This weekend was a light one on the new music front, as the scene paid attention to the Grammy’s and the tragic death of Kobe Bryant (R.I.P. Black Mamba). There are a few records that have kept the release rhythm going this month, along with a pair of songs setting us up for an exciting year of new music.
On the singles front, Hayley Williams finally sets sail on her solo career, while the latest from All Time Low continues to keep our craving for a new record from the pop-punk stalwarts alive. A few artists released impressive full-lengths as well. After long waits for new material by Beach Slang and Caspian (four years and five years respectively), both acts show their absence hasn’t affected their form. Following contemporary stalwarts like Turnstile, English hardcore group in Higher Power also flexes some muscle on album two.
Beach Slang – The Deadbeat Bang Of Heartbreak City
They broke up on stage, then they didn’t break up at all. Then we didn’t hear a note of new music for years, making us wonder if there was any truth to their tumultuous 2016. All drama involving punk rockers Beach Slang aside, they’re still active — even if The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City is the first record we’ve heard from them in four years. Time was surely an asset to the band, whose previous release suffered from some flat songwriting. While Heartbreak City sounds more like a David Bowie than a Replacements album title, the group’s outer sheen has been stylized to keep up with its beefy punk interior. “Bam Rang Rang” offers a hefty helping of high-flying guitars, while “Tommy in the 80s” is a groovy, horn-infused rock anthem. It’s clear that Beach Slang is not only back, but better (and fresher) than ever too.
Caspian – On Circles
Like Beach Slang, it’s been a while since Caspian has put out new music. What a shame, too, as 2015’s Dust and Disquiet found the iconic post-rock outfit stronger than ever. The good news is that the follow-up is finally here: On Circles. While it’s a little more on the ambient side, it’s a perfect complement to its predecessor, proving that the Massachusetts musicians aren’t slowing down in terms of artistic creativity and cohesion. Yet, the band says On Circles is far from a “rehabilitating” record, as described by keyboardist Philip Jamieson. Perhaps that reflection of the members’ humanity is what gives the final product such momentous, up-and-down flair. Like any good post-rock listen, it carries the listener through all of its ups and downs, and its hold is quite firm, too.
Higher Power – 27 Miles Underwater
Hardcore is experiencing a renaissance, and it’s already showing no signs of slowing down in 2020. Higher Power is the latest name to add to the list. They tug hard on their ’90s rock, grunge, and hardcore influences (Leeway, Hum, and Quicksand are a few that come to mind). Modern comparisons quickly jump to Turnstile, but they paint their brush so broadly on 27 Miles Underwater that they could almost be categorized as rock. “Lost in Static,” with nearly all clean vocals, reflects the Englishmen’s strength in expanding the hardcore palette. While they’re not new to the scene, they’ve made step-up from their debut, with punchier production and catchier choruses. “Seamless” won’t disappoint if you’re looking for a juicy guitar riff, and “Low Season” won’t disappoint if you’re looking for a big hook.
Hayley Williams – “Simmer”
Paramore’s last two records showed Hayley Williams at her most vulnerable. After the band nearly saw its death, Williams and company gave the band the greatest heights they had seen, and it makes sense for the frontwoman to begin pursuing her own moment in the spotlight with “Summer.” The track is a crisp, dark pop track that takes cues from the likes of Billie Eilish, Halsey, and other pop stars who took over in those Paramore years. Her vocal performance is solid, and the track has the strength of live instruments to give it the rocking edge we expect from her. The main pieces missing is the cathartic firepower of the band’s early career and the authenticity of the ’80s-inspired After Laughter, making it hard to stand up for the track beyond its artist. Though the rest of the record has the potential to bring these sticking points to the table, the first track plays it safe. –Adit Ahmed
All Time Low – “Some Kind of Disaster”
It’s been three years since Last Young Renegade, a record that embraced new ideas that stayed true to All Time Low’s commitment to consistency. “Some Kind of Disaster” maintains the reliable, pure pop-punk melodies we’ve grown to expect from the band since their return to the basics with Don’t Panic. There is a reliable set of power chords and youthful reflections that sit on top of a soft bed of oscillating synth throughout the track. It’s a reminder of just how good the band is at building that sunny nostalgia, undergirding the 2000s pop-punk responsible for most of the music covered on this site. The suburban warmth that makes the band’s generic brand so distinct is in full swing here, with the band gleaming in a sense of innocence that they’ve mastered as one of the last remaining bands of their era of pop-punk. –Adit Ahmed