Album Review: WILLOW – Lately I Feel EVERYTHING

Truly shedding the skin of her 2010 breakthrough hit, Whip My Hair, WILLOW is back with an edgier sound and more contemplative outlook. Even in 2010, at the tender age of nine-years-old, there were glimmers of rebelliousness but perhaps no obvious indication that she would later dabble in angst-ridden pop punk. Enter 2021 WILLOW! Coming in at 26 mins and 11 songs in total – meagre numbers even by the genre’s standard – WILLOW’s Lately I Feel Everything had to be nothing short of special. The final product is special with a small ‘s’.

Lyrically vulnerable and sincere is often the prerequisite of pop punk, and Lately I Feel Everything is no exception. It’s a brave endeavour, and much of the album is genuinely on point, if a little disjointed. Where this record triumphs is in WILLOW’s continuation of sound development. Lately I feel Everything is not just a random pop punk album by a random pop punk artist; given her 2020 album, Anxiety, this a progression. WILLOW is able to utilise the pop punk sound to add depth her own sound.

Opener, Transparent Soul, sets the tone of the album. Calling upon the ever-so-collaborative Travis Barker, the offering is an early noughties Blink 182-sounding number but with a more rambunctious edginess. Perhaps leaning more towards Paramore, Transparent Soul provides a pop punk masterclass. After a brief interlude with track, F**k You, arrives the ominously titled, Gaslight. Musically, Gaslight is a happy-go-lucky, pretty little ditty with an important message. A fine example of WILLOW embarking on a pop punk direction, whilst also ensuring the listener finds it challenging to draw comparisons with any of the genre’s forefathers.

Don’t Save Me is simply fantastic! From the staccato annunciation of the verses, to the riptide riff, this is the standout track of Lately I Feel Everything. Naïve is similarly fantastic. It’s not the music that carries it, but the vocal performance that directs success. Regardless of reverb, the vocal output is robust and haunting; such a chill is sent down the spine, the listener will be left with frostbite.

The album’s lead single, Lipstick, is a venture in originality within the somewhat rigid parameters of the pop punk sound; It’s tonally darker in sound than most pop punk records, however. The exceptional vocals and catchy lyrical hooks make Lipstick a memorable album effort.

Every album has its cannon fodder, right? Well, the awkwardness is bestowed upon 4ever, and XTRA – they are terrible! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. GROW is an American Pie prom night song, accompanied by a showstopper collaboration consisting Avril Lavigne and Travis Barker. Quite the party guest list – the guests just forgot to bring the playlist. Not Avril Lavigne’s finest hour, of which there are many to choose from. Lyrically, the song is positive but it’s sound is too teeny-bopper to be taken seriously.

Album closer, !BREAKOUT! is punchy and angry. The riff is more Led Zeppelin or Rage Against The Machine than Blink-182 or Sum 41, but that is by no means a bad thing. It exudes frantic urgency, and emits more energy than the latest sugar-laden, caffeine-saturated energy drink, or better yet, a Class A drug. A great way to end an album.

Overall, the album stumbles and stutters at times, but when was the last time you heard a faultless album? They are rarer than a pig with propellers! There are hundreds of pop punk albums that sound one hundred times worse than Lately I feel Everything. WILLOW’s first pop punk endeavour successfully captures modern youth anxieties in an eardrum satisfying manner. As a first venture into a new genre, WILLOW should not be overlooked as a viable artist within a fading niche.


Categorized as pop punk

Track Review: You Me At Six – Read My Mind

You Me At Six, are certainty maturing in sound with latest release, Read My Mind, but they are losing their urgency and relevance.

Opening with complimentary scratchy riff and stained vocals, Read My Mind’s verse just about works, but this monosyllabic approach has been interpreted and bettered by countless other emo pop punk bands.

Where the band always come into their own, is their almost unrivalled efficacy for producing consistently catchy choruses. Although Read My Mind is a little more subtle than out-and-out catchy, its chorus hook can be hummed after the first chorus.

You Me At Six have always thrived on a monumental bridges, building tension to thrust them into the final chorus; although Read My Mind has an intriguing bridge, it fails to produce any momentum to drive the final chorus. The bridge is less Golden Gate, more dual carriageway.

It’s good to see that You Me At Six are still flying the flag for popular pop punk, but the flag is tattered and flying at half mast.


Track Review: The Bronx – Curb Feelers

Described by The Bronx’ front man, Matt Caughthran, as setting the tone for the upcoming Bronx VI, and the rock the other songs break against, new single Curb Feelers is an unstoppable boulder plummeting down an endless mountainside. This latest effort is a fine example of what modern punk should look like – thrashing and shrieking but just enough melodic hook to differentiate it between noise and song.

Not your everyday experience of punk – the musicianship on Curb Feelers is superb! Refusing to pigeonhole themselves with an endless onslaught of power chords – the unfortunate prototype of most modern punk – the fast riffing running through the track creates a sense of urgency greater than the need for a toilet after an IBS flare up! The sublime speed soloing adds further oomph to the already frenzied and hectic number.

“I write the songs that no-one sings. You got no idea the pressure that brings,” screams Caughthran. Rest assured, this song will be sung with gusto. Bronx VI is released 17th August, and having already teased with four tracks, the album will be the summer staple for a lot of combat-boot-connoisseurs and studded-belt-enthusiasts.


Track Review: Descendents – Like The Way I Know

What can be said about a track coming in at one meagre minute in length? As it turns out, quite a lot.

Punk bands are notorious for accomplishing what’s required within the confines of three minutes, but Descendents manage to pull off their new song – and it is definitely is a song – Like The Way I Know within 56 seconds. Granted, its short duration will never make it a go-to fan favourite but the band accomplish a pleasing pop punk project, nonetheless.

Still continuing to tease their upcoming album, 9th And Walnut, Descendents bring the get up and go with Like The Way I Know. A thrashing power chord riff propels the track with urgency, and really is the back bone of the ditty. Descendents also manage to squeeze in an excellent chorus… twice. You can probably now appreciate the tempo of the track.

Like The Way I Know is not so much a song to be remembered from Descendents extensive discography, it’s more of a last-minute reminder that 9th And Walnut drops next month.


Categorized as pop punk

Track Review: WILLOW – Lipstick

Hip hop and pop punk have experienced an unlikely alliance over the past few years. Notable crossover artists include Post Malone and Machine Gun Kelly; both of whom have embraced the guitar with enormous commercial success.

Stylistically, hip hop and pop punk are very disparate, and the purists of both genres would ordinarily not listen to the music efforts of the other; however, the recent splicing of hip hop and pop punk has made for some excellent pop music, and many artists are starting to take notice and replicate.

Daughter of Will Smith, WILLOW, has carved a successful career as a rapper and singer in her own right – having already released three albums since the age of fifteen – and is now due to release her pop punk debut with Lately I Feel Everything. A risky move, but having already worked with one of the most respected artists in hip hop and pop punk, Travis Barker, WILLOW’s upcoming release could be something special.

Unlike Machine Gun Kelly’s recent effort that was taken straight from the Idiot’s Guide To Emulating Blink 182, WILLOW’s new single, Lipstick, doesn’t feel like it’s trying to imitate anyone. The guitar tones are abrasive and deep, and not stereotypically pop punk, but Lipstick is a solid effort. The darker sound is amplified by the truly exceptional vocal performance and catchy lyrical hooks. It’s exciting when artists move away from their traditional sound and hit the nail firmly on the head, and WILLOW has driven that nail deep!


Categorized as pop punk

Track Review: Less Than Jake – Need Some Shaking

Now well into their forties, Less Than Jake continue to pump out ska punk like it’s going out of fashion – let’s face it, the genre hasn’t been on-trend for over two decades now! With that said, the band’s staying power is admirable, and they remain a millennial ska punk flagship.

Teetering on the edge of mainstream success in the early noughties, Less Than Jake might now be less than young, but they can still rock a youthful sounding track. Unlike fellow ska punk diluters, Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish, Less than Jake were one of few bands whose unique selling point was strictly ska punk; they didn’t just dabble, they owned it.

Need Some Shaking doesn’t stand on ceremony. Hurtling straight in with horns, before frantically embarking on a vocally staccato verse, the start of the song is best described as unhinged. However, this lack of containment is soon resolved by an enjoyable and memorable chorus.

Sharing the vocal duties to meet the needs of the song has always been a forte of Chris DeMakes and Roger Lima. DeMakes’s spikey sound in the verse compliments Lima’s melodic, nasally notes perfectly. Need Some Shaking is amongst the best example of this selfless ‘for the music’ ethos.

And then, before you know it, the track is over. Perhaps the track length – 2 minutes and 33 seconds – is long enough? Somehow, it would be reasonable to assume that the average Less Than Jake fan would be grateful of an extra one minute. This is an offering that requires a couple of listens before it’s appreciated; perhaps because of its short length?  

Need Some Shaking is a not revolution in Less Than Jake’s sound – it’s not even an evolution – but it is quality, nonetheless. Production values might have skyrocketed since the band’s inception, but their mantra of producing music for the marginalised has remained unscathed. Loyal fans of the band will find solace and nostalgic warmth in Need Some Shaking, and those new to the band will not recoil in disapproval.


Categorized as pop punk

20 Years On: Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

Emo veterans, Jimmy Eat World, have forged an illustrious career in the world of angst-ridden pop punk. As their Seminal album, Bleed American, turns 20 this year, we rank the songs from worse to best.

11. If You Don’t, Don’t

Aside from the chord progression in the verse, positive qualities are sparse in If You Don’t, Don’t. The track is reminiscent of an unknown – and frankly sub-par – acoustic performer, who can only secure airtime in the confines of second-rate coffee house. Despite being Bleed American’s low point, the track isn’t inherently awful; it just isn’t inherently good.   

10. The Authority Song

The challenge of reviewing a terrible track is that the rant could go on indefinitely. The review for the Authority Song ends here.

9. Cautioners

Cautioners sounds like Jimmy Eat World were covering Jimmy Eat World. Remove the staccato baseline, and Cautioners might as well not have been written. The track is about as interesting and welcome as attending church mass on a hungover Sunday morning. Jim Adkins retorts: “You’ll change your mind by Monday” – no we won’t! Cautioners is filler at its finest. Although the number does not feel out of place, it adds nothing that the album’s more superior acoustic efforts don’t already offer.

8. Hear You Me

Here You Me is angelic in aural appeal. The pick work is divine, producing subtle yet strong elicitation of emotion. The band also recruit a female vocalist, deepening the levels of tenderness to this strong effort.  

7. My Sundown

As Bleed American’s closing song, My Sundown glides the album to a gentle close. The tenderness of the track fittingly ends an album of tumultuous angst and emotional highs. Despite Jim Adkins spouting lyrics of sadness, that include: “No one cares,” and, “I want to be so much more than this,” there is a palpable sense of hope in My Sundown. An excellent choice as an album ender.

6. The Middle

Adkins’s ear for a melodic hook is something that can never be brought into disrepute. The Middle is everyone’s go-to American High School party anthem – guitar-driven pop music at its finest!  Lyrically optimistic, The Middle is a feel-good song that provides reassurance to the coming-of-age demographic. The Middle has been a firm fan favourite from the beginning, and remains so to this day.

5. A Praise Chorus

If ever there was a classic emo pop punk song, A Praise Chorus is its manifestation. It has it all: love, heartbreak, desperation and yearn. The repetition of the three words, “Crimson and Clover,” creates a visual image so perfectly pitched to the themes of the song, but don’t ask us why – it just works.   

4. Sweetness

Sweetness is a catchy and anthemic equilibrium. It is brash and refined in equal measure. Jimmy Eat World have always possessed that ever-so-vital pop punk quality of being able to carefully weave anthemic chants into their choruses to great effect, and Sweetness is the band’s best example of this, to date.

3. Get It Faster

The opening locomotive chug is eerily ominous, but drives the song steadily towards the climactic chorus, which erupts into deep desperation. A highlight of the album, which feels as unsettling as it does thrilling.

2. Your House

Your House is a visceral song of heartbreak. The song evokes images of a boy standing in the rain outside a girl’s house, after she has removed his heart with a spoon. Your House is emo at its finest. Magnificent. The absence of amplification somehow works to project the sentiment of the song louder. 

  1. Bleed American

There could only be one track to top the rest. Bleed American’s breakneck urgency is a punch-in-the-face of an album opener. When Jimmy Eat World’s chakras align, there is not a better band on the planet at delivering forthright angst. Musically and lyrically, Bleed American is a classic.  

Categorized as pop punk

Track Review: Angels And Airwaves – Restless Souls

Spearheaded by self-proclaimed alien lover, Tom DeLonge, Angels and Airwaves announce the release date of their long awaited album, Lifeforms. Accompanying the announcement, Angels and Airwaves release new single, Restless Souls.

There’s no denying that Angels and Airwaves have crafted a distinctive futuristic sound, but like a cassette tape that’s been played for the millionth time, the aesthetic is worn out.

The chorus, despite being catchy, has been done before. A carbon copy of fan favourite, Everything’s Magic, but magic this song is not. Fans of the band will likely welcome Restless Souls, as it cut from the same cloth as most other Angel and Airwaves songs but, sadly, the cloth is frayed and tired.

Based on the singles already released from Angel And Airwaves’ upcoming album, there is a lack of hope for what is yet to come.


Categorized as pop punk

Track Review: Weezer – Tell Me What You Want

Californian quartet, Weezer, have been busy in the last year. Dropping OK Human and Van Weezer in quick – and very welcome – succession, the outfit now surprise with new release, Tell Me What You Want, featuring on the video game Wave Break.

In the spirit of the band’s most recent long-playing recording, Van Weezer, the geek rockers continue in a similar vein with some tasty rock riffing, creating tension and suspense before bursting into a Weezer chorus.

Tell Me What You Want comprises a concise and classic Weezer chorus. Cuomo’s penchant for melodic, simplicity is ever present in the song, and his ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ lyrical themes remain the DNA of Weezer.

The recent revival and return to form of Weezer is welcome. They have been given a new lease of life and their bandwagon shows no sign of slowly up any time soon.


Track Review: Bowling For Soup – Where’s The Love? (feat. Hanson)

Texan pop punk powerhouses, Bowling For Soup, teaming up with 90’s whimpering wonderkids Hanson?! An odd combination, certainly. The outcome? Nothing short of terrible.

Bowling For Soup give the pop punk treatment to one of Hanson’s lesser known songs, Where’s The Love? Let’s face it, if it isn’t Mmmbop, all Hanson songs are practically unknown. Musically, the cover song works, it just feels like an intolerable itch you cannot scratch.

The ever shrill vocals of Jaret Reddick are accompanied by the certainly now-more-mature vocals of Hanson. Hanson’s vocals are superior in every facet, but oddly compliment the urgency of Jaret’s timbre. The vocal effort is something that adds intrigue to an otherwise calamitously awful song.

When considering this track, it is impossible not to wonder why Bowling For Soup didn’t choose to cover Mmmbop? You have already played out how that might sound in your head, right? It sounds better, doesn’t it?

Fans of the band will likely welcome this offering. Those who tolerate the band, will curl their toes with cringe.


Categorized as pop punk