Boy, was it great to be a pop-punk fan in 2011. With seasoned vets showing that they still have life in them (Blink-182, Saves The Day, New Found Glory, etc.) along with plenty of quality releases from modern pop-punk heroes (The Wonder Years, Man Overboard, Transit, etc.), the genre was clearly at its finest this year. More and more kids are developing a relationship with gang vocals and stage diving and labels are taking more of a liking to the genre, so it is clear to see that the pop-punk culture is returning to power once again. Even though some of the aforementioned bands took the spotlight during such a great year, I feel that there are some bands that flew under the radar that are worth mentioning to those people who are new to the genre. Below are what I believe to be very promising pop-punk acts that should be better known. So throw on your Shallow Water shirts, roll up the bottom of your pant legs, and rest your vocal cords in preparation for the ten albums from 2011 that every pop-punk fan should be aware of.
The Story So Far – Under Soil And Dirt
If there is one pop-punk band that I cannot praise enough, it is the Walnut Creek-based quintet The Story So Far. When one spins Under Soil And Dirt for the first time, there is no doubt in my mind that that person will be blown away. Paying perfect homage to what made pop-punk so beloved in the first place, the band rips their way through 11 tracks of pure and honest pop-punk gold. Vocalist Parker Cannon proves his worth as one of the most charismatic vocalists in the genre as his crisp shouts echo gloriously, as though he was born to sing pop-punk songs. If The Story So Far doesn’t blow up in 2012, it will be an enormous surprise.
Such Gold – Pedestals/Stand Tall EPs
Now, most pop-punk fans are already aware of heavy hitters Such Gold, but with nothing but a couple of EPs and a few splits available, I feel they should be mentioned here. Both the Pedestals and Stand Tall EPs deliver exactly what this band is all about, and that is incredibly heavy and fast no-bullshit pop-punk with guts. Ben Kotin’s raw screams, coupled with his ability to write a great hook, make Such Gold special, and with a brand new contract with Razor And Tie Records and their first proper full-length slated for Spring of 2012, expect big things from these New York punks.
Handguns – Don’t Bite Your Tongue
With all of the easycore bands popping up everywhere, it has become more and more difficult to find pop-punk bands that stay true to the literal interpretation of the term “pop-punk,” which is, of course, the fast-paced, to-the-point instrumentation of punk music perfectly intertwined with the catchy melodies of pop music. Handguns is a band that pulls off that formula perfectly. While Taylor Eby may not have a great voice, his tone and passion deliver exactly what a solid pop-punk band needs, and Woody Spokas’ incredibly speedy drumming proves that Handguns is not to be taken lightly. Much like The Story So Far, watch out for these guys in 2012.
It really is too bad that the only real recognition Living With Lions received this year was due to the controversial subject matter of their album artwork. Mainly because the album represented by that artwork is pretty damn fantastic! With catchy melodies and strong instrumentation galore, Holy Shit should be a staple for any pop-punk fan.
Major League – Variables/Truth Is… EPs
This band references The Wonder Years in one of their songs. Should more be said? Well, probably. Sometimes the whole easycore thing is done right, and Major League is a band that does. Easycore is normally a genre that makes people cringe, but for every terrible representation like Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, there is a great representation like Major League. With melodies as infectious as these, it is hard not to sing along.
With The Punches – Keep It Going/It’s Not the End of the World EPs
If Major League is the bright spot among the plethora of terrible easycore, With The Punches is the motherfucking sun. Even though these guys have been around for a good four to five years, they are finally starting to take off. Vocalist Jesse Vadala delivers a breath of fresh air to easycore as his unique vocal style shines on both the Keep It Going and It’s Not the End of the World EPs, and the mature riffage of Dustin Wallace only sweetens that pot. Signing to Doghouse Records this year and announcing the news of their first full-length in the works, With The Punches definitely has a lot to give the growing pop-punk scene.
Crucial Dudes – 61 Penn
One of their song titles is a Saves The Day reference. Should more be said? Ugh fine, of course. South Jersey’s own Crucial Dudes (or “Crudes” to their fans) are identified as exactly what The Story So Far and Such Gold are often identified as: a perfect torch carrier. Crucial Dudes play their own take on the old-school raw style of pop-punk, and they pull it off marvelously.
I Was A Hero – TBD
I was skeptical to put Albany’s I Was A Hero on this list, but the fact that these guys have been a band for less than a year, only have a few songs available for your ears to hear, and already have over 1,000 likes on Facebook says something to the world. A relatively young group, they not only show promise in the few songs on Facebook, they also carry an uncanny resemblance to pop-punk pioneers The Movielife, and that’s enough to convince me.
Run For It – No You Ain’t, We Is
This is another band I am unable to praise enough. When the boys in Run For It picked up vocalist Tony Conner from the now-defunct Bangarang!, they made the best decision of their career. Conner not only shines but he totally captivates. His Patrick Stump-esque vocals are the focal point of No You Ain’t, We Is, and deservedly so. While the instrumentation on this album ranges from average to above average, Conner’s vocals are the lone constant when it comes to Run For It’s talent. This band deserves all the attention they can get and hopefully bright things lie in their future.
Our Life Story – Shorelines/I’d Rather Change Than Stay the Same EP
When younger bands show abilities beyond their years, it is always a breath of fresh air. Our Life Story may not be a very unique pop-punk band, but they definitely carry a certain maturity and poise that is undoubtedly beyond their level of experience. I’d Rather Change Than Stay the Same and Shorlines each contain five songs of perfectly crafted pop-punk. If one thing is certain, it is that Our Life Story knows how to compose a spectacular pop-punk song.