Hot Milk – Candy Coated Lie$
Even though it hasn’t been all that long since Hot Milk released their debut EP, it feels as though they’re about due for something new. Are You Feeling Alive? might have been a pretty excellent slice of pop-rock, but its brevity didn’t benefit it, especially with the touring and festival dates the band have done since, where this new song has already established itself as something of a favourite. It’s not hard to see why either, as Candy Coated Lie$ is effectively what Hot Milk do best, with the huge, chunky guitars meshing perfectly with sharper, more produced veneers and making for the sort of irresistible hook this band have made their calling card. As ever, Han Mee and Jim Shaw’s vocal interplay sounds great, and for a song of this size that makes no bones about how anthemic its trying to be, there’s an extra notch of dexterity that that brings which really does make all the difference. It mightn’t be reinventing the wheel that Hot Milk have already forged for themselves, but as an addition, Candy Coated Lie$ is about as good as anyone could’ve hoped for, and it’s there where it stands out most of all.
A Day To Remember – Resentment
It’s sad that it’s taken the delay of their new album for A Day To Remember to realise they actually have to promote the thing, but that’s also a knock-on effect of becoming a cog in the Fueled By Ramen machine, where any recognisable personality an act may have had will be sanded back in order to fit into a safer, more buffed mould of what they once were. With Resentment though, it’s hard to say that this is anything like what A Day To Remember have been before, moving into I Prevail-esque blandness that does admittedly hold on to some spurious metalcore moments (the breakdown is actually pretty solid, to be fair), but largely feels like an attempt to hit the US radio-metal market in its big hard rock box-ticking and arena-eyeing intentions that aren’t awful, but have nothing close to distinctiveness. It’s what makes this song feel so disappointing; as far as performance and production goes, this is largely fine, but A Day To Remember have subsequently forgone so much of the creativity that made them special, and that leads to a song that just doesn’t leave any sort of mark. Maybe this won’t be a sign of things to come, but between how much the bar seems to have been lowered between this and Degenerates before it, it’s not worth holding your breath.
Palaye Royale – Massacre, The New American Dream
Palaye Royale might have somewhat redeemed themselves on their last single, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to keep that up. They’ve been far too inconsistent for far too long to expect anything with regards to quality, and Massacre, The New American Dream feels like a rather hefty underlining of that. To their absolute credit, making a more political song with this sort of antsy, shrieking delivery can hit with some incisiveness, but between the usual scattershot production and Remington Leith being a vocalist that still has very little vocal control, even on a song like this, it feels like a track that’s blindly shooting in a general direction with the hopes of hitting as much as it can, but even then doing very little in the way of damage. It’s almost like a Yungblud song in how blatant and un-nuanced its politics are, and while Palaye Royale definitely have more going for them than he does, this still isn’t all that great. It looks like the usual lack of consistency with this band strikes again, though that’s hardly any sort of surprise.
Lotus Eater – Second To None
Lotus Eater’s profile has been growing at a rate that’s difficult not to have noticed, and while that could be a result of their guttural, nu-metal-inflected hardcore being the in thing right now, it also has a lot to do with the fact that, alongside bands like Loathe and Vein, they’re easily one of the best at pulling off that sound. Second To None feels like a natural continuation of how true that is as well, combining the seething, rabid bite of downtuned hardcore with passages of hip-hop swagger and clattering electronic percussion that’s woven in a way that’s almost entirely unconventional, but culminates in a living, growing mass of a track that compels at pretty much any angle it’s viewed from. Of course, the typical Lotus Eater stamp of bruatality is present across the board as well, but there’s a real heft and darkness that comes with it to make this feel so much more than another performative hardcore track, like something that’s actually built around its own burning anger rather than merely channeling it. It’s great stuff in all honesty, standing as a marked step forward for the band and taking them into a new year where the heavier end of the musical spectrum is theirs for the taking.
Nathan Gray – Working Title
Among the folk-punk troubadours who use such endeavours as an opportunity to take a breather from their main bands, it feels as though Nathan Gray doesn’t get brought up in the conversation as much as some of his peers. Granted, there’s a certain degree more underground presence to the Boysetsfire frontman than with others, but he’s capable of delivering just as much as his contemporaries, even if it can be occasionally difficult to find somewhere that he can slot into as definitively his own. Working Title definitely looks to address that somewhat though, moving into big, theatrical pianos and squalling guitars with some great harmonies between Gray and Chuck Ragan, who serves as a comparative foil to Gray’s relatively clean delivery. It’s almost reminiscent of the material on Dave Hause’s last album in terms of the scope it’s going for in a scene that tends to keep relatively intimate, and while it mightn’t quite be as good, Working Title definitely has a lot to like and be hopeful for about Gray’s upcoming album.
cheerbleederz – say 2 u
While within modern indie-punk, cheerbleederz have been heralded as something of a supergroup, they still need to deliver something that’s ultimately worthy of that title, rather than just the solid level of quality that their material have consistently reached. But while say 2 u is, yet again, not quite to that standard, it shows a band definitely becoming more comfortable with themselves as a musical entity, and at least looking towards making something a bit much ambitious. It’s true that the switch-up from gentler indie-pop to the scratchy garage-rock finale doesn’t land with a great deal of subtlety or connective tissue, but between the impeccable vocals and production style that feels fine-tuned enough to accentuate the pop side of cheerbleederz’ sound, this does feel like a progression, even if it is only marginal. That’s still worth praising though, and the traction that cheerbleederz have already built for themselves will likely only see them fly even further off the back of it.
Words by Luke Nuttall