Thoughts On: Evolution of Bands & Changes in Style

This Monday post is going to be a bit different than what the past ones have been and will probably end up being quite a brain dump. Sit back, grab a snack, and if there are any thoughts you have on this week’s post, comment them down below and we can have a discussion! (I also want to throw in a reminder that these are my personal opinions and I am in no way trying to state any of this as fact. I’m simply writing what I feel about what I’ve seen as of lately.)

In the past six months, probably even sooner, a lot of bands have been in the process of releasing new music which is always exciting. Some bands like The Maine have already released their records while bands like Neck Deep and All Time Low are expected to release them later this year. There is always massive hype around these sorts of releases, especially when bands who have been in the scene longer are continuing their discography and their legacy with new tracks. One thing that is always exciting as well is to hear what these new songs sound like, what new emotions and thoughts have been channeled into this artistic medium. It’s both exhilarating and a bit worrisome when a band you love is releasing new music because as much as you want to support them, the idea always comes up in the back of your head: What if I hate their new stuff?

For this next bit, I’m mainly going to be focusing on All Time Low – many of you readers may know that All Time Low is my favorite band and they have been for quite some time. I’ve been lucky enough to meet them four or five times now, have two tattoos dedicated to them, and quite frankly spent much of my high school life obsessing over them. As with any fan of a band, when they announced that they were going to be releasing a new record in the near future, it piqued my interest! I love hearing new music, especially from an old favorite. But, when I first heard Dirty Laundry as the debut single, I was… disappointed, to say the least. The song has definitely grown on me since then, but my initial reaction was pretty negative. If you listen to Dirty Laundry and then go and listen to a more “quintessential” ATL song (ie: Dear Maria, Weightless, Backseat Serenade, etc.), you’ll probably understand why I was shocked to see that the same band who wrote the Holy Grail album that is So Wrong It’s Right also wrote this new-age, almost electronica track. SWIR was released in 2007 and a lot can happen in 10 years, I fully understand that, but what constitutes an entire genre shift like this one? I’ve been attempting to give the latest single releases from Last Young Renegade the benefit of the doubt but I’m going to be candid when I say that I’m not looking forward to this album’s release.

Before you jump down my throat saying “ATL isn’t the same band they were 8/9/10 years ago!!! They can’t keep writing SWIR and releasing it!!!!” I want to say I know all of this and hope to clear up my thoughts (and probably some of yours) in this Monday’s post. People grow and evolve, and the art that they create will do the same thing. Every member of All Time Low is now in their late 20’s, settling down, and their lives now are far different than they were when they were just getting into their 20’s a while back. Though, this is not an unfamiliar trend we’ve seen in bigger bands in the alternative scene. Think of Fall Out Boy for example: once they switched to a major label (Fueled By Ramen, which ATL coincidentally is now also signed to), their sound changed significantly. Save Rock & Roll and AB/AP sound nothing alike, and if you’ve heard FOB’s most recent single, it sounds like a totally different band altogether. These older bands are stuck between a rock and a hard place: they want to maintain true to what they’ve been doing, but they also want to grow and gain more ground as artists. The issue is not in wanting to evolve here, because any band that stays making the same records is going to grow stale. The real issue is when a band shifts their entire genre because that’s what they think is going to make them more money/get them more fans/etc.

If we keep following All Time Low, look to their album Future Hearts. This was a big creative leap for them as they were exploring new sounds and some unfamiliar territory in that writing process. They wanted to step outside of the box they had sort of built themselves into and they definitely did that with songs like Bail Me Out and Kicking and Screaming being totally unique and unlike anything they had written before. There were some hints of the “old All Time Low” in these tracks but it was a very new thing. This album definitely received mixed reviews but one thing that it did do was skyrocket All Time Low’s career. Through the release of this album, and single tracks like Missing You and Something’s Gotta Give getting some serious mainstream radio airplay, All Time Low was becoming a big powerhouse in the scene again while also breaking into mainstream popularity as well. They were able to sell out Wembley Stadium in the UK and have one of their largest US tours to date alongside FH’s release. So you can understand then why ATL may have seen this album as a hit, even if their tried and true fans will stand to disagree. I see a lot of FH in the singles that have been released from Last Young Renegade and I understand why: this shift to a more mainstream sound is what got them bigger, and they believe following this track record is what’s going to propel them even further. I don’t want to make All Time Low into sell-outs and devalue the work they do, acting like it has no purpose but to make money, because that isn’t the case. I know Alex, Jack, Rian, and Zack love what they create but I do also believe they’re giving up apart of themselves to do what other people want them to do. Creating music that’s genuine is a big reason why I love All Time Low so much and part of me is beginning to feel disconnected from them as they release more music that doesn’t feel like the band I grew to love.

Selfishly, we all want our favorite bands to keep making the music that we loved when we were younger, even if that isn’t quite feasible for them as artists. Plenty of bands begin to fizzle out because their “signature sound” can no longer bring the same pull that it did many years ago. Mayday Parade is a prime example of this – when you think of Mayday, there are a few songs you think of immediately and when you think more, they all sound somewhat similar. Not many tonal shifts in what they release, Mayday Parade has been consistently putting out records that fit in their moody, emo vibe. When they attempted to step outside the box with Black Lines, fans were very disappointed and the album flopped. On their most recent tour, I think they only played one song from that album even though it’s their newest release and should be something they’re playing a lot from. I don’t see Mayday being a band for much longer, because you can only listen to so many of the same sad songs before they all start to sound the same. But, that isn’t to say there also aren’t bands who are able to maintain their “signature sound” without losing ground in the scene. The Maine has done this extremely well, each album similar but a bit different from the other to set themselves apart while also staying true to what they love. Songs from Pioneer and Lovely Little Lonely sound very different but you can still close your eyes and listen to them knowing they’re by The Maine – the vibes and the genre is there, it’s intact.

I could sit here all night and clack away at the keyboard and share my ideas about the evolution of artists but I’ll spare you from myself a bit and wrap this post up. The “Warped Tour” scene is definitely one that is hard to stay relevant in, because there are always new bands coming out that encompass sounds from different bands and keep the genres moving forward and growing. Pop punk as a whole has changed immensely from how it was when it originated (around the early 2000’s) as well as metal, hardcore, pop rock, and other alt genres in this scene. But, the growth and evolution of genre does not have to mean that a band needs to abandon what sound they’ve built for themselves to fit these molds. Music is meant to be experimental and it is an art form at the end of the day. Fans need to be willing to let go of some of their preconceptions about their favorite artists or bands and accept the new music that they make with open arms, and bands need to also listen to what the fans have to say and when the veteran fans don’t receive something well, it may be a sign that what they’re creating isn’t “them”. You can grow as band without changing your sound entirely. I believe fans and critics are more inclined to take what you release seriously if you take some time to sit back, think on what you write, and put all your effort into it. A record that is a label’s mastermind and made to make money sounds far different than a record that is made to convey emotion and be a true extension of the artist, and the fans can hear it. Though, music is a business, and sometimes the creative process must be sacrificed if you care to progress your career as a musician.

I’d love to hear what y’all think about this topic and if you want to have a discussion, I’d love to share more thoughts that I have! Like I said before, I could probably write a novel about how I feel on things like this being both a fan and someone getting involved in the industry.

Top 10 Modern Pop Punk Songs

Hey! I’m back! I’m finally making posts again after a nightmare-ish week I had last week. Since it’s the Monday before finals week where I go to school, I thought I would do another fun Top 10 list to liven up the week. These are 10 of my favorite modern pop punk songs. By “modern” I mean this sort of new age of pop punk that’s hit the Warped Tour scene with bands like Neck Deep, The Story So Far, Real Friends, etc. I could easily see some of you guys disagreeing with me, so as per usual, I’d love to discuss in the comments what you guys think about my picks!

10) Stupid For You – Waterparks

I’m starting the list off with a bit of a reach, I’ll be honest. I think in the past year or two, pop punk has began to shift in a new direction with bands like Waterparks getting introduced into the scene. While they aren’t nearly as aggressive or “pit-worthy” as some of the other bands on this list later, this song really bridges the pop and punk gap with it’s upbeat pop instrumentation but also punk-y, alternative rhythm. Give this song a listen and it will definitely grow on you like it did for me.

9) Guts – Homesafe

Again, this is another song that is a bit of a reach, but just hear me out before you’re quick to judge! This more alternative, edgy, almost grungy style has been really popular lately in the pop punk/emo scene and Homesafe has been blowing up consequently. Hearing this song live is absolutely incredible because Tyler’s screaming vocals really come alive and the crowd goes totally bananas. This is leaning a lot more on the punk side of pop punk, but if you’re a fan of bands like Life Lessons or Knuckle Puck, you’ll love these Chicago natives too.

8) Distant – Like Pacific

Like Pacific opened up for State Champs and Neck Deep on their world tour and has only grown in popularity since then. Their sound encompasses that classic modern pop punk style that’s more common in the rest of the songs you’ll see in this list. Distant was the first song I really got into by them and I think what’s unique about it compared to other pop punk songs is that Jordan’s vocals really range from being that gravely punk style, to being a little more soft and showing some diversity in the track. If you aren’t on board with Like Pacific yet, you better get familiar – they’re only going up from here.

7) Heavy Gloom – The Story So Far

A list of modern pop punk songs wouldn’t be complete without something from The Story So Far. There are a lot of great tunes this band has put out but my favorite by far is Heavy Gloom. I’m not sure if it’s Kelen’s bass line driving the song or if it’s the flawless second verse (try singing it in one breath, it’s literally the hardest thing you’ll ever try to do), but in the first listen to their self-titled album, I was immediately drawn to this song. The chorus is perfect to finger-point along to and will be a great track to blast this summer and sing with all your friends.

6) Yer Killin’ Me – Remo Drive

In the past 6 months, this local Minneapolis band has blew up in the pop punk scene. This was the leading single from their first album release Greatest Hits and it burst onto the scene so fast. I’ve been listening to Remo Drive for over a year and loved that they’re bringing a new, more experimental sound to pop punk. Their songs are filled with unique guitar tones and nothing is boring about any of their tracks. They all have plenty of variation to keep you guessing as to what comes next. This next year is going to be huge for them, I can already see it!

5) Anchor Down – Real Friends

Again, this is another band that I couldn’t not include in a modern pop punk list. Real Friends was one of the first pop punk bands that I got into back in 2013/2014 and this was one of the first songs by them that I fell in love with. There’s something about that opening line that’s just isolated before the rest of the band kicks in with the typical fast-paced sound they’re known for. Nothing beats the crowd vocals that come in on the “fuck the past, and everyone that dragged you here!” part when this song is played live. Such a banger.

4) Critical – State Champs

State Champs put out The Finer Things in 2013 and there is not a single bad song on that record. Critical just happens to be my favorite because there’s something about the “You’re crying, I’m not trying” in the chorus that I absolutely love. I’ve only been lucky enough to hear this song when they performed it on the AP World Tour and haven’t heard it since (despite how often I’ve tried to get them to play it). It’s a good throwback song that’s critically underrated. (no pun intended, even though I wish it was)

3) Pretense – Knuckle Puck

In the past few months I’ve gotten really into Knuckle Puck because they’re my best friend’s favorite band and I’ve seen them quite a bit recently because of it. Pretense has been the song they’ve been using as their closer and it’s the perfect way for them to round out their set. This is one of the faster tracks on Copacetic that’s a perfect modern pop punk song because of high tempo drum line that picks up even more in the second verse before Nick’s solo. That’s the best part of seeing the song live: when Nick jumps down from the stage and gets in the crowd to sing his section of the part. People crowdsurf and pit to get up there and sing in the mic, it pops off like no other.

2) Came Out Swinging – The Wonder Years

If you’re a fan of pop punk and this song isn’t one of the most played in your Spotify/iTunes…what are you doing? When I was first getting into pop punk, I remember seeing the lyrics to this song all over tumblr in gifs and edited onto photos so I had to listen to it. The song starts out kind of quiet as all the instruments are coming in but once Soupy’s vocals hit, you can almost feel the energy shift into something much heavier and powerful. The song just elicits that raw emotion that a good pop punk song does, full of angst and pent up frustration. Then when the song is getting to the end, and Soupy’s vocals get soft at the first “Came out swinging from a South Philly basement…” part, it’s like everyone is getting ready to lose their minds when it hits again with the full band.

1) Tables Turned – Neck Deep

If anyone ever asked me to send them a song that perfectly summed up pop punk in my eyes, this is what I would send them. If you’ve heard this song before then you know exactly what I mean when I say that. I won’t blabber on and I’ll let the song speak for itself if you give it a listen.

My apologies…

Hey guys,

I’m just writing this up quick to apologize for the lack of posts this week. A lot of things have been going on and I’m just trying to sort it all out. I’m back in my hometown now and have this weekend entirely open so hopefully I can use it to catch up on posts and get my shit back together lol.

Just keeping you updated on what’s going on with me! Hope all is well for y’all.

xoxo, Lou

Song of the Week: Around the World and Back – State Champs

I would say I get this song stuck in my head at least once a month and today happens to be the day! I’ll be seeing State Champs on Tuesday so I guess it’s only appropriate that I make one of their songs the “Song of the Week”.

While Around the World and Back isn’t my preferred album of theirs, this song is really catchy and captures a different, more acoustic side of the pop punk band. Check it out!

First Impressions Friday: Harry Styles

While I intended FIF to be me writing about bands/artists I had yet to listen to, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about my first thoughts on Harry Styles’ first single as a solo artist. (Technically this is the first time I have heard anything from Harry as just a solo artist, even if it is a bit of a reach.)

Last night, into this morning, I stayed up until 2 AM waiting for the release of “Sign of the Times” on BBC Radio 1. This had been so anticipated for over a month and every day that it got closer, I got more and more anxious to hear the music that Harry had been working on. Ever since there was the announcement that One Direction was going on hiatus/the other boys were releasing solo projects, Harry’s was still the one I was most excited for because I knew whatever he created would be super unique and different than anything that One Direction had put out before.

“Sign of the Times” was entirely unexpected when I heard it. I knew it was going to be a longer song (over 5 minutes) but that’s all I was ready for. The song starts with a piano intro and Harry’s vocals are almost isolated as he begins with “Just stop your crying, it’s the sign of the times…”. It’s been said over and over again that this song has almost a Queen/Freddie Mercury/David Bowie vibe and I can totally see it. There’s something almost dreamy and ethereal about the instrumentation that channels these icons from the 1970’s and 80’s. I was incredibly impressed with his vocals, going from almost ballad-like singing to higher tones that had never really been emphasized while he was a member of One Direction. The variance of vocals and almost soothing lyrical rhythm he has in the pre-chorus and chorus makes the song both beautiful but also a bit haunting. To me, Harry Styles has always been a bit of a private person, but you can really feel that this was a personal move for him and the song takes on even a more vulnerable persona with that in mind.

You can believe me when I say this song (along with The Maine’s new album I’ll be reviewing next week) will be on repeat all weekend as I power through some of my end of the year assignments. Listen to “Sign of the Times” here if you haven’t heard it already, or want to listen to it a million times over like I will. Follow Harry on Twitter to keep up to date with his upcoming releases and show your love for my favorite member of One Direction when his new album drops!

Album Review: Obsessive, Compulsive, and Disorderly… – The Pursuit of Cash

Last week, Henri Jourdan, a friend of mine from high school asked me to review his band’s album and I happily accepted the offer. I love supporting my friends in anyway that I can and it was super fun to check out the project he’s created!

The Pursuit of Cash released their first record Obsessive, Compulsive, and Disorderly… this past summer through the help of Will Maravelas at 14:59 Studios in Minneapolis. They’re based out of Northern Minnesota and are an up and coming, classic punk rock band. The album starts out with a solo bass-line that immediately peaked my interest, before it kicks into the first track “Humans W/O Brains” quickly with up-beat drums and shredding guitars. Henri’s vocals are consistent throughout the record, an aggressive almost yell over top of the fast-paced instrumentation. Throughout the whole record, what I caught onto is that there’s almost something jokey about the lyrics, where you can tell that this is meant to be something fun and not intended to be taken super seriously. The best example of this is their track “Porn Baby” – I definitely got a bit of a laugh out of that one in just listening to the lyrics. This record really lives up to it’s name, with this disorderly sound that is true to the genre. I can totally visualize these songs being played live and the mosh pits that would break out in response.

The stand-out track for me on the record is “Brainerd”, because it has the total “I hate this town” vibe that is super relatable. (It may also be that I’m from Brainerd so I totally get what Henri’s saying about how shitty our hometown is.)

Now I wouldn’t consider myself someone who is well-versed in true punk rock bands, from what I have listened to, this album really captures that sound. It’s so refreshing to see people who are committed to keeping this genre alive rather than just playing into some of the more common musical tropes that we see in what’s popular today.

Going along with that, though, my main critique may come from not being super familiar with different punk albums. I’m not sure if this is the case with a lot of bands or records done in this style, but something about the mix of this record seems a bit off. All of the instruments sound great on their own and the talent that each of the members have is really well-recognized, but it doesn’t seem blended well together as a whole. It seems like the vocals get turned up and the band gets pushed back when they’re kicked in, rather than the two being equally blended together like I hear in other albums. It doesn’t take away from the album a lot, but it was definitely something that I noticed when I was listening and want other people to be aware of if they go into listening to it as well.

It was super cool to finally listen to what Henri and his friends have been working on, and I’m stoked to watch them grow as a band and see what the future holds for these punk-rockers! You can listen to the album here and find them on Facebook as well if you want to keep up with what they’re doing next.

Concert Diaries: Never Shout Never (March 28th, 2017)

Hey guys! It’s Monday again, and I’m back with another post. I still haven’t thought of a good theme for my Monday posts, so I think they’re just going to continue to be kind of a hodge-podge of different post types. Today I’m coming at you with a long, long, LONG, Concert Diaries post. This little “Concert Diaries” series is going to be kind of way for you to know my thoughts on the shows I’ve gone to, but also a way for me to keep some of these memories in an accessible place.

Last Tuesday (3/28) my best friend and I drove 7 hours to the Granada in Lawrence, KS so I could see Never Shout Never on their “Throwback Tour”. I have loved Never Shout Never since I was 10/11 years old (as you saw in last week’s post) and when this tour was announced, I think I was single handedly the person who was most excited for these shows. Never Shout Never was the first artist I found independently and got me into this emo/pop punk scene I’m in now. Without Never Shout Never, I wouldn’t have discovered All Time Low, or any of the other bands that have impacted me so much throughout middle school and high school. Never Shout Never was the first artist I ever loved, and this was my 5th time, and one of my favorite times, seeing them.

We got to Kansas at about 3:00 and grabbed a bite to eat before we headed over to the venue. We weren’t really in the mood to stand in line for multiple hours but we didn’t have anything better to do so we waited at the venue from like 5:00 to when the doors opened at 7. We ended up being about 2nd row for the show and there was no barricade, so when the first band came out, we were within touching distance of them. In typical NSN fashion, they took out Me Like Bees as their support for the tour. All the times I’ve seen NSN at a real venue (aka not on Warped Tour), Me Like Bees has opened for them but this is by far the best time I’ve seen them play. The crowd was really engaged during most of their songs and they were really able to hype up the crowd before the headliner came out. It’s not exactly the style of music I gravitate towards, but a lot of their songs have fun sing-a-long parts that makes their live performance really interactive and fun even if you aren’t a huge fan of the band. Many of their songs are driven by a repetitive bass-line and twangy guitar sounds so a lot of fans of the newer Never Shout Never songs would be fans of Me Like Bees.

Once Me Like Bees were done, they began setting up for NSN and the stage design was so cute. They brought back his old banner (the American flag with the peace sign instead of the stars) and there were fresh and fake flowers spread all over the stage. The drums were a kit from the Time Travel album and had these really cool lights in them that would illuminate the entire kit in the dark. Everything felt like old school Never Shout Never and I was absolutely in love with it because that was the NSN I fell in love with. One of the crew members put the setlist on the stage and so everyone clamored to see what was on it. Now, keep in mind, this Throwback Tour was pegged as a 10 year anniversary tour, and it was being marketed under the idea that NSN was going to play both Me and My Uke and The Yippee EPs in full. Like I said, when this got announced I practically pissed my pants thinking I would get to hear all these songs I’ve never heard before live. So when I took a look at the setlist and saw that songs like Smelyalata and Did it Hurt? weren’t on there, I can’t pretend like I wasn’t bummed. What ended up being the case was that only some of the songs from these EPs made it onto the setlist and the rest (aka the less popular ones) were booted. Nonetheless, I was stoked for the show and when I saw that songs like Your Biggest Fan and Heregoesnothin’ were on there, I got even more excited.

NSN came out to the stage at about 9:00 PM and opened with Bigcitydreams so the whole crowd freaked out. This is one of those classic NSN songs that if you were a scene kid back in the day, you knew all the words to. As the crowd shifted and moved, I ended up being only a couple people away from Chris which was making my scene heart melt. (It’s 2017 and I still have a fat crush on that guy.) I think my favorite thing about seeing Never Shout Never live is that the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously, so half the time they’re playing, and the other half of the time they’re just dicking around on stage and interacting with the crowd. And when I say interacting with the crowd, I mean it: NSN fans are loud, screaming things like “I love you!!!!” and throwing things on stage from the crowd every 2 seconds. It got annoying after a while because they would be screaming things while Chris was singing and that just gets old. The set went on with classics of course like Trouble, California, Piggy Bank, etc. A lot of these songs I had already heard but I was still having fun singing along and dancing, while my best friend got to see my #1 original favorite for the first time. By the time it got the end of the set, the one song they had left was Heregoesnothin’ and once they started playing it, I won’t lie when I say I started getting teary-eyed. This is one of those songs that I never thought I would get to hear live, so singing along with it 9-10 years later was hitting me with all the nostalgic emotions I had back in the day. NSN always does an encore though, and Chris came back out to play First Dance with just the uke and his voice, and then played a pretty emotionally heavy rendition of Harmony with just the acoustic guitar plugged in. The crowd took out their phone lights and their lighters and lit up the room while he sang; it really captured the essence of the song and brought all the fans together.

After the show I picked up a t-shirt with The Summer EP artwork on it, so I can let people know that I was emo back in the day and still am. I waited outside with my best friend for a while knowing Chris would come outside to meet fans. A bunch of girls swarmed him when he first came out so I stood back and waited for my turn and let the wild ones get out of the way first. By the time it got to being my turn, my hands were shaking and my heart was racing. I meet people in bands a lot, but there’s something that makes me so nervous about talking to him every time I’ve met him. Our conversation wasn’t long, but I showed him the tattoo I got for the band and he said he remembered seeing it on twitter and liking it then. He picked up my arm and gave my tattoo a kiss and I audibly gasped because I was so shocked that he loved it so much enough to do that! I told him thank you for all he’s done for me and the other people there and he gave me a huge hug and thanked me too for all the support and coming out to shows. We took a picture together (below) and then I headed home for the night after he made me promise I’d see him again.

A lot of people think Christofer Drew is just this like weird, hippie guy and while I will agree, he is also the most genuine “famous person” I have ever met. He takes time to talk to everyone not because he has to, but because he genuinely wants to and he treats everyone so kindly. I can’t say enough positive things about him. I had an incredible time at the show, and this is definitely going to be one for the books!

my good boy