The sun is out, May is basically in full swing, and it’s been warm for almost two consecutive days; I’m calling it, it’s officially summertime. Now before you nerds bust out your pocket calendars (where do you even get calendars that small anyway?) to point out that this season still has a few good ones left, let me point out that, whatever, man--summer. As the great Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “It’s not summer without some totally fast and furious punk rock tuneskies.” I couldn’t have written it better myself. So, in honor of President Lincoln, I present to you five albums that were released in the springtime but should totally still suffice to soundtrack your premature summer.
The Menzingers - Rented World
For worse or, more likely, for better, The Menzingers have been steadily slowing and shifting to a new breed of punk since their inception. Though their early releases, A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology and Chamberlain Waits, play out with a fairly straight-forward ferocity, 2012’s On the Impossible Past saw the band taking steps towards a more Americana-fueld sound. With their latest release, the Pennsylvanian outfit still meanders into rugged rock, mostly through squealing guitars and punchy vocal delivery by Greg Barnett. Most of the time though, they seem content to pull their best Springsteen meets Dylan to have drinks while jamming to The Clash impression. With a sound ripped straight from your daddy’s classic rock records, they tear through tracks like “Transient Love” and “I don’t Wanna Be An A**hole Anymore” as good as the any basement ruffians, before burrowing into a laid-back, unhindered moments of soulful folk inspiration. The Menzingers herald a new breed of punk that takes classic genre moments and infuses them with relentless punk energy.
Stream Rented World on Spotify.
Check out - "I Don’t Wanna Be An A**hole Anymore"
Stick around for - "Nothing Feels Good Anymore"
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a hard record to pin down; On one hand it’s a biting, sardonic review of modern culture, gender biases, and life in general, set to screeching guitars. Then again, it also has more tender moments where vocalist Laura Jane Grace begs to fit in, searching for her place amidst everything in a world that feels like a living dream. The conflicting themes and musical styles are appropriate given the overall theme of coming to terms with one’s self and gender, and the mixed bag shift from uproarious rage to sensible slowness conveys a thoughtful bipolarity. The record presents a healthy mix of Against Me!’s classic rough and rigid gruff mixed with a new beginning vibe: the sense that the band could go anywhere from here, and that neither Grace nor the rest of the band want to be defined by their past. It’s crude, it’s angry, and it’s a darn good time.
Stream Transgender Dysphoria Blues on Spotify.
Check out - "Transgender Dysphoria Blues"
Stick around for - "Black Me Out"
Weatherbox - Flies In All Directions
Imagine if Max Bemis continued on the path he was headed with his debut album, Is A Real Boy…, but combined that spastic unpredictability with a little acid-fueled rock n’ roll, and you’ve got a pretty decent idea of Weatherbox. From the fast and formidable opener, “Pagan, Baby,” in which front man and 'Box brainman Brian Warren belts the incredibly accurate summer sentiment, “It’s such a nice day, lets stay inside,” to quietly introspective and wordy “Love Me A Good Microcosm,” the album bounces uproariously along, pausing occasionally to mellow out and ponder before punching faces with further raucous jams. It also features guest vocals from Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull, and if his endorsement isn’t essentially a guarantee of both the album and band’s quality, then nothing really is.
Stream Flies In All Directions on Youtube.
Check out - "Pagan, Baby"
Stick around for - “The Devil and Whom"
Fireworks - Oh, Common Life
It makes absolutely zero sense that Fireworks aren’t more of a household name. In a scene where pop-punk music uses the former as more of a crutch and throttles heavily on the latter, making every group sound like bro-core Wonder Years wannabees, it’s refreshing to hear a band so seamlessly embrace both aspects of the genre. With hints of edge, just enough to keep the toes a-tappin’, Fireworks are unafraid to wander into mid-tempo waters. From soaring ballads, to low-key almost crooners and back up to uppity summer jams, each song deals a different type of blow—all of it highlighted by the nasally-but-not-too-nasally vocal work of David Mackinder, who fronts amongst the best in scene. They may not get much credit in the overcrowded punk basement scene, but Fireworks are infinitely worthy of attention from anyone who isn’t afraid of straight up pop-infused rock.
Stream Oh, Common Life on Spotify.
Check out - "Flies on Tape"
Stick around for - "One More Creature, Dizzy With Love"
Taking Back Sunday - Happiness Is
Let’s be honest, at this point in their careers the members of Taking Back Sunday have no intention of rewriting their beloved scene classic, Tell All Your Friends; It’s a fact fans have been battling with since the release of 2006’s Louder Now when the group matured, or at least shifted, their sound to a more straight-forward rock n’ roll style. On Happiness Is, gone are the oft missed days of squeaky voices belting out clever lines written on clever napkins. The melodramatic teenage angst has been replaced with thunderous guitars mixed amongst eloquently penned quieter moments to provide a more focused, varied sense of energy. Taking Back Sunday will never again be the Long Islander boys wearing their hearts fervently on their sleeves. They’re now a well-versed group of experienced, talented musicians unafraid to add a little experimentation to their somewhat stagnant past.
Stream Happiness Is on Spotify.
Check out - "Flicker, Fade"
Stick around for - "Better Homes and Gardens"