By Katy Wilkie
December 23, 2015
No Closer To Heaven – The Wonder Years
The Wonder Years consistently release albums that embody the essence of a striking, personal journal, and they did that in ten fold with No Closer To Heaven. The emotional crescendos of No Closer To Heaven start with the album’s opener “Brother &” and continue with “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then,” which conveys a striking story of growing up and recognizing past mistakes. The Wonder Years instill the same unadulterated passion in listeners who can relate to the unforgiving journey of life’s ups and downs. No Closer To Heaven is a banger of a record.
Future Hearts – All Time Low
Future Hearts is All Time Low’s most mature album yet. The songwriting for this album is more complex and instrumentally tighter than anything the band has released before. Future Hearts explores a side of the band that we’ve only seen glimpses of before. The album divulges into pop-punk that challenges the traditional definitions of the genre. From “Missing You” to “Tidal Waves,” a beautifully layered ballad that utilizes strings and features Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, the band gives us fast-paced songs reminiscent of Green Day and early ‘90s alt-rock. They dipped their toes into a heavier sound with the closer “Old Scars/Future Hearts.” However, the album still appeases those fans that want the So Wrong, It’s Right era of All Time Low through the tracks “Kids in the Dark” and “Cinderblock Garden.” Future Hearts is a wonderfully rounded album that exemplifies what All Time Low is all about without boxing them into a genre.
Favorite tracks: “Dancing With A Wolf,” “Missing You,” “Old Scars//Future Hearts”
Black Lines – Mayday Parade
Mayday Parade has perfected and owned the corner market of power-punk/pop ballads in the scene since their debut album was released in 2007. Black Lines goes beyond expectations. It’s an impassioned and explosive record with crashing cymbals and snarling lyrics. Black Lines is less ballady with more gritty aggressiveness than their other releases; however, they don’t compromise their poetic lyrical style with a heavier sound. Derek Sanders still manages to serenade the listener in the track “Letting Go” with his breathy falsetto layered among acoustic guitars– a much needed break from the “get up and go” that much of the record pushes.Their unpredictableness in record making keeps Mayday Parade fresh and Black Lines has manifested into a new beginning for the band.
Favorite tracks: “One Of Them Will Destroy The Other,” “Letting Go,” “Keep In Mind,” “Transmogrification Is a New Technology”
American Candy – The Maine
Summer in your early twenties is how I would describe American Candy. The Maine effortlessly crafted the perfect summer album. American Candy is perfect for long drives with the windows down and your stereo blasting. They don’t have one bad or “skippable” song on this album; it’s full of songs that you want to sing along to (loudly and probably off key) like the strummy “Diet Soda Society” and the upbeat “Same Suit, Different Tie.” From “Am I Pretty?” radiating that early ‘90s alternative rock vibe to the haunting ballad “24 Floors,” American Candy is a consistently great album.
Favorite tracks: “24 Floors,” “Same Suit, Different Tie,” “English Girls”
Copacetic – Knuckle Puck
Think ‘90s indie/alt-rock mixed with early 2000s pop-punk and a hint of emo and you might get Copacetic by Knuckle Puck. Copacetic delivers high energy pop-punk, instrumental breaks and raw, fervent vocals. The lyrics dig deep and force the listener into self-reflection with lyrics like “The questions linger but I’m too scared to speak out / Like what could you possibly see in a failure like me?” It’s the emotionally captivating lyrics that truly knock this album out of the park, with themes that focus on pessimism, heartache and questioning. Knuckle Puck didn’t shy away from risk taking and Copacetic manages to display a lot of variety and still maintains cohesion. This is Knuckle Puck’s first full-length album, and they’ve proved that they aren’t a band to sleep on.
Favorite tracks: “Disdain,” “True Contrite,” “Ponder”
25 – Adele
It’s not surprising that Adele’s 25 is a remarkable album, and the four year wait for her to release new music only made this album even more exhilarating. 25 features soaring ballads with hints of blues. It’s an album with a powerful voice behind it that tells a story of the uneasiness of transitioning into adulthood. Adele is a true gem in the market of auto-tuned radio and 25 is pure artistry. From her radio hits “Hello” and “When We Were Young” to the moving piano ballad of “Remedy,” 25 hits a high note and doesn’t disappoint.
Favorite tracks: “When We Were Young,” “River Lea,” “Sweetest Devotion”
Life’s Not Out To Get You – Neck Deep
This was one of my most anticipated albums of 2015. I had it preordered for my birthday before a single was even released. I had a lot of faith that this would be Neck Deep’s defining album and I wasn’t disappointed. Life’s Not Out To Get You is all energy with tighter, inspired songwriting, more so than the band’s debut album. They delivered an album with thundering hooks and raging drums, juxtaposed with Ben Barlow’s unique sneering vocals. The album features catchy choruses with momentous beats that keep your feet tapping and head bobbing throughout. Even when they slow it down a bit with the acoustic heartbreaker “December” it’s impossible not to harmonize with Barlow while he sings. Life’s Not Out To Get You proved that Neck Deep is far from falling into a sophomore slump.
Favorite tracks: “Serpent,” “Lime St,” “Kali Ma,” “December”
Around The World And Back – State Champs
I first saw State Champs in a crappy venue with a terrible sound guy, but I was hooked anyway. From their stage presence to their catchy tunes, there is something unexplainably gratifying about seeing a small band tap into their full potential and release an album that has everyone else realizing they’re worth talking about. Around The World And Back is a jump in the right direction for State Champs. They experiment with more electronic sounds with this album by using subtle hints of synth melodies to electronic percussion. It was nice to see them step out of their comfort zone with this album and deliver more than just the round the mill pop-punk album. Around The World And Back isn’t a game changer for the scene and State Champs aren’t reinventing the genre, but they are offering new sounds and immeasurable passion through their music.
Favorite tracks: “Secrets,” “Around The World And Back,” “Losing Myself”
Blurryface -Twenty One Pilots
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t a fan of Twenty One Pilots until I saw them at Bonnaroo. I got home and bought Vessel and then Blurryface was released shortly after so I bought that, too. It’s hard to box Twenty One Pilots into a genre, rap…with ukulele and piano? The genre doesn’t matter, Twenty One Pilots are killing the game. Blurryface is a banger with the ukelele-driven “We Don’t Believe What’s on TV” to the reggae-fueled tracks “Polarize” and “Lane Boy.” Their music is a unique conglomerate of genres and Blurryface offers a little something for everyone. It’s a great album that displays the risks that Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph are willing to take to make music they’re happy with.
Favorite tracks: “Stressed Out,” “Tear In My Heart,” “The Judge”
Heavy Love – Man Overboard
Man Overboard is a band that seems to constantly release music, but Heavy Love doesn’t get lost in their mass releases. Heavy Love features some of the best songs that Man Overboard has ever released. In a scene that is loud and fast, Man Overboard challenged that notion by opening the album with a soft and sweet “Now That You’re Home.” While the album offers the feel good, sugary upbeat songs like “She’s In Pictures,” it also features tracks that are darker than anything the band has done before, with the themes of depression and inadequacy taking the lead role for much of the album. The band released more complex songs on this album, layering echoing riffs with hollow baseline and ragged vocals, and they make a nod to early 2000s pop punk with call-and-response lyrics and power chord guitars. Their growth on this album makes it almost hard to believe they are the same band from a few years ago.
Favorite tracks: “Invisible,” “A Love That I Can’t Have,” “Reality Check”
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