When I began looking for bands to contribute songs for my personal mixtape (which is on its way in the not-too-distant future), I sent an email to Punchline, not really expecting to get a response. Instead, I got something even better than a single song: a whole mixtape. Featuring Spontaneo, The Composure, Justin Oliver, and Nightbeast in addition to Punchline, the mixtape is a sampler of some of the best tracks from Punchline’s label, Modern Short Stories. That really says a lot when they’re coming from people who pride themselves on only releasing songs they love. If you haven’t heard of the label before, they’re independent, friendly, and well-worth checking out. Appropriately, their slogan is: “Every song is a modern short story.” Keeping that in mind, these songs contain some great stories and are a good introduction to one of my favorite small labels, so get listening!
Punchline– “21 Forever” from Delightfully Pleased: Listen
When I first heard a clip of this song in a teaser for the band’s latest album, I was immediately anxious to hear more. Neither the song nor the album disappointed, and Delightfully Pleased was my fourth-favorite release of 2010. The track’s upbeat, infectious, and does a great job of building from an understated beginning to a huge chorus. I really don’t understand how anyone could not like this song. If you’re interested in hearing more (as you should be), Modern Short Stories offers the whole record with a pay-what-you-want option. Seriously, get this album.
Spontaneo– “Bad Weather” from For Those Who Can Whistle: Listen
Another band hailing from Pittsburgh, Spontaneo sounds not unlike a cross between Punchline and Motion City Soundtrack. With some interesting guitar parts and a spot-on vocal performance, this track is one of the highlights of their debut release and hits all the right spots. It’s emotional, dynamic, and catchy. If you aren’t singing “I know better than to trust the weatherman” by the final chorus, you haven’t really been listening to the song.
The Composure– “The Spinning Of The World” from Strings Attached: Listen
The Composure features Paul Menotiades and Cory Muro from Punchline, with Paul handling lead vocal duties. Their debut is a solid half hour of fun rock songs full of great lyrics and guitar parts, and “The Spinning Of The World” is one of the best tracks from that release. By now, it should be clear that the bands on Modern Short Stories write incredibly catchy choruses, and this song is certainly no exception. The vocal performance is top notch, and the guitar parts, though not overly complex, are perfect for this style of music and are as catchy as the vocal melodies. This is another band that I’d highly recommend.
Justin Oliver– “There Is A Rug” from For Rose: Listen
After listening to the three tracks prior to this one on the mixtape, one might be a bit surprised to hear the harmonica intro and piano throughout this track rather than the more punk and rock-influenced songs from the other artists on Modern Short Stories. However, “There Is A Rug” and other songs on Justin Oliver’s For Rose fit in with the label’s other releases through the common bond of strong songwriting and passion that’s evident throughout. This track features great hooks and lyrics and has definitely grown on me a lot after not expecting this sort of artist from a label started by members of a pop-punk band.
Nightbeast– “Full Ride” from You’re Welcome: Listen
Alright, that thing I said about not expecting Justin Oliver’s sound? Yeah, that works here too. Nightbeast, or Nick Testa (no relation), used to play bass in A Day In The Life, the band that later became Hawthorne Heights, and is now the newest addition to the Modern Short Stories family with his electronic-based comedy hip hop. As far as the song goes, I completely concur with the sentiments of Chris Fafalios, bassist of Punchline and founder of Modern Short Stories: “I don’t see any reason why this shouldn’t be the most popular song in the history of college!” It’s catchy, funny, and a pretty good satire of college culture.
Thanks to Modern Short Stories for providing such great songs and being awesome people!