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Close the Distance
At this point, Go Radio is likely associated with pop-punk more due to reputation than actual output. 2011’s Lucky Street was a foreshadowing of the band’s more pop-oriented direction, more fully realized in Close the Distance. Honestly, labeling the album pop-punk might be a disservice, as the album expands far, far beyond the parameters of the genre, yet deserves every ounce of recognition it can get. Jason Lancaster’s vocals soar throughout the Close the Distance, which winds through mellow and more upbeat numbers effortlessly. Opener “I Won’t Lie” and lead single “Go to Hell” exhibit possible crossover material, while “Things I Don’t See” and “Hear Me Out” showcase a band with arena-filling anthem aspirations. If Go Radio continues to improve and refine their sound with their next release, look out.
The Early November
Rarely do band reunions result in a product that not only merits the anticipation, but also goes beyond expectations. With In Currents, Ace Enders and company show some of the fire found on 2003’s debut The Room’s Too Cold, while adding plenty of new tricks to the playbook. Songs like “Digital Age” serve as a change of pace and also shed light on Ender’s frustrations with the scene. Fortunately, those frustrations have led to a passionate return to form after it appeared that the band may have been done for good. As is, the Early November’s fresh blend of alt-rock and pop-punk is a nostalgic road trip with its eyes set straight ahead.
Motion City Soundtrack
Motion City Soundtrack is a band that has covered a number of different genres while blurring the lines between pop and punk over the course of its career. Their latest release, Go, is a time capsule of the band’s career, reflecting on past mistakes and pains and then choosing to move forward. “Circuits and Wires” is one of the most enjoyable tracks of the year, while “The Coma Kid” and “Boxelder” add a change of pace and drive the album forward. Justin Pierre’s storytelling abilities shine once again on the likes of “Timelines”, as he declares, “Take it in and hold on while you can / All the destruction will one day end / And you’ll finally know exactly who you are.” These lines capture the heart of Go, an album that refuses to remain still, but begs for progress and self-realization.
While it may ruffle some feathers to see Such Gold’s Misadventures listed on a pop-punk list, the album is just too damn good not to mention. Furthermore, there was a time not so long ago when the pop-punk genre wasn’t defined by autotuned vocals, cool haircuts, and neon clothes. Such Gold captures the fire that the genre had at the outset, and leans much more on punk than it does pop. Regardless, the album rips from front to back with some of the best guitar work you’ll hear this year. The fact that Misadventures is so ear pleasing and catchy in the midst of its raucous and fast-paced framework is a testament to the band’s ability as songwriters and their knack for execution. You’ll be hard pressed to find a debut this year as good as Misadventures.
To put it simply, Southern Air is Yellowcard’s best album, which is saying a lot considering the band’s catalogue contains the classic Ocean Avenue and the criminally underappreciated Paper Walls. Instead of falling into a comfort zone and coasting after last year’s reunion and the subsequent release of the well-received When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, the band pushed itself as hard as ever, crafting an album that pays respect to its past while embodying everything that should be expected of a pop-punk album in 2012. There is no filler on Southern Air, which opens with the magnificent “Awakening”, a soaring track that sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Always Summer” captures the trademark Yellowcard sound at its best, while “Telescope” and “Surface of the Sun” showcase the growth in vocalist Ryan Key’s songwriting. Likewise, violinist Sean Mackin and drummer LP shine like never before. It appears Yellowcard has used its second chance to show everyone within earshot what a pop-punk album is supposed to sound like.