Sound — 7
There comes a point where you have to question yourself if becoming more pop to sell more records is worth it. Fellow New York pop-punkers, State Champs came into the scene with two self released EP's, one released in 2010, and another in 2011, but got signed to Pure Noise Records for their third one, titled "Overslept," which was released just a year later. But it wasn't until their first full length album, "The Finer Things," where they had gained a bigger gathering. I have been told that it is a fantastic pop-punk album by a number of peers, but I just couldn't quite get into it for some reason. With this new album, "Around the World and Back," I can easily say that I dig quite a number of songs here. I went into this album with unsure expectations, since while I do find the first single, "Secrets" to be very catchy, it does get a bit stale after a few listens. This could be because it does fall into the repetitive category at times, but I think it's mainly because the instruments follow the same format throughout the whole song, aside from the bridge. Don't get me wrong, I think the main guitar riff is nice, but the song itself isn't something to really praise.
"Losing Myself," however, has to be one of the best, if not the best pop-punk song to have come out this year. The drumming in this song, among others, such as "Shape Up," "Breaking Ground," but more importantly, "Eyes Closed" are really something to look out for. It's quite obvious that "Losing Myself" is my favorite song on the album, and it is not only the drumming, but the way the palm muted riffs are used, and the way lead vocalist Derek DiScanio is able to sing ever so softly, yet powerfully. The song ends with a really well executed fade out which leads into the very lackluster "All You Are Is History." Instrumentally, the song is fantastic, I'll give it that, but there comes a point where a song becomes way too cheesy, and this one happens to be one of them. And I'm sure that can be said for a few other songs here, but at least songs such as "All or Nothing" don't follow the typical pop-punk format. The title track is probably the most difficult song on this album to swallow though, especially when it comes to that cheesiness factor. I mean, it is definitely a beautiful song for sure, especially since Ansley Newman of Jule Vera is a guest feature. In the end, this song is incredibly cheesy though, and it's not even just because of the lyrics, but it comes off as a really typical acoustic pop-punk song, especially with that exchange between both vocalists with what they say and how emotional both get later on in the song, and I'll explain more of that in the lyrics section below. In the end, it's really not a song that I would listen to a lot, as I would literally go crazy.
As I had said, the drumming to some of these songs are just amazing, but it's the opener, during the intro of "Eyes Closed" and even throughout the song that really stand out. The song itself does seem to get repetitive a lot, especially with the chorus, but the song isn't bad. One of the more notable cuts on this album happens to be a really fitting song name for the band. "Perfect Score" does an incredible job of capturing the average pop-punk listener's attention because... Whaddya know, it's a song about a girl, and at the same time just incredibly catchy. It's a song to get immature with by jamming out with your colorful sunglasses on in sunny weather with the windows down and the sunroof open. Can't you tell I did this myself? Oh Snapchat... Actually, I think that's what I did with track 7, titled "Shape Up." The "When I tell you why I don't act my age / It compliments the fact that you've got nothing to say" part really seemed fitting for a Snapchat video moment. The other song that really impressed me was "Breaking Ground." The guitar parts throughout the song are well executed. It's when the closing track, "Tooth and Nail" rolls around where expectations seem to be lowered a bit for me. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song, and not nearly as generic as "All You Are Is History" or "Back and Forth," but it's just a weak closing track. When I listen to an album, I want to feel like the song belongs in its place. "Eyes Closed" did a fantastic job as the opening track, with the way the drums rolled on through with such a powerful force, almost as if indicating that it was meant to be an opening song. But "Tooth and Nail" just seems to be on the album not knowing its place, and the song itself just seems okay. Overall, the sound is huge on some songs, but there is a few that bring down the score a little.
Lyrics — 5
This is the section where I really want to be nice because the sound section was pretty good, but overall, we are found with a ton of typical pop-punk cliches in this section. Sometimes, it's easy to ignore, but with the most easily song to pick apart, the title track just screams cheesy. I think the only line I even like in this song is "She's got eyes like spring, legs like the summer" because it captures that sense of imagery. It's when the lines "There's too many ways to say goodbye / But it's quite the opposite this time" is said where I just know exactly where this song is going. And that's when the chorus comes in with immense cheesiness:
"Sometimes I can't help but say
I'm falling in love and it's scaring me
It came to me in a dream
Now all that's left is our empathy
But this is just the life I ordered
One step back and two steps forward
Sometimes I can't help but say
We're making history."
And I'm not even done yet. The emotion that gets shown during the bridge is great and all, but again, so much cheese put into it.
"You pulled me in like a tidal wave
And let ourselves just float away
With no direction, or a way to rewind
Yeah, you pulled me in like a tidal wave
Thought that it was my mistake
And we'd fall apart before I say goodbye
But it's quite the opposite this time."
Quite frankly, Derek really pushed the All Time Low sound a bit too hard on that song, but like I said earlier, it is still a great song, if you look past the cheesiness. Speaking of All Time Low, Derek really pushed that side a ton during the chorus of "Eyes Closed," which annoyed me to no avail at times. I like the song, but like I said in the sound section, it does get repetitive:
"How many stories have you told
Where you made it through hell with your eyes closed?
It's not that easy anymore (Believe me, it's not easy)
If seeing is believing, than everything you say is misleading
You told your story, but I don't feel sorry anymore."
"Losing Myself" is a song that I would like to know a little bit more about. While the lyrics aren't anything to write on home about, there are a few lines that got me wondering, from the very first words said:
"I said I'll always remember the wood grain beneath my feet in a busy street
I never said I was angry, but I think I'm still in misery
But it's what I needed and you took me by surprise"
"Another day I was selfish;
It reminds me of my wasted youth and all the one's and two's
I try to live in the moment;
It reminds me of the time we spent trapped in your apartment."
Another song that I had mentioned earlier that has a lot of cheesiness as well is "All You Are Is History." The very first few words said just turned me off:
"I'm a realist and an optimist
But I swear to you, I'm not getting over this."
The pop-punk immaturity is very strong in a few songs too, and as I had already said, I enjoy some of these moments. Perfect Score highlights some of those moments with these lines:
"Oh no, I'm mixing up my words again
Who knows when I'll make a move but
She comes and she goes and she does what she's told."
The only other lines that I liked were from "Breaking Ground":
"With Boston still on your skin
The answer isn't where you are, it's where you've been."
It just seemed interesting to see some guys from New York knowing a girl from Boston, but hey, the two states aren't too far away from each other if you minus traffic, coming from someone who lives in Massachusetts.
Overall, as you've seen there are some really cheesy moments, but a few good to okay ones in this section, so nothing horrible, but there are a bit too many cliches for me to give it a good score, unfortunately.
Overall Impression — 8
2015 has been a huge year for pop-punk, and there's still one fairly notable release that I'm not expecting much from, and that's by Handguns. But overall, there has been some great releases, from Hit The Lights, The Wonder Years, Knuckle Puck, or even the weird breed that is Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! Overall, this album seems to be a little bit less good as TWY's release in my opinion, especially when you compare the lyrics of both bands, TWY blows them out of the water. This album would go better in comparison to Neck Deep's latest, which also isn't that bad, but there are also two or three songs that did nothing for me. I think they did a little better regarding lyrics, but as a whole, SC is able to gather the catchiness factor a bit more. This album seems to be more pop than punk, but that isn't a bad thing. It's certainly one I can show any fans of All Time Low or 5 Seconds Of Summer.