ROAM – I Don’t Think I Live There Anymore
It’s fair to say that ROAM have well and truly gotten their feet on the ground when it comes to the sort of pop-punk that works for them now. Great Heights & Nosedives was a considerable step up for them into territory that felt a lot more melodically satisfying, and the decent success they saw off the back of it reflected a band naturally moving to bigger things in a way that felt justified. It’s also a good think that they’ve decided to keep it up on new single I Don’t Think I Live Here Anymore, only turning things back slightly for something more mid-paced and adopting the hollowed, hanging guitar tone of modern emo or shoegaze. It’s an interesting choice in all honesty, especially when the snappy main riff morphs into something a bit more spacious and expanded, but in a way that fits the lower vocal style that both Alex Costello and Alex Adam are bringing to the table. To nitpick, it’s not exactly the explosive lead single that ROAM could really benefit from, even at this more stable stage, but I Don’t Think I Live There Anymore still feels like a solid move into new sounds that could do some good if carried out consistently. At least given ROAM’s trajectory of growth, that’s more likely now than it ever was before.
blink-182 – Happy Days
In hindsight, it does seem strange that blink-182 would choose Generational Divide as a proper single, especially when it wasn’t even a minute in length and didn’t exactly fit the mould of sanitised pop-rock that they’re currently leaning towards. Happy Days is far more in line with those descriptions, for better or worse, and while compared to Blame It On My Youth this is a better effort, it’s hardly great. For one, there’s more of the swell and melancholy that late-period blink-182 are capable of bringing to the table, especially by giving Mark Hoppus exclusive vocal duties, but the lyrics hit a level of vagueness that feels like the next transitional step in appealing to the much younger audience that California was sonically. And yes, this is largely the same production job here with the big swathes of guitars that have their edges entirely sanded down, but there’s not even as much of an edge to Travis Barker’s drumming as it feels crammed into place, and it feels abundantly clear this this sort of micromanaged style does nothing to work with blink-182’s strengths. If nothing else, they’re falling into the same trap of pop-punk statesmen gagging for modern relevance and going about it in the complete wrong ways, and while Happy Days is far from the worst example of that, it still makes its flaws known loud and clear.
Frank Turner – Sister Rosetta
To an extent, the upcoming campaign for Frank Turner’s next album feels like one hell of a course of reputation repair. To Be Kind saw mixed reception at the very best, and with the number of controversies of varying magnitudes that have surrounding him lately, an album focused on marginalised and forgotten women throughout history could easily be seen as a way for Turner to edge his way back into the good books. And while Sister Rosetta is definitely an improvement – a tribute to Sister Rosetta Thorpe, one of the key progenitors of what would become rock ‘n’ roll – it feels like a resoundingly safe one. It’s mid-paced and acoustic-driven without much of a raucous edge or firebrand energy, and while that’s arguably missing the point when the content is pushed as far forward as it is, this sort of track doesn’t really highlight Turner’s strengths as much as firmly securing him on what could be seen as the right path. Again, it’s not like this is bad, but Turner is capable of a lot more than what he’s letting on here, and that can be disappointing.
Refused – Chippin’ In
Before anyone gets their hopes up, this isn’t necessarily indicative of a new Refused album on the horizon. Rather, Chippin’ In is actually a contribution to the upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077, with Refused providing music from the fictional band Samurai that are fronted in-game by Keanu Reeves’ already-acclaimed character. It’s not like this is some half-hearted effort either, especially considering their name won’t necessarily be attached; Chippin’ In feels like the natural progression of Refused after their last album, with the guttural garage-rock stomp that can still make way for ominous, crunching atmosphere, and Dennis Lyxzén’s vocals having the sandpaper quality in their ferocity that’s always been such a magnetising point. It’s hardly anything enormously transgressive though, particularly in the writing, but for what this song is and what its existence serves to fuel, it can ultimately be let off the hook for not being quite as barbed and charged as the majority of Refused’s material. It’s still good either way, and turns an interesting new corner for Refused that – hopefully – could be a precursor of more new material down the pipeline.
Grayscale – In Violet
As much as Grayscale mightn’t always live up to the hype piled upon them, there’s always something running in the background that wants them to succeed. They’ve got strong melodic instincts overall, and there’s usually something inherently likable about their brand of emo, even if isn’t always revelatory. With In Violet though, this feels like something of a milestone moment for Grayscale, where all of their influences and any loose threads coalesce to make a great final product. Collin Walsh still doesn’t have the imitable vocal personality that he really should, but the mistier production lends this sort of emo a sense of scope that really hits the right marks in terms of power and passion, and the electronic flutters create a fresh dimension that builds that bridge to pop-punk modernity, but never gets lost along the way like so many have. The layering and marriage of elements really is great, and Grayscale seem to finally be finding their feet when it comes to giving emo a spin that’s decidedly their own. There’s definitely a reason to keep an eye open for that sophomore album, and that’s an exciting prospect.
Sœur – Do What I Want
Sœur are a weird band in a lot of ways. They’ve definitely got sonic touchstones in their sound, largely orbiting around grunge and ‘90s indie-rock, but it’s often arranged in a way that feels a lot more fragile and unpredictably bare, often in a way that sits better on whole releases than it does in individual pieces. That was certainly the case with their Fight EP, and while Do What I Want does a better job of making it all feel like a whole piece this time, it can still be an awkwardly brittle listen with the minimalist spikes of guitars seemingly shunning flow and fluidity for a deliberate play towards weirder, more off-kilter sounds. It’s certainly interesting, and the vocal interplay between Tina and Anya can be downright mesmerising when paired with the lower ebbs of instrumentation, but it suffers from the same issue as quite a few of Sœur;s individual songs, in that they feel as though they’re designed to not stand as well out of the context of their release. It means there’s ultimately a cap on how harshly this track can be judged (even though, on its own, it’s definitely solid), but Sœur’s strange way of operating continues to yield results that really don’t make for an easy time.
Bellevue Days – Freakin Out
It’s been a surprising amount of time since Bellevue Days have released new music, especially given how well-received Rosehill was for its robust emo and grunge influences married to a rougher, more rustic Britrock canvas. It would be nice to think that even more growth would’ve occurred in that time in order for Bellevue Days to really stun with whatever they come out with never, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Freakin Out. And to be clear, that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when the band still have such a potent knack for low-slung, tense melodies that really swing for the fences, particularly in the choruses, but each change of pace or tact feels as though it’s lacking a bit of connective tissue, and the whole thing can feel a tad bitty when viewed as one individual piece. It’s good to see that Bellevue Days are branching and trying new approaches with their sound, but this doesn’t feel quite as honed as it could’ve been, even if it’s still a really solid example of modern emo all the same. It builds up plenty of hope for what’s to come, but that also comes with a bit more tentativeness than would perhaps be liked.
Witterquick – RUN
A few years ago, it looked as though Witterquick could’ve been onto something big, capitalising on shamelessly anthemic Britrock with the aplomb that so many of their contemporaries and influences had achieved enormous success with. But like so many of bands vying for the same goal, the window of opportunity is all but closed now, and the only choices seem to be evolve or stagnate in the same area. On RUN then, it would appear that Witterquick have chosen the latter; there’s a decent melodic focus overall, but the super-clean guitar work and focus on gigantic, windswept bluster feel plucked right from a time that would’ve seen them fare so much better, and the lack of real edge just leaves this as something of a forgettable experience. Even in the slightly scuzzier outro, the band that Witterquick ultimately feel most comparable to is The Amazons, shooting for the stars with a style that isn’t going to get them anywhere close, no matter how hard they try.
Words by Luke Nuttall