Pop-punk is meant for the summer. It’s meant to be blasted from car stereos with the windows down and backseats occupied. It’s meant for bands that write about their problems – whether it’s about fitting in, relationships, or trust. It’s meant for weekend trips, Friday nights, and drives through the suburbs. With Warped Tour just around the corner and lots of punk to be heard from basements, clubs, and cars throughout the next few months, here’s a list of 10 albums that should help guide you.
Nothing Personal / All Time Low
I used to think of All Time Low as a pop-punk boy band. Though that could be a somewhat reasonable opinion today, I still love the band’s 2007 release Nothing Personal. This album surprised me with its more-punk-than-pop formula that I didn’t expect to hit me. If there’s anything that I love most about the record, though, it’s how fun and energetic it can get. The riffage of “Break Your Little Heart” infused with its exchange of poppy melodies makes for an extremely memorable track. The tank tops of “Lost in Stereo” and late night parties of “Hello, Brooklyn” (which is by far one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard) reinforce the summer essence that magically recurs throughout the record. Though I can’t say I feel the same way about every other All Time Low album, the catchy choruses, fun lyrics, and punky guitar melodies of Nothing Personal help structure what I feel is a summer staple.
Monster Monster / The Almost
What I consider to be one of the best Tooth & Nail releases of all-time, Monster Monster takes influence from every other band on the label and transverses both the vibes brought by these artists and the reverberating summer sentiments. Part of the summer feel may come from frontman Aaron Gillespie’s childhood days spent on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. On the other scope, the influences found span from The Classic Crime to Underoath – no surprise that the latter comes into play, as Gillespie used to drum for the metalcore giants. The overall feeling induced by songs like “Hands” – a great sing-along – and the suitably named “Summer Summer” make for a car ride like no other. Monster Monster seeps through the cracks of the imperfection of all the alt-punk bands before it that failed to make a record as catchy and sweeping as this one.
Enema of the State / Blink-182
When trying to pick out the bands that do such a great job of making the emotions of these months immaculate, it’s hard to avoid mentioning Blink-182. Though the trio has a handful of hits from “Dammit” to “I Miss You,” there are enough hits on Enema of the State alone that it takes two hands to count. Not only do I feel aptly fulfilled by “Going Away to College,” considering that I will be going away to college after this summer, but songs like “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things” are perfect August anthems, reminding their huge teenage fanbase about juvenility and the transition between school years. “Adam’s Song” is the darkest, saddest side of Blink seen on the record; once the cloud of angst clears, though, the guitars continue to subtly tear across a landscape that is most pristine with the windows down and sunglasses on.
Homesick / A Day To Remember
What do I love about Homesick? I could go on for days. For one thing, if you want a sleek, catchy hook, it’s there. If you’re looking for a lyric to empower you, it’s right in front of you. If you’re looking for a powerful breakdown to thrust all of your anger out, it’s also present. The songs are seemingly pop-punk from the outside but often get so heavy that they become immediate mosh anthems. However, the transition from scream-heavy metal to sing-along pop-punk is such a smooth one that it feels natural, especially in songs that are ruled by guitar chugs like “The Downfall of Us All” and “NJ Legion Iced Tea.” A Day To Remember not only changed the music scene forever with their stamp on popcore/pop-mosh/whatever you want to call it, but they also crafted an album that is an absolute perfect play when the temperature outside is 90 degrees or higher.
Enemy of the World / Four Year Strong
It was so hard to choose between Set Your Goals’ This Will Be the Death of Us and this album. For one, both records feature tracks that include the word “summer” in them. They are also albums that I consider to be the top pop-punk records of their release years. But in the end, nothing can beat beardcore, not even Hayley Williams (who is featured in SYG’s “The Few That Remain”). The guitar work is equally as impressive, if not even more technically sound than Set Your Goals’, but what makes Enemy of the World such a grand record in its own right is its flow. Guitars chime in at perfect moments, scraping together scraps of punk and taking their seats to the dual vocal effort from Dan O’Connor and Alan Day. When the world called on them, Four Year Strong, or should I say Four Beards Strong, came through with a smashing effort that should easily propel listeners through the three months they call “summer.”
Hot Fuss / The Killers
I was addicted to Hot Fuss during my early years of high school (this was way before I was into pop-punk), and last year I seemed to revitalize my addiction and raise it from its comatose state. As Hot Fuss awoke, its electro-infused alt-rock ballads lifted me off my feet once again. I felt the creative edge of songs like “Mr. Brightside” and its cunning lyrical style, and the dance-ready prowess “Smile Like You Mean It,” a song that has made me smile many times. Every song is like a summer miracle, reminding me of days spent by the ocean during late July vacations. It’s nice to know that these songs and their characteristically memorable verses and choruses can put me in such a place as the seaside. All I have to say is thank you for 2011, as I saw The Killers ironically bring something back to life in front of my eyes.
Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do / Relient K
I almost chose Mmhmm for this list, but then I remembered the classic feel of Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right…But Three Do. Every time I listen to it, I am reminded of high school – not only the lockers and hallways, but the time spent hanging out with friends when the final bell rang and everyone shuffled out of their cramped, overcrowded calculus classes. I recount multiple times rushing to my car to turn this album on, pulling away from the school parking lot with confidence just from hearing the high-pitched voice of Matt Thiessen. Once the final exams were taken and everyone headed to the pool, I kept listening to songs like “Mood Rings” and “Forward Motion.” Something about the band’s tongue-in-cheek swagger always charmed me with these listens, and every time I reminisce in the good times I have had with this record, I am reminded of both the months spent bored in my English class and the other three spent basking in the sun.
Under Soil and Dirt / The Story So Far
2011 saw a great efflorescence of pop-punk bloom into some of the best up-and-coming bands in music. Transit, All Get Out, Fireworks, and Go Radio all broke out and left their fans chanting the words to their summer-infused anthems from the safety of their ‘96 Honda Accords (or at least I was). But the band that seemed to produce the strongest record of 2011 was The Story So Far. Aptly named after a New Found Glory song, these guys blend together the spunk of early 2000s pop-punk and strive to hit even harder than their predecessors in their debut, Under Soil and Dirt. Parker Cannon’s tough (and often bruising) vocal effort keeps him from falling behind the album’s frenzy of guitars. It’s really hard to pick the cream of the crop in the new generation of punk bands, but The Story So Far’s invigorating melodies are just as scorching as the hot, hot July afternoons, and that makes Under Soil and Dirt an essential summer record.
Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing / The Wonder Years
After Dan “Soupy” Campbell wasn’t sad anymore with the newly-adopted life perspective “the upsides” in their 2010 release, The Wonder Years furthered their namesake with Suburbia – one of the single greatest pop-punk recordings of all-time. There’s something about their scruffy guitars, bass rumbles, and vocal jabs and crosses that makes them one of the top dogs in the genre. What makes this record such an instant classic, however, is its up-front and personal lyrics. Speaking of moving back to his parents’ basement from the start, Campbell continues his post-college captivation with lines of burnt-down bowling alleys and summers in Pennsylvania. If there’s any point during the summer months when I feel the most free, it’s when the nights become longer and blasting Suburbia becomes almost instinct.
Ocean Avenue / Yellowcard
Yellowcard’s 2003 major label debut should grab the helms of your summer fever from its very first conglomeration of guitar, bass, drums, and strings. Thanks to the infusion of violin melodies and cogent (and often slow) guitar work, the emotions of the yearning lyrics become even more enticing. The instrumentation stresses the songwriting through its sense of urgency, often creating controlled chaos like in the chorus of “Breathing,” but also paving a path of characteristic sadness in tracks like “Empty Apartment.” Ocean Avenue is at the forefront of all albums released in the latter half of the emo/punk era, not to mention it grasps the long months ahead very passionately. The overall nostalgic feel of Ocean Avenue – and also considering that you can almost feel the waves of the songs’ emotional rush – makes it a powerful summer album.