The Story So Far has become maybe my favourite band in the pop-punk realm, and at first I wasn't totally sold. I'm not big on aggressive vocal styles, and lead vocalist Parker Cannon certainly veers into that lane sometimes. But with time, I’ve come to greatly appreciate their work. Their debut project, Under Soil and Dirt, is a more organic sound, showcasing big, guitar-driven hooks, and the follow-up, What You Can’t See, does the same with a more layered production scheme. Both albums are exceptionally well-crafted. Cannon is a force behind the mic, and the raw power behind near-poetic songwriting is commendable. Their best work, though, is 2018’s Proper Dose, which blends punk conventions with almost-whimsical easy-listening stylings. It’s a remarkable effort, and the one-two-three punch to open it up (“Proper Dose”, “Keep This Up”, “Out of It”) is of a quality I don’t know I have ever heard matched. I’m seeing them in May, and highly recommend checking them out.
Recommended Tracks: "Keep This Up", "Proper Dose", "Quicksand", "Small Talk", "The Glass (Acoustic)", "High Regard", "Out of It"
If The Story So Far draws more influence from the punk side of pop punk, then State Champs are their opposite to an extent. Relying more on melodies, hooks, and the lighter vocal style of lead singer Derek DiScanio, State Champs make music that’s somewhat more accessible, though strong nonetheless. The Finer Things – widely regarded as their breakout and strongest album – masterfully blends hard guitar riffs with memorable hooks and catchy melodies. It’s a remarkably consistent album, with almost every track holding repeat value. For anyone getting into the genre, I’d consider it a must-listen. Beyond that, their acoustic EP, The Acoustic Things, is quite strong, as is their official follow-up Around the World and Back. The latter, while not hitting the highs of The Finer Things, is nonetheless solid from top to bottom, if a little glossier. Their most recent release – 2018’s Living Proof, is their weakest by a comfortable margin, veering away from the grit of their earlier work and more blatantly into mainstream pop tendencies. There are, of course, memorable moments – namely “Lightning”, “Criminal”, and “Cut Through the Static” – and DiScanio’s strength as a vocalist will always bring in a baseline level of competence, but it largely feels safe and vanilla. Regardless, State Champs became one of my favorite bands and are a solid introduction to the genre for the unfamiliar.
Recommended Tracks: "Hard to Please", "Over the Line", "Easy Enough", "Losing Myself", "Lightning", "Deadly Conversation (Acoustic)"
An Australian pop punk band that falls perfectly between the pop and punk ends of the spectrum, Yours Truly brings a somewhat rougher edge to memorable hooks and melodies. With only one studio album under their belt (along with a couple of EPs), they don’t have the discography of the other bands, but have proven themselves immensely regardless. Lead singer Mikaila Delgado is a force of talent behind the mic, bringing flair and power to each track, and showing proficiency in both subdued and high octane tracks. “Funeral Home” – a stellar track pondering end of life, and watching loved ones pass on – expertly brings forth a melancholic tone with an infectious chorus. Their whole debut project Self Care covers a range of emotions, each one tackled with attention to detail and an appropriately diverse sonic palette. They're an exceptionally talented group worth watching out for more from.
Recommended Tracks: "Funeral Home", "Ghost", "Half of Me", "High Hopes", "Circles", "When the Sky Falls Down"
Yes, I am aware that this man is a clown. Every time I hear about him, he seems like a total idiot. I know nothing of his rap career and I don’t especially care to learn more. But Tickets to My Downfall --his 2020, pop-punk-infused record -- is ridiculous, and highly enjoyable. The hooks are huge, and he leans into them hard. Songs like “title track” and “concert for aliens” are over-the-top and cheesy, but also memorable in that he doesn’t hold back. He seems to have the lack of self-awareness and unhinged charisma necessary to pull off these songs. It’s not smart, but it works. And to his credit, tracks like “bloody valentine” and “forget me too”, which try to tap into something even a little deeper, are highly successful! And beyond this album itself, his 2021 release “love race”, which is influenced a bit more by alternative rock and takes on a more serious tone, and is an outstanding effort, showing maybe the slightest bit of artistic growth. I could do without the trap beats on the likes of “drunk face” and “all i know”, and this act could get old fast, but for what it is, it’s a lot of fun.
Recommended Tracks: "concert for aliens", "title track", "bloody valentine", "play this when i'm gone", "love race", "split a pill"
Hailing from the U.K., As December Falls is an up-and-coming pop punk band that centers their work around big, memorable hooks and the stellar vocals of Bethany Hunter. Hunter infuses their work with personality and charisma and power, enhancing already strong writing. The production always feels vibrant and original, allowing poppier sensibilities in the melodies to shine while still maintaining the presence of the driving guitars. With only two full-length albums, they still have a lot of music left in them, and their growth from their self-titled debut – which, while enjoyable, could also feel overwrought at times – to the well-rounded, coherent, and thoughtful Happier. (released in 2021) is highly impressive. An incredibly talented group to keep an eye on.
Recommended Tracks: "H.N.A", "Fake Company", "Happier", "Zombie", "No Money"