Jukebox The Ghost
So this was the endgame for all the ‘indie’-pop bands in 2014 who came up exclusively to soundtrack ads—mild consistency and longevity. To be fair, Jukebox The Ghost have been around a lot longer, since 2006 with a quirkier piano-pop style that could’ve found a niche back then, only to transition into the whooshing, perpetually colourless slog of indie-pop that’s persisted today, albeit in a much lesser capacity. And while we’re being charitable, Cheers gives at least some indication of a band with more ideas than just leeching off a trend. At their best, they’ll sometimes hit a bar of a poor man’s Muse or a very poor man’s Queen on Hey Maude and Brass Band, while also bringing over the sawn-out guitars to Million Dollar Bills to mitigate the blandness. But that blandness is a factor that Jukebox The Ghost are very prone to here, resting mostly in a sonic palette that’s almost indomitably toothless. The clarity of the twinkling pianos can be novel in a similar way to Twenty One Pilots’ earlier works, though it expectedly struggles to withstand the smothering blanket of blank, cottony production and a stiff drum clatter. It falls most in line with Wasted and Ramona, the former being a collaboration with Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness in which it’s impossible to determine where one act’s influence ends and the other begins, as well as the piecemeal roil of Everybody Panic inhabiting indie-pop’s other misguided trend of deliberately sounding hollow and shoddy. Conversely though, Move Along is more pleasingly sinuous and groove-heavy in its strut, and the conceit of the closing title track as a bar singalong is well-worn, but sees an opportunity to throw in some more opulence as a definite positive. It’s these fleeting glimpses of actual intuition that put Jukebox The Ghost above those making purpose-crafted radio filler, even if they’ll still end up in the same lane on an album that, for all its picked-out efforts, is still remarkably uninteresting. The air of twee still continuously lingers and shapes so much of this album’s intent, which barely resembles much depth for the standard touchstones of modernity and broad togetherness among it that it hits. Honestly, it’s almost beat for beat what anyone would expect from an album like this, elevated marginally by some clear experience that still won’t cut through how thick a wall of mediocrity in its wake is. It’s probably best to just let this one pass by, as if it offered any incentive to do much else.
For fans of: Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, Twenty One Pilots, AJR
‘Cheers’ by Jukebox The Ghost is released on 27th May on BMG Rights Management.
With a bio that mentions by name scene relics I Set My Friends On Fire and Metro Station as acts they shared a stage with, Hey Thanks! aren’t really hiding how they’re at least somewhat clinging to the nostalgia train. It’d be more egregious if said bio didn’t include more reputable names like Issues and Save Face though, painting the scene more as a band being aware of how the Warped Tour corner of alternative music will splinter off and deviate, and how Hey Thanks! seek to be open to trying to reunite those threads. Granted, it’s more in ethos than execution on a debut that’s ingratiated primarily among early-2010s pop-rock, which Hey Thanks! can hold up through, if not necessarily excel. They don’t have the gusto of a lot of their clearer references—most clear among them being The Maine or a less buzzed-out Waterparks—and that winds in the personality that those bands have and that isn’t translated as cleanly here. Start/Living behaves more like a cross-section of that scene than any substantive new entry; the writing is serviceably earnest and youthful, backed by a sound with a lot of energy and brightness. And in a vacuum, that’s all good for songs like From Me To You or Fun Charade that can funnel it all most efficiently into the hooks pop-rock like this lives and dies by. But the spark isn’t quite there at the same magnitude, leaving an album that wants to embrace summer days and heady, halcyon memories, but winds up keeping them at arm’s length. It needs to be said that the production really hits well despite all of that, opting for a relatively more organic sound that isn’t smothered by its own polish or preening, even on the early bait-and-switch of The Part I Call Myself which saves itself from acoustic sappiness impressively nimbly. There’s a lot of good to be found here, which makes the comparative shortness of greatness all the more disappointing. That being said, the current position of the nostalgia cycle will no doubt smile favourably upon Hey Thanks!, perhaps being the impetus for fully kicking into gear wherever they go next.
For fans of: Mayday Parade, The Maine, The Starting Line
‘Start/Living’ by Hey Thanks! is released on 27th May on Iodine Records.
One Armed Joey
Happiness, To Me
It’s actually rather refreshing to hear a band like One Armed Joey within pop-punk, even with the knowledge that the current climate with do nothing to accommodate them. Theirs is firmly indebted to the style of the ‘90s and 2000s, where the cues given by Green Day would ensure a bracing punk spirit was more tightly linked to poppy melodiousness, an edict that Happiness, To Me is happy to oblige with and sound rather strong while doing so. There’s clearly been work put in to emulate the style and mood, as the likes of Numbstruck and Rot come along scrappy and sun-baked in robust guitars and bass that feel pleasingly authentic. On top of some additional scruffiness brought by the extra acoustic texture on Stalemate and Lost Dog Pt. 2, there’s a brazen attitude that underscores One Armed Joey. They’re quick to speed through their own senses of ennui and melancholy just like those who came before, without earmarking too much distinct—plus Avery Okamura’s vocal tone sound very like MxPx’s Mike Herrera—but it’s also indicative of the sort of band they’re trying to be. The Bay Area punk sound still just clicks so emphatically, and even a band like this, as tied to it as they are, bring forth so much appeal. The choruses stand out with aplomb, a factor that One Armed Joey can keep up throughout essentially entire album as the glimmers of ‘90s Green Day or NOFX come tightly interlocked with The Ataris or Allister. The heavy banking on nostalgia feels more like a feature than a flaw with how deeply One Armed Joey plumb into it; their affinity for these eras gives off that vibe, and it’s pulled off without much of a hitch. Of course, that means they’re pretty much fixed in place instead of actively trying to move forward, or even revive the older-school to any decent extent, but that also doesn’t feel like the point. As a means of capturing the lightning in a bottle of a dearly missed time in pop-punk, Happiness, To Me succeeds handily.
For fans of: Green Day, MxPx, Allister
‘Happiness, To Me’ by One Armed Joey is released on 27th May on Sell The Heart Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall