In part two of our trek across the motherland, we're hitting up Illinois, home of the greatest pizza my New York roommates won't admit to liking. In addition to controversial pizza, Illinois is home to a fantastic music scene, which we'll be sampling in this segment of State of The Union.
She's Alive are a solid pop punk outfit that follow well in the footsteps of those that have come before them. In certain cases, they have a poppier mentality and more straightforward lyrics, a good match for All Time Low fans that want to dance to loathing and loss. In other instances, however, there's a heaviness that, paired with the sweet, youthful voice of lead singer Alex Rogers, pairs well with fellow Chicago band Fall Out Boy.
I hate working out. I love work out music. I love Workout Music even more. I live for shameless exuberance. I am the world's most low profile party girl, if you will. Workout Music brings the party to me when I'm sitting on the floor in my living room watching South Park reruns. This place has everything*: 80's synths, 70's disco beats, early 2000's pop-rock, and vocals from Tom Muldoon that could put Gabe Saporta out of a job. Workout Music are the band to listen to when you want to raise the roof on a Tuesday morning on the way to work.
*if you didn't catch the Stefon reference please go educate yourself
Call It Treason
Am I too young to yearn for the early days of pop punk? Probably, since I was like 9 and still wearing shirts with sequined lobsters on them. But, I no longer have to yearn, because Call It Treason is a modern band that plays up old school style. They still have the modern-minded pop sensibilities, but with a go-for-it punkiness that's often left out of the equation in today's scene.
Jordan Benker/ Look Out Love
Back to yearning-- early nevershoutnever was inadvertently my introduction to the Warped Tour scene. Jordan Benker keeps the faith burning, like a member of One Direction going solo to perform on a Glamour Kills tour (I say this in the most positive way-- I'm mad down with One Direction). Here's the positive pop that can get along in the rock scene without turning off listeners.
I had a ridiculous time trying to find music from Wyoming bands. But I am nothing if not stubborn. Well, no. I am many things if not stubborn. But, I did it, I hunted through the ether and found some great music, and here's the cream of the crop:
Canyon Kids know how to make softness hit you hard. Their music is atmospheric, enveloping, enclosing, like being wrapped in a cloudy blue sky. Instrumental tracks and vocal tracks are equally as powerful, and accomplish the same strength through different means. Even the rougher tracks, like "Supermoon" feel gracious and welcoming, demure and sexy at the same time.
Poor Me is a misleading band name, because this is a fun band to listen to. The music is upbeat and ready to be listened to in a car barreling down the highway. There's some rawness and aggression, but nothing self obsessive, nothing exclusionary. They've got a vocal tone and a musical style that succeeds on a We Were Promised Jetpacks level and an A Day To Remember level.
Harpoon, the Whale
You don't often see a band describe themselves as both a pop outfit and a hardcore outfit, but Harpoon, the Whale, isn't the average band. Their sound is spiraling, surrounding, heightening, crashing, a full ride from the top to the bottom and back to the top. This is a band that can describe themselves as pop and hardcore, because they're radio ready and mosh pit ready, and both sides are equally exciting.
Shameless to Say
Ever wondered what it would sound like if The Ready Set's Jordan Witzigreuter was the lead singer of Fall Out Boy circa 2003? Shameless to say have the same hardcore-inspired musicality of Take This To Your Grave era Fall Out Boy, and the same sweet pop-ready vocals as TRS, but combined in a way that makes them their own breed- a band that makes pop punk in the most literal and fantastic sense. (Gigantic shout out to manager extraordinaire Amanda who directed me to the band).
Many years ago, my mother took a long journey through the Midwest before coming to the East Coast, and I'm following that adventure musically, beginning this week in Indiana.
I love good metalcore. This is good metalcore. There's the expected drop tuning and back and forth between clean and unclean vocals, but there's also a poetic nature to Authors, an exposure of the tandem nature of slam poetry and punk rock. Because Authors make metalcore that is punk rock. They take their genre work to the next level by pulling in unexpected moments of direct contact with the listener, and this ensures that you'll stay in the palm of their hands.
Brought By Giants
Let's start with the piano intro in "A Safer Place," and talk about haunting. There's a chasm between scary and haunting, and where some post hardcore bands like to go for the former, Brought By Giants capture the latter, ensuring that their music sticks with you. Instead of simply being the demon that chases after you, Brought By Giants becomes the ghost in the shadows that follows you silently home.
The visuals for Sudden Suspension's album Second Place is like a sequel to Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American, and the classic emo nods serve somewhat the same idea. And yeah, there's the cliche desire to leave this town, but there's the skill and musicality to back it up. It's emo music you can dance happily to, not a pity party but a rallying cry.
Before pop punk became a caricature of itself, there were bands like Lost Years. Bands that made punk music with a pop mentality. Fast paced guitars, darkness battling light, lyrics that beg to be chanted and screamed at the top of your lungs. Lost Years make music that gets back to the point of pop punk, and warrants the defense of the genre.
Want a female-fronted pop punk band that doesn't fall into any of the tropes of a female-fronted pop punk band? Here's Quote Unquote, a band which garners no comparisons in the best possible way-- there's nothing derivative about this band, Tori Roper's crystalline voice has no predecessor, and the musicianship doesn't rely on the expectations of the audience. The self-titled album is a journey that needs to be experienced, a promise for great things in the future.
The more I do this feature, the more I realize my lack of geographical knowledge. If we went along with the theory "I think therefore I am," approximately six states would exist in my world. Luckily, I remembered Michigan, because there's a whole lot of music happening that you don't want to miss out on.
Shapes & Colors
Shapes & Colors has the carnival smarts of The Venetia Fair and All Time Low, the pop-rock chops of 30 Seconds to Mars, and guitar range of My Chemical Romance. Though not exclusively pop punk, they'd fit on the bill with any of the top touring pop punk bands now, with enough darkness and light to appease any range of fans. And while their earlier material has the niche sounds of vaudevillian entertainment, the direction they're approaching now has lost the circus sounds and kept all of the fun.
The Most Powerful Weapon
A reference to the power of music, The Most Powerful Weapon fulfills their promise with intense music that, though heavy, lets you float in a stormy ocean. An unusual influence the band cites is Motown- and though the trademark Motown sound is not readily available in their sound, vocalist Ashley Beavers' voice has the same strength as a Motown girl group leader's, but with a grit that is put to good use over hard rock melodies.
Alive In Standby
Alive In Standby switches effortlessly from upbeat pop punk to hard hitting metalcore, and back again. It's metal you can dance to and pop you can mosh to. The music is alternative, but more an alternative to the strict genre lines that can limit a listening experience.
Ever wanted to hear a pop punk vocalist fronting a metal band? The Skeptic is your best bet; Andrew Paulo has the soft, soulful whine of pop punk and emo pillars, while the music behind his voice is strong, spitfire metal. There's no discomfort where the influences meet, instead, the sounds amplify one another, making the music more powerful for the risks it takes.
I'm an East Coast gal. I've lived in the spaces between DC and New York my whole life, and it's given me a bit of a superiority complex when it comes to California (ie I make fun of it a lot). But California produces a lot of great things, and I can't deny that forever. Here's some of the best California has to offer.
Gates of Ivory
Gates of Ivory describe themselves as "a post hardcore/ neoclassical/ rock/ pop genre band," and they deliver on all fronts. Vocals are layered to capture both the sweet and the scary, guitars and drums display technical and emotional power, and there is a sense of both intense forward movement and restraint that keeps listeners entranced. These blends take the best of punk and metal, pop and rock, to create a thickly layered musical experience.
In the world of female fronted metal and hardcore bands, there is an uphill battle to be fought. Varna take up arms and lead the charge, doing all their work in traditional DIY fashion, while creating polished, high-quality music. Singer Tiana Woods has a voice that would succeed in any genre simply for it's tenacity and beauty, and over hard rock music, the result is incredibly powerful.
Eyeshine creates a rallying cry with every song-- a battle cry that forgoes the battle and goes straight to the victory. Rapped lyrics (ala Linkin Park but without the mid 2000s camp) add a direction to sung lyrics that feel as though they move up and down, not left to right. The rapid fire guitar notes and sliding strings are a refreshing move through alt rock, while the mad pace of the rhythm section brings in a sense of punk rock. Eyeshine never falls into one genre's parameters, and does better for it: there's not a moment of boredom in their discography.