangerous Summer – War Paint

The Dangerous Summer – War Paint

There’s certainly an obligation here to discuss songs and melodies and all that jazz (pun intended?). But you’ve – we’ve – done that a million times. There are hints of The Starting Line and The Graduate, there are intensely personal lyrics, there’s a certain world weariness that is both refreshing and depressing to hear from a band so young – War Paint has all these things. And it’s good! It’s a very good album. There is no debating that. But of course, there is debating that. That’s all there really is. Especially if you’re one of the listeners who found Reach for the Sun to be some sort of musical epiphany. For you, War Paint might challenge your previously held opinions on The Dangerous Summer. And me? I don’t know – I guess for a few reasons that are none of your business thank you very much, I view War Paint in a vacuum. Its merits are based only on the sounds I currently hear, not the nostalgic ones my 12-year old emo boy heart fondly remembers. Making a connection with War Paint could mean lots of things: but what I hope it means for you is that you’re not ready for this world to be the boss. Liking War Paint means it’s time to stand up, move on and improve.

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Review: Panic! at the Disco – Vices & Virtues

Panic at the Disco - Vices & Virtues

This is what you wanted, right? A “return to form” – i.e. slick pop layered over synths, the occasional crunchy guitar and a weird fascination with Vaudeville (despite none of us knowing what that really means) – yep, this is you getting what you wanted. And although getting what we wanted can sometimes lead to felonies or regrettable Zune tattoos (R.I.P.), in this case what we wanted is what’s best for us and both remaining members of Panic!(!) At The Disco. With Vices & Virtues, Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith have created an album that isn’t mature, because what does that even mean, but an album that understands from its first note where it’s going and the best way to get there. 

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Review: Lydia – Assailants

Lydia - Assailants

There’s a lot of things I’d like to say about Lydia, but frankly I don’t think it’s any of your business. And that’s pretty much the point. Few bands create such personal connections within the framework of verse-chorus-bridge tunes. Luckily on Assailants, Leighton Antelman’s catharsis is strong enough for two. Here on the band’s final output, there is lots of reflection; a band doesn’t fall apart for no reason. But the logic within all this emotion is that we are included. The audience’s POV still reigns supreme. And I know that’s what I always say, but I always say it because I feel it’s the most important thing: we must be included. Lydia have written their final act, and we’re all the star.

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Review: Person L – The Positives

Person L - The Positives

It’s still weird when a formerly bad band does something unequivocally great. Kenny Vasoli’s Person L has managed it, and I’m literally flabbergasted. The Starting Line made magic here and there (that one song on Direction, the one where he missed a girl, etc.), but they were never really anything other than what they appeared. From the first complex moments of mostly instrumental opener “Hole In The Fence,” it becomes obvious that Person L’s previous problems, namely the frustrating inclination to sit stagnant instead of explode, are long gone. With Person L, he has truly unchained himself from every shackle being a pop-punk icon brings with it. And he didn’t have to go metal like the ugliest guy from Fall Out Boy or go stupid like Gabe Saporta. He just went creative, and sure, maybe he listened to too many Radiohead albums, but most people would tell you that’s a good thing. But even more importantly than The Positves’ successes is the fact that Vasoli has reached his full potential. Somewhere, he’s smiling.

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Review: A Rocket To The Moon – On Your Side

A Rocket To The Moon - On Your Side

The monotony overwhelms. A chorus flies by and I barely look up from my fourth plate of nachos. Some people drink when they’re upset – and even worse, some people write pop songs – but I just eat. Plate after plate after plate of squirrel soup, peanut casserole or pizza. Never has an album begat so many munchies. Every time I feel full or sick to my stomach, another bland “I Miss You REAL BAD” mantra flies by and I must once again stuff my face with that which makes me fat and happy. It might seem like a lazy mechanism, but so is A Rocket To The Moon’s music. There’s no soul, no urgency and definitely no sustainability. I’d be offended that On Your Side existed if it didn’t mean so much pepperoni pizza.

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Review: Relient K – Forget and Not Slow Down

Relient K - Forget and Not Slow Down

This is it how it should always happen. Relient K, a band once known for quirky little pop culture references peppered with mild God-isms, is now a pop-rock powerhouse. With more former members than current ones, the band has somehow outlasted every complication, including 2007’s absolutely terrible output Five Score and Seven Years Ago. That abomination’s only silver lining is its sneak peeks at the joy within Forget and Not Slow Down. Singer Matt Thiessen has bounced back with the best choruses and most emotionally charged songs of his career. But what becomes most apparent during Forget and Not Slow Down is its cohesiveness, that indefinable feeling when everything is exactly where it should be. A first for the band, intros like “Oasis” and outros like “Flare” create brief moments of reflection before their counterparts continue the noble task of blowing us away. Lucky you, welcome to 2009’s Swan Song.

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Review: Kelly Clarkson – All I Ever Wanted

Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted

Putting All I Ever Wanted on shuffle could, depending on your thought process, ruin or save the whole experience. A far cry from Ms. Clarkson’s very public fight to write all her own songs on My DecemberAll I Ever Wanted finds the singer co-penning just six of 14 songs (mostly with One Republic crooner Ryan Tedder). In this case, it’s a good thing Clarkson gave up some creative control, as her songs are generally the album’s weakest tracks (with the winners being string-infused rocker “Long Shot” and “Impossible”, which may be one of the best vocal performances of her storied career). Instead, All I Ever Wanted finds redeeming value in songs meant for Katy Perry or songs written by some of the biggest names in the game – lead single “My Life Would Suck Without You”, for example, has a veritable who’s-who of nameless songwriters behind it. 

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