We’re already two months into 2020, which means this year could end up feeling shorter than we expected — or longer, depending on how slow and painful the upcoming election period is. But let’s forget about politics for a second and focus on something we all can agree on: great new music. This past Friday was one of the best days for music releases so far in this new year. For starters, we got new full-lengths from two beloved artists in the alternative rock and pop-punk genres: The Classic Crime and Four Year Strong. If that wasn’t enough, Slowly Slowly and Soccer Mommy offered us two gems of records that should be excellent launching pads in their respective scenes (don’t be surprised if Sophie Allison soon becomes as big a name as Claire Cottrill). To top it all off, Trivium announced a new album, and the first single is a metalcore banger that gives metalheads a little bit of everything.
The Classic Crime – Patterns in the Static
Once the future of Tooth & Nail Records, The Classic Crime is coming to terms with the fact that this is ancient history. Their new full-length, Patterns in the Static, is their third since leaving Tooth & Nail, and it’s their most diverse and forward-thinking release yet. Thick punk melodies aren’t gone completely, but the band allows room for experimentation. They sculpt electropop (“Highlights”) and bluesy rock (“Take the Moment”) melodies around the voice of Matt MacDonald, making their sound more appealing to CCM and indie rock audiences than ever. That said, guitar-heavy songs like “Summer of ’92” are a firm reminder that the group that crafted The Silver Cord is still intact, despite all being settled down with families. But what makes Patterns in the Static such a sound LP is that it comes on The Classic Crime’s own terms — even if this truth means it’s a little more melancholic than usual.
Four Year Strong – Brain Pain
Easycore outfit Four Year Strong made a nice return to form on their 2015 self-titled album, returning to the pop-punk roots they abandoned in favor of middling alternative rock on In Some Way, Shape, or Form. Brain Pain doesn’t stick to either approach and rather offers the best of both worlds, resulting in an LP that takes from all of their previous releases and sits comfortably near the middle of their discography. They pace themselves on “Get Out of My Head,” where the punch of the guitars makes the hook a secondary treat. “Crazy Pills” is a more traditional offering from the group, with its big chorus and wrecking ball of a breakdown. They even slow things down to a mid-tempo groove on “Learn to Love the Lie,” offering the gleam of some of their pop-rock contemporaries. There’s a lot to love about Brain Pain, a dynamic punk record that draws from the past while moving forward full steam ahead.
Slowly Slowly – Race Car Blues
Slowly Slowly was one of Australia’s most underrated alternative rock bands when they put out 2018’s superb St. Leonards. Here’s to hoping Race Car Blues will be their much-deserved breakout. What’s made the outfit such a force to be reckoned with these past two LPs is that they’ve affirmed their identity in a smooth combination of pop-punk and alternative rock — more leaning toward the latter, but providing hooks aplenty across these 12 new tracks. Ben Stewart’s vocals carry the songs even more than before: The backing guitars of “Safety Switch” hit the singer in stride, while the glistening punk melodies of “You Are Bigger Than This Town” act as the perfect match to his croons. The title track finale is where the fourpiece shines the brightest, with a supremely satisfying buildup and payoff. Not sticking too close to one sound or style, Slowly Slowly continues to be a breath of fresh air on Race Car Blues.
Soccer Mommy – color theory
Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison looks to move past her label as just another indie-pop frontwoman on color theory. That aim has resulted in one of the most absorbing and electric records from the indie scene in recent years. Allison expands her sound drastically from Clean, drawing on Avril Lavigne (“Circle the Drain”), flashing back to ’90s alt-rock (“Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes”), and even controlling the room the way her peers like Julien Baker are known to do (“Night Swimming”). While many contemporaries who emerged from the Bandcamp “bedroom pop” moniker stick to their roots, Allison is showing no urge to play it safe. color theory is a unique sort of record for the genre she plays — it’s deeper, darker, and more visceral. Perhaps that’s what a steady relationship can do, as it’s resulted in the musician moving beyond breakup songs to existential reflections, colorful as the album title demonstrates.
Trivium – Catastrophist (Single)
In the 2000s, Trivium was a young metalcore band with the world in front of them. In fact, frontman Matt Heafy was only 17 when he sang and screamed on their first record. But as the years have unraveled, so has the group, who had a period of identity crisis before returning to their strengths on 2017’s The Sin and the Sentence. Now, they’re looking to build off their newfound persona as seasoned metalcore veterans who flex their talents appropriately, and “Catastrophist” suggests the next full-length will bring the same vitality. While it possesses a radio-friendly feel similar to “Heart from Your Hate,” it’s much more adventurous — and even offers a few unclean vocals from Heafy. With a big chorus, crunchy riffs, a magnificent solo, and even some noodling that brings back the flair of Shogun, you can’t ask for much more in Trivium’s first new material in nearly three years.