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One of the most under-hyped albums of the year, Gospel is a huge step forward from 2009’s All I Have to Offer Is My Own Confusion, helping to put Detroit’s Fireworks on the pop-punk map. The always-recognizable vocals of Dave Mackinder sound more impressive than ever, as does the guitar work of Chris Mojan and Brett Jones. Fireworks quite simply have a sound all their own: they still perfectly utilize the art of catchy hooks and thoughtful lyricism, while also throwing in enough changes of pace throughout the course of Gospel to keep things interesting. Although their sound may not be accessible enough to catch on with the mainstream crowd, it’s a challenge very much worth taking on.
When Mayday Parade released its major label debut Anywhere But Here in 2009, it was apparent that more had been lost than just the presence of former vocalist and songwriter Jason Lancaster. The group’s sound had been noticeably overhauled due to the label’s insistence on providing songwriters and giving the band a more accessible polish. Now once again independent and free to write its own songs, Mayday Parade has surpassed expectations with this year’s self-titled release. On Mayday Parade, the band recaptures the spark found on their earlier work, reintroducing dual vocals courtesy of drummer Jake Bundrick, who complements Derek Sanders well. The rest of the group sounds as tight as ever, especially on tracks like “Oh Well, Oh Well” and “I’d Rather Make Mistakes Than Nothing at All”.
It wasn’t that long ago that it appeared that the Mark, Tom, and Travis Show was done for good. However, following an improbable series of events, the door for communication was reopened and the mending of old friendships had begun. Although the status of those friendships is still hazy and the majority of the album was written and recorded in separate studios (with correspondence taking place via emails and phone calls), it’s that very tension and uneasiness lying below the surface of Neighborhoods that makes the record great. Sure, there’s influence from Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker’s +44 and Tom DeLonge’s Angels and Airwaves projects, but each track feels very “Blink”, even if there’s an obvious (and necessary) maturity, both in tone and in spirit.
When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes
Another comeback for the ages, Yellowcard ended its four-year hiatus with a triumphant return in the form of When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes. Possessing both the mature songwriting found on 2007’s Paper Walls and the youthful immediacy of the group’s 2003 classic Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard’s latest release is a perfect storm of the band’s abilities. Vocalist Ryan Key has never sounded better, whether he’s belting out anthems like “Sing for Me” and “Hang You Up”, or singing instant summer staples such as “With You Around”. Meanwhile, Sean Mackin’s work on violin and LP’s drumming are simply beautiful. If When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes is a sign of things to come, Yellowcard fans have a lot to look forward to.
The Wonder Years
Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing
If last year’s peppy breakout The Upsides was the Wonder Years’ call to look on the bright side, then Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing is a sobering reminder that sometimes things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. A whirlwind ride through the 12 months of lead singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s life leading up to the recording of the album, Suburbia thrives on its painful honesty as well as its artistic integrity. Just listen to the bite in Campbell’s voice when he sings “I’m not a self-help book, I’m just a fucked up kid” on “Local Man Ruins Everything”. Gritty and sometimes bleak, but always entertaining and passionate, Suburbia has put the fire back in a genre that was slowly becoming stale and forgettable, and serves as the new benchmark for pop-punk.