Music is a powerful tool, and sometimes you can pinpoint the exact moment when a band is poised for big things. I found out about Baltimore punk band, Pinkshift, in a similar way as most of us who visit this site on a frequent basis: by an insightful recommendation. Jason wrote about Pinkshift in a Liner Notes newsletter, and it piqued my interest in this band. Pinkshift does a really great job of combining anthemic punk rock with hardcore elements, paired with the pop sensibilities to add in flavorful hooks into the mix to keep the listener engaged and wanting to hear more from this sonically interesting artist whose music appears to spreading like a wildfire in the music community. Comprised of vocalist Ashrita Kumar, guitarist Paul Vallejo, drummer Myron Houngbedji, and bassist Erich Weinroth, Pinkshift are able to catch lightning in a bottle with the aggressive Love Me Forever that has the same potential for breakout success much like the early days of My Chemical Romance.
The set wastes little time getting down to the business at hand with “I’m Not Crying You’re Crying” as Ashrita Kumar wails above the punk rock chords, “I’m so sorry that you’re seeing me this way / I promise you I’m never like this / The blind hysteria was never on my face / I’d never shed a tear so violent,” before breaking away into a great hook of a chorus that has Kumar’s vocals sounding like a blend between Hayley Williams and Amy Lee. The band’s chemistry is evident early on as each momentous part of the song is crisp and well-constructed. Lead single, “Nothing (In My Head)” follows with some harder-tinged rock chords in the verses before bleeding away into the chorus of, “I feel so goddamn numb / I can’t feel you anymore / Can I, can I please be done? / I can’t stay trapped inside this box much longer, oh no.” It’s reminiscent of a blend between AFI and Turnstile, but its undeniably fresh in its approach of sounding similar, yet completely different than what any other band is doing right now.
”Get Out” keeps the positive momentum going in Pinkshift’s favor with a memorable guitar hook from Paul Vallejo, before the band adds some gang vocals in the chorus to cheer on Kumar in her vocal delivery. “Cherry (We’re All Gonna Die)” features a nice opening drum fill from Myron Houngbedji, before breaking away into a song about feeling a little helpless in a life filled with so much uncertainty. One of my favorites in the set comes in the form of “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” a pure blast of punk rock energy that clocks in over the 3-minute mark and has more twists and turns than a labyrinth. The breakdown part of, “The world is always ending / For some reason we’re pretending that an epidemic / It isn’t real, isn’t present / The stupidity will getcha / Your anxiety will kill ya / And a whole new generation’s either numb or medicated,” offers some commentary on our world without being too preachy. It’s a solid observation from a young band willing to make a solid artistic statement through their lyrics and passionate music.
The back half of the LP opens cautiously with the piano ballad “In A Breath,” that is quite simply gorgeous in its delivery and construction. Kumar really showcases her pipes on songs like this, and proves that she has the capability of carrying a song on her own, even if its subdued from the overall delivery of the material its packaged around. “Cinderella” offers a nice transition from the ballad to wind its way back up into the more comfortable pacing of the material that Pinkshift cut their teeth to on the first few aggressive songs. “Burn the Witch” turns the energy back up to the introductory pacing, and showcases a band really coming into their own at just the right moment. The title track is a pure blast of punk rock and emo swagger that basically just has Pinkshift showing off their talented musical assets that seem to be limitless. The chorus of, “I don’t know what it is with you and wasting my time / Seems your bark is so much bigger than your bite / Play hide and seek, not much to be no room to hide / Unwind, the answers that you seek aren’t yours to find,” is a nice encapsulation of discovering the worst parts of a person not worth your time.
The closing duo of the punk rock energy of “Let Me Drown” and the swooning rock and roll of “Dreamer” continue to allow Pinkshift to paint with wide, vivid colors in their musical package that hits all of the right targets. It’s truly remarkable to see a young band with this much promise, poise, and overall showmanship with just one previous EP (2021’s Saccharine) to their name. Pinkshift may have just blown the door wide open off the hinges and solidified themselves as 2022’s Rookie of the Year, hands down. They certainly are in the running for this year’s sleeper Album of the Year, too. Pinkshift’s Love Me Forever may not be pretty at times, but it’s one hell of a fun ride.