The more I do this feature, the more I realize I know absolutely nothing about this country. 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 (a desirable trait, I promise) 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.
Embarrassing fact #1: I do not know any geography.
Embarrassing fact #2: Due to fact #1, I forgot that Oklahoma was a state.
But I asked my roommate to name a state, and since we had just been singing Oklahoma the musical, she named Oklahoma. Which I then proceeded to remember was a state.
Anyway, I apologize to the most OK state out there, and present some examples of why you shouldn't forget about Oklahoma.
I've mentioned before that I really like folk music. John Moreland encapsulates what it is that I love about it-- poetry, beautiful music, and honesty. This is the kind of music I could happily listen to at two in the morning when I can't sleep. The delicate instrumentation sounds like a night sky unfolding, first the dark fabrics and then the scattering of diamond stars. Moreland is especially appealing for me because his voice is incredibly evocative of Bruce Springsteen. Worth a listen or two or one hundred.
Back to rock, and intensely so. Broncho is garage rock with a polished alt rock sound, a mixture of Cage The Elephant and The Wombats, but with a somehow west-coast vibe that complicates their midwest roots. The music is incredibly bass driven and rhythmic, with simple vocals that build upon a Ramones-brand punk.
I've also mentioned I like ambient rock. Semblance's Quotes EP is a prime example of why. A dark, brooding soundtrack with bursts of light and hope, Semblance's music sonically recreates the sky changing above you as you move through your life. The music doesn't need vocals accompaniment because it tells a narrative without it. If you want a beautiful soundtrack for your beautiful life, download the EP now.
With the same dirty bluesy sound that rocketed The Black Keys to alt rock stardom, The Flood offers up a solid EP that will make you feel like you can kick down the bar door with nothing but a pair of cowboy boots. The Flood make rock and roll the way it was conceived- with a guitar, a drum set, and a growling intensity that will make you move.
You thought I wasn't gonna do a pop punk band? Ha! Ha haha! Ha ha ha HA! You were wrong. Very wrong. I say very, because not only am I doing a pop punk band, I'm doing a PHENOMENAL pop punk band. Paper Planets are an act to be reckoned with-- a top notch rhythm section reminiscent of early Fall Out Boy, raspy but incredibly endearing vocals, and guitars that climb miles above your head. Paper Planets are ready and deserving of a big break.
I've been living in New York for a little while now, and have yet to find any local bands I really like. There have been inklings, but nothing that really sticks out to me. So now it's time to stop waiting for music to find me, and start finding music.
One Last Shot
One of my big complaints about Leathermouth is that they've only put out one album. But in comes One Last Shot, which features raw, direct, questioning vocals that sound like they're coming straight from the mouth of Frank Iero- but are in fact coming from frontman Jeremy Miller.
Melancholics bridge the wide gap between psychedelic pop and grunge. It sounds like a bad news bears style road trip that ends early due to lack of gas money. But at least the trip had a good soundtrack.
I like flowers. Flowers are the best. So I was stopped by the cover art of Rachel Ries' album Ghost of a Gardener. Then I was stopped by her Florence Welch-like voice and her multi-instrumental talents. The music is both soothing and haunting, as you would expect of death and flowers.
Broken English has the heavy layering of instrumentals of young Fall Out Boy, with vocals reminiscent of Rise Against. The combination of true punk and pop punk is a successful one, as it keeps the ear guessing and the listener engaged.
Something I noticed during the battle of the bands competition for Warped Tour this summer was how strong the music game was in North Carolina. My previous experiences with North Carolina had been pretty much limited to sand dunes and ducks, so to see this massive wave of fantastic music barreling at me from the state was alarming, but in a good way. Like a fire alarm that gets you out of an exam you didn't study for. So today, we're going to listen to some of the latest and greatest from NC.
One of the coolest things I've found coming out of North Carolina is the mixing of ambient and post-hardcore, which creates this very atmospheric, blizzard- like tunnel of sound. The emo/pop punk scene is strong too, as evidenced by a slew of features in AP magazine covering bands like The Hotelier (with Home Like No Place Is There) and Messenger Down