Growing Up is the debut EP from Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Human After All. Comprised of five angsty twenty-somethings, the band writes fun, catchy pop punk. The problem that arises when writing in said genre is that many bands don’t deviate from the stereotypical, power chord jams that plague the scene. Emo-tinged lyrics and overdriven guitars set to up-tempo drumming and simple bass lines, this band hits every mark on the pop punk checklist. But is the music actually any good?
Melodies are crucial to the success of a pop punk record. How many times have you found yourself with a pop punk song stuck in your head? Even if you don’t know the words, I’m sure you’ve caught yourself humming along to a chorus or two. This EP has some catchy melodies, but they’re not all that different. In fact, the first time I listened to the record, I thought the first song had played twice; the verses in “I Hate My Friends” and “Roman” are strikingly similar.
Transitions are almost non-existent on this record. It seems like there were a lot of ideas thrown around: riffs, verses, choruses, and bridges. Then, at some point, they couldn’t figure out how to make it all work, so they just put them together. Verses fall into choruses, every bridge has gang vocals, and at the end of “Roman” they throw in a courtesy circle pit for all the punk kids who felt left out. When the EP is done, it’s hard to discern it from all the other pop punk bands that haven’t escaped their local scenes.
The standout track on the album, “Hang from the Neck”, while lyrically weak, has the best guitar lines and vocal melodies. Reminiscent of bands like Fireworks and Stickup Kid, it shows that this band does indeed have potential; it’s just a matter of sitting down and trimming the fat.
Overall, Growing Up isn’t the very fun, catchy pop punk album it wants to be. Its four songs feel forced and contrived, with little to no originality. Luckily, there are some good ideas here, they just need a little more time to bloom, I suppose.
Pop punk is the latest music trend in Wisconsin. From emo-indie rockers Township to the more traditional Human After All, everyone wants to share their own brand. Enter Busy Living, from central Wisconsin, a lyrically dense pop punk band in the vein of Fall Out Boy and Save Your Breath. Their second single “Townline” improves on their last in almost every way. The verses are aggressive, the chorus is catchy (just listen to those “oh ohs” in the background), and the poppy bridge builds perfectly into the final chorus. The guitars aren’t your typical power chord fare, either, using melodic licks to drive the chord progressions. The one downfall is the sampled drums; the band currently lacks a full-time drummer. The samples work on a temporary level, but real drums would do much for the band’s sound.
Busy Living is four hard-working dudes who know how to write a song. “Townline” shows what they’re capable of, and if they keep this up, who knows what’s next?
Best of 2012
Two-thousand twelve was a momentous year, musically, politically, and socially: our president was re-elected, gay marriage was legalized in several states, the SOPA bill tried to ruin the internet, and the world almost ended. But beyond all that, some really great albums came out this year. New bands exploded onto the scene, and veterans of their respective genres released some of their best music to date. From melodic hardcore to lo-fi R&B, post-grunge to chamber pop, the year held much to appreciate. This list is not just what I enjoyed most this year, but albums that were interesting enough that I found myself revisiting them many, many times. There is no order, because I can’t really rank the albums from best to worst; they’re all fantastic.
Departures Teenage Haze
Suis La Lune Riala
Xerxes Our Home Is a Deathbed
Birds in Row You, Me, & the Violence
Code Orange Kids Love Is Love // Return to Dust
How to Dress Well Total Loss
Purity Ring Shrines
Grizzly Bear Shield
Fiona Apple The Idler Wheel..
Such Gold Misadventures
Mixtapes Even on the Worst Nights
Forever Came Calling Contender
Major League Hard Feelings
Hostage Calm Please Remain Calm
The American Scene Safe for Now
Misser Every Day I Tell Myself..
Circa Survive Violent Waves
I’d also like to give recognition to Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. I couldn’t justify a separate hip-hop and R&B category for just two albums. I’d like to know what else people listened to this year, and if you’d like to dispute any of my choices, go ahead.
Happy two-thousand thirteen. Here’s to another great year of music.