Review: My Chemical Romance – “The Foundations of Decay”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know by now that My Chemical Romance have returned with their first new taste of music in over eight years with “The Foundations of Decay.” The bombastic new track from MCR features several bread crumbs to where the band originated from, while still moving the needle forward in their musical evolution. The six-minute song is filled with anthemic moments courtesy of the four core band members, Gerard Way, Ray Toro, Frank Iero, and Mikey Way, while each band member hits their intended target on this aggressive-sounding single. My Chemical Romance made their triumphant return to the stage yesterday in the U.K. and their set kicked off with this song to establish the tone for their legendary material that followed.

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Review: State Champs – Kings of the New Age

On the latest offering of music from Albany, NY’s pop-punk band State Champs hone in on what their band does best, and still leave room for new added elements to their trademark sound. The band was at their most proficient, narrowing down over 30 songs to the 11 found on Kings of the New Age, and we’re left with the tracks they felt best represented this latest chapter of their musical discovery. The set of songs was produced by Drew Fulk (Ice Nine Kills, Lil Wayne) and he does a great job of bringing the band’s authentic songwriting to the forefront of the production. The album contains four songs with outside collaborators, including the single “Everybody But You” featuring Ben Barlow, and each of these guest spots lend themselves well to the overall sound State Champs went for. The band shared this about the album direction, “Lyrically, KOTNA is a reflection on the past few years during a very weird time. However, it is also a reminder that we’re only here for so long. Although we always live and learn by trial and error in areas like friendships, family, careers, relationships, etc., there’s no time for toxicity and negativity when a certain opportunity presents itself. Never waste a moment that can be seized. Times are changing, culture is evolving, and we’re happy to provide the soundtrack and let you know that we’re here to stay. Welcome to the new age.” With their pop-punk flag firmly planted, State Champs may have just provided us with the soundtrack to help remind us of the care free days and the endless possibilities of a summer that could change our lives for the better.

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Review: Vagrants – Be Consumed

The latest taste of music from the post-hardcore trio called Vagrants is a thrilling collection of anthems ready to be absorbed into your ears. The album is entitled Be Consumed, and its fitting because the record surrounds the listener with a massive wall of sound that rarely loses focus. For those unfamiliar with the band, they are comprised of vocalist/guitarist Jose DelRio, drummer Anastasia Hayes, and guitarist Bryce Ballinger, and their sound strays somewhere between the realm of Underoath, Saosin, and Silverstein. The band shared this about their new album, “We are incredibly excited to have Be Consumed out into the world. Being able to pour ourselves into the writing and recording of this record truly served as a ‘life raft’ to get us through these past couple of years. We really feel like this record serves to define where we are right now as a band, and give a glimpse into where we might head next. Our next step is to get back on the road and play these new songs in a live context. We are really looking forward to seeing which of the 12 tracks really translate and connect with people.” Armed with a plethora of breakneck hooks and meaningful lyrics, Vagrants are well-equipped for the journey that lays ahead of them.

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Review: Silverstein – Misery Made Me

Bad times will come and go. Sadness isn’t forever. But misery? Damn, that can feel like a ton of bricks weighing you down to the point of paralyzing helplessness. On the band’s tenth studio album, Silverstein have misery well on their mind with Misery Made Me. The band took a deep dive into the introspective with their last effort, A Beautiful Place To Drown, and that experience seemed to have made the band look towards heavier tones and themes on this latest record. The promotion cycle for this latest album started with the release of one of their heaviest songs to date in “Bankrupt,” and roughly seven months later the band upped the ante again with “It’s Over,” a blistering song about being on the verge of throwing in the towel. Much like other records, Misery Made Me features four songs that have an outside collaborator, and each cameo appearance is well thought out and calculated. This album is one of the heavier records the band has released (in both guitar tones as well as lyrical material) and yet as Silverstein explore the darkest parts of these feelings, they come back into the light with cautious optimism that things can (eventually) get better.

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Review: Something Corporate – Leaving Through The Window

“Write what you know.” That piece of advice has been given countless times to countless writers across countless different mediums, from books to films to TV shows. It’s not a bad tip, especially for greener storytellers, but it can also be limiting. In the world of songwriting, especially, one of the great joys is how a song can allow you to inhabit someone else’s life for a few minutes, or to experience a world other than your own. There’s something exhilarating about when a talented songwriter steps outside their own life to take a walk in someone else’s shows, whether it’s Springsteen writing a bunch of songs about killers and criminals on Nebraska or Taylor Swift closing her own diary to explore character on folklore and evermore. Still, for some writers, the “Write what you know” mantra is the gateway to brilliance, and few young songwriters ever took it more seriously than Andrew McMahon did on Something Corporate’s 2002 major label debut, Leaving Through the Window.

McMahon turned 19 on September 3, 2001. A few months later, on the day after Christmas, he and his bandmates commenced recording for the album that would become their big breakthrough statement. By January, the album was done, and on May 7, 2002, it hit the streets. McMahon was still four months shy of his 20th birthday, and less than two years out of high school. Rather than try to write songs that hid his youth, McMahon embraced it. The result was one of the greatest and most authentic albums ever made about teen angst, growing up, and coming of age. Leaving Through the Window is now older than McMahon was when the record came out, but it remains gripping and beautiful due to how timeless the themes and stories proved to be.

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Review: MattstaGraham – Prescribe Whatever

The debut album from emo/punk rock artist MattstaGraham called Prescribe Whatever tackles the issues of struggling with mental health, while battling the outside vices that make navigating this crazy life more difficult. The artist got “internet famous” through parodies of established emo rock bands like Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, and My Chemical Romance, and garnered the attention of I Surrender Records, who promptly signed him. With a blend of familiar-sounding guitar tones powered with punk rock passion, this artist would be great for fans of The Homeless Gospel Choir, Gob, and Allister.

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Review: Charli XCX – Crash

Every now and then you come across an album that just compels you to write about it. The current pop music scene is filled with new artists (Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa), established artists branching out from their main project (Hayley Williams), and the household names (Adele, Lady Gaga). Charli XCX was one of those artist I heard name-dropped a few times along the way of navigating through the wave of pop artists that were out there, but I discovered Crash by Charli XCX pretty late in the game (nearly a month after the initial release date) and I was immediately drawn into the world that this artist brings forth on the dynamic, smash of a record. Armed with a plethora of A-list producers, including The 1975’s George Daniel (among many others), Charli XCX could’ve gone in a number of directions on her fifth studio album. Much like how Dua Lipa set the world on fire the last two years with Future Nostalgia, Crash has that feeling of being the “it” pop record that could garner the same amount of momentum on radio and word of mouth.

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Review: Tombstones In Their Eyes – A Higher Place

Coming off of the release of last year’s Looking For A Light, Tombstones In Their Eyes are back with a well-equipped approach to their music by adding lush vocal harmonies into a crowd pleasing set of tunes. Guitarist and vocalist John Treanor said this about the band’s evolution, “The band is evolving, which is cool. I’ve never been in a band that stuck around long enough and released enough material to really see the change occur. There’s such a wide range of songs and sounds now, it’s really hard to pigeonhole what we are: Psych Rock? Maybe. Shoegaze? Not so much at this point. Indie Rock? Maybe. Rock and Roll? Yes. It all depends on which song you’re playing, really, but all the songs fit into the Tombstones In Their Eyes genre and sound, no matter how disparate their sound.” With limitless possibilities for their songwriting, this band appears to be hitting the right groove in their musical journey.

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Review: Rozzi – Berry

Sometimes you just know when an artist has that “it” factor to them that will open multiple doors to the possibilities of their career. Rozzi definitely falls into this category with her Berry EP, a thrilling collection of songs that uniquely showcases her impressive vocal range and songwriting prowess. Led by the super-charged single featuring Nile Rodgers, “Consequences” is one of those songs that grabs your attention from the first few notes and never lets up. With a great-sounding EP, it’s only a matter of time before others become aware of this artist’s brilliance.

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Review: Cold Years – Goodbye to Misery

Cold Years

Years ago, and barely out of my teens, I scribbled music mends broken hearts in the margins of a notebook. I was trying to put to words how finding music, and getting lost in the perfect song, could save your life. It was melodramatic. It was true.

Over the past two years, while locked down in a global pandemic, we as a society have experienced previously unimaginable trauma. Mass death. Isolation and fear. Uncertainty and rage. And as we begin to navigate what life looks like next, I’m reminded of those four little words I once scratched across a piece of lined paper. Now, I’m not arrogant enough to think I have a universal answer, but I know for me, in my moments of despair, I reconnected with music and it pulled me out. Last year, discovering Turnstile flipped a fuse in my brain that showed me how to love music again. It unlocked something within me and reminded me what it was like to feel the joy of finding a new favorite band. And this year, it’s discovering an album that feels like it could have only been made after what we all just went through. An album that not only helps define the state of the world but the ethos of a generation. The album is Goodbye to Misery; the band is Cold Years.

I’ve always used music as a metric of remembrance, with periods in my life defined by the albums I was listening to. But it goes further than that. At the core, music is what we have long used to tell our stories. To pass down the legacy, the learnings, the trials, and the current mindset from one generation to another. You can listen to music and hear the pain, hear the joy, hear the triumphs, and feel the defeats. It’s a way to mark our personal lives and build milestones of collective memory. And Goodbye to Misery is an album that could only have been birthed from the well of COVID. An album that paints the state of the world with an American Idiot like clarity and mirrors a generational attitude back through the speakers. And it’s done with a maturity and grace far beyond expectations for a band on just their sophomore release.

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Review: Animalweapon – Set Of Constraints

For those unfamiliar with the electronic artist known as Animalweapon, it comes from the mind of Patrick Cortes. On this sprawling, eight-song album called Set of Constraints, the artist tackles heavy lyrical themes like struggles with mental health, anxiety, as well as making personal connections to the material to ensure the balance is just right. Cortes shared this about the new record: “A lot of this record is a marker of a transitional period of my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my last record Tyrannosaurus was very much a representation of a pretty low stretch, mental health wise. A lot of this album was me acknowledging that I can mitigate that if I actually put in the work, and starting to. I still write music with enough room for interpretation so that people can connect it to whatever they’re feeling, but ideally I hope it resonates with anyone who is working on themselves or ‘in the cocoon’ so to speak.” Set Of Constraints seems like an odd title, as Animalweapon’s musical journey appears to be limitless.

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Review: Midtown – Living Well Is The Best Revenge

In the crowded scene of pop-punk bands during the early 00’s, I admittedly didn’t give Midtown as much of a hard look as I should have in retrospect. I would usually enjoy the singles that the band put on the Warped Tour compilation that came out each year, or stumble across a friend’s MP3 of punk songs on their computer that caught my ear, but I didn’t get on this band’s bandwagon until much later. After seeing Living Well Is The Best Revenge at a record store for a criminally low price, I took a chance on the album that I’ve grown to love even more so today. This album was crafted under the direction of producer Mark Trombino (Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World), and he helped Midtown hone in on the best parts of their sound to create a record that should’ve received more love and media attention. In an interview with Jason during the AbsolutePunk days, Midtown went into detail about their disdain for Drive-Thru Records, and potentially may have stunted some of the label’s desire to push the album into more commercial outlets. Controversy aside, Midtown’s Living Well Is the Best Revenge should be considered one of the better pop-punk albums to come out of this period of time.

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Review: Dear Spring – “Every Now and Then”

The latest taste of new music from the DC-based pop-punk band Dear Spring is called ”Every Now and Then,” and is filled with great harmonies, back and forth vocals, and a beating heart of purpose in every lyric. The song was produced by Nik Bruzzese, mixed by Ben Green, and mastered by Paul Leavitt. Dear Spring would be perfect for fans of Four Year Strong, Taking Back Sunday, and Hit the Lights, since this band is very much entrenched in that crisp pop-punk sound that many of us have grown to love over the years.

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Review: The Injured List – Blue 32

Written largely during the start of the pandemic, The Injured List have returned with their fourth full-length record called Blue 32. The record title is a reference to the quarterback’s signals called out before the snap, and the band’s affinity for writing sad songs packed with plenty of purpose. The album was written mostly by lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Nathan Marks and drummer Ashton Parsons, while the band also had some additional friends contribute guitar parts remotely. The Injured List took a unique approach to this album by book-ending the record with the intro/outro tracks of “Adrift” and “Ashore” that help solidify their artistic statement found on Blue 32.

The record opens with the aforementioned intro track called “Adrift” that prepares the listener for the beauty found in my personal favorite in the set, called “Doubt.” That particular song opens with some well-placed synths that eventually break away for heavier-toned guitars and singer Nathan Marks’ anthemic vocals. “Doubt” reminds me a lot of Autopilot Off, with a little bit of The Maine and Mae thrown into the mix for good measure. Things continue to stay great on “Recover,” as drummer Ashton Parsons sets a great beat to allow the band to explore the possibilities of their sound.

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Review: Sandman Sleeps – Crisis Actor

Debut albums always carry that weighty hope of grabbing the audience’s attention from the very first note. Sandman Sleeps have stormed onto the music scene with Crisis Actor, an album that the band admits that they strove for painful perfection in its recording process. “We’ve recorded this damn album, like, three times now,” confesses bassist, Alex Peck. In addition to Alex, the band is comprised of vocalist Cristina Peck, drummer Karsten Andersen, guitarist Zack Jones, and Sandman Sleeps’ musical chemistry only further adds to the allure found on their debut. Led by the immediately gripping single called, “Portrait of Jennie,” Sandman Sleeps reminds me of Florence and the Machine, early-Cranberries, and with a modern songwriting twist similar to Middle Kids. The band’s attention to detail pays off widely, as Crisis Actor is a thrilling record from start to finish.

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