Before I get to #projectJax and all the updates that will follow reviewing local music I have heard in and around Florida. I want to review some good albums I listened to in 2017 that I think everyone should listen to.
If anyone has been following this blog or knows me, they know I love pop punk. The tropes of having a usually nasally high pitched vocal, paired with high tempo fast guitars and most times an anti-establishment sentimentality really speaks to my eighties generation sensibilities, pop punk the fad has mostly faded in the United States, but there are still tons of bands pushing the envelope and rocking out hard inspired by Green day, and New Found Glory and Blink 182. In 2017, Welsh natives Neck Deep, followed up on their international smash “Wishful thinking life’s not out to get you”, with one of my favorite albums of 2017, the very catchy “The Peace and the Panic”.
Lead singer Ben Barlow has a diverse range and throughout the album shows off his rock star voice, treating the listener’s ears with everything from smooth and dreamy singing to anthem pounding screaming whenever the song calls for it. “Happy Judgement day” for instance, the second song on the album, has all the elements of a modern radio friendly pop song, lyrically the song is about living for today in the face of a looming apocalypse, but by the time the breakdown hits the song, the romping verse chorus will inspire dancing and celebration even in the face of an uncertain future. The guitars and the melody are technically very simple, the chords used and the drums aren’t progressive or groundbreaking on any level, and yet they are clever, because the lyrics and vocal wrap up the bow on a near perfect pop punk package, ushering in the genres future and delivering a new generation of what was once music’s next and final frontier.
Barlow has been quoted as saying the message of the album is very directly: “F*ck all this sh*t, f*ck all the noise, let’s just make something of ourselves before our time is up”. The first single “In Bloom” displays this message opening with a fake announcement of a nuclear bomb falling, then ramping up into pop punk frantic ear worm describing a tumultuous relationship beautifully, the band’s melodies and blend is very natural and comfortable, the whole group riffs off each other and harmonizes “in bloom” putting together a fun and roller coaster contemporary pop song that sails on the winds of punk influences floating to new depths and demonstrating just how much fun pop punk can be.
For anyone who prefers harder punk versus the lighter pop faire, “Don’t Wait” the sixth song on the album will satiate your hunger. A powerful anthem, the song details a powerful reaction to BREXIT and more anti-establishment classic punk sensibilities. featuring Sam Carter from the British band Architects as the featured screamer, the hard hitting song displays fist pumping guitars, and the drums do their job, but the lyrics are the real star of the song. “Don’t Wait, for anyone, to say it for you, say it for yourself.” Stand up for yourself, and speak out. Sam’s screaming on the track is well done and still melodic and at the end of the day Neck Deep made this album a must buy, after listening to this track.
Because this band is so underrated and I wish to impress y’all with how diverse a sample of their range is, I am also going to link the acoustic duet “A part of me” from their last album featuring Laura Whiteside. In this song Barlow’s voice cracks a lot as he emotes loudly, but the unpolished vocal is attached to a stirring guitar and deeply poetic lyrics that paint a stirring picture of a relationship that has now ended but has left behind a beautiful scar. Like a punch to the gut of anybody who has experienced a break up that still lingers in the heart. Laura’s feature is hauntingly beautiful and elegant and by the time the two come together at the end, the song soars.
Neck Deep is one of my favorite bands to listen too, they made headlines when one of their old guitarist was accused of sexual harassment, but the band parted ways and replaced that former member almost immediately. They have since gone on to make the best music of their career. “The Peace and the Panic” is available at Target with exclusive packaging so it should be easy to find, and the album is well worth it. Check it out today, thank me later.