As It Is-Okay Album Review

UK Pop-Rockers, As It Is released their sophomore album on Jan. 20 and it takes everything they created with their debut with the addition of deeper lyrics, catchier instrumentals and more. Their debut, Never Happy Ever After created a sound that was fresh to the genre but at the same time something fans of pop rock would find difficult not to enjoy. Their second record, Okay, takes all this and improves upon it. Just by one listen it can be heard that As It Is took their time to create the best lyrics and instrumentals possible.

The album follows a theme of catchy, upbeat songs with somber lyrics. Without paying attention to the lyrics, a listener could assume the album follows happy themes, but that isn’t the case. There are deep topics that vocalist, Patty Walters, clearly had personal inspirations for. These inspirations make this album sound rawer and with more emotion than the previous.

The band formed in 2012 in Brighton, England and is made up of lead vocalist, Patty Walters, Benjamin Langford-Biss, guitar and vocals, Patrick Foley, drums, Andy Westhead, guitar, and Ali Testo, bass.

Okay begins with “Pretty Little Distance,” which instrumentally sounds like the As It Is fans know and love but with lyrics that create a whole new listening experience. It’s an upbeat and catchy pop punk song, instrumentally, with lyrics that describe what the album as a whole is about. It’s about how life throws twists and turns all the time and that bad things are always bound to happen. The lyrics, “Ain’t life swell from a pretty little distance?” implies that the way we live our lives there will always be tragedy and heartbreak.

“Until I Return” is a track that follows a similar formula as “Pretty Little Distance” does, because of how the lyrics are written. “I promise I’ll fight but I can’t promise I’ll be fine;” they explain that it’s okay not to be okay, which is another huge theme found across this record. These lyrics also explain the theme behind all the personal stories Walters is telling through each song. The fact that this track is towards the end shows contrast between the beginning with “Pretty Little Distance” and this one.

All the tracks on this record have some sort of personal experience that is written about, but there are two that stand out the most in what they are about. “Hey Rachel” and “Austen” are those two songs. “Hey Rachel” is written about Walters’ sister and how he could have been a better brother during a difficult time in her life. Meanwhile, “Austen” is a song written about Biss’s grandfather being hospitalized and his experience seeing him in that state.

Walters experimented with more topics on Okay such as relationships and being trapped within his own mind. “Patchwork Love” and “Still Remembering” discuss the topic of love, more specifically the end aspects of a relationship. In “Patchwork Love” Walters writes about a past relationship and how even though they aren’t together anymore he won’t forget or regret it and he asks her to do the same. “I won’t forget you, I won’t regret…All I ask, my one request/Don’t forget me, don’t regret me.”

“Still Remembering” is a bit different because it isn’t as clearly defined as “Patchwork Love” but the lyrics discuss a lot about endings. “When you left, not without warnings or regrets/Nothing would fill this hole in my chest/Bid your farewell…So my love, goodbye.” These lyrics make it the perfect way to end the record combined with the fact that it’s the most acoustic song. Instrumentally and lyrically, the album is being wrapped up with this track.

The topic of being mentally stuck was another idea that Walters struggled with because it made its way into some songs as well. “No Way Out” and “Soap” are two tracks that exemplify it perfectly. The lyrics in “No Way Out” explain this topic clearer than “Soap’s” but both still get the idea across in their own unique ways. In “No Way Out,” Walters experiments with some screaming vocals that work well with the song because it makes the lyrics stand out as more meaningful to him. “I shut my eyes, but my world’s still burning/I can’t escape, I feel it killing me/No way out.”

“Soap” is a bit different, not only in the fact that the lyrics are more cryptic than straightforward but because instrumentally, it is the most unique. The verses have a unique style in the way the vocals interact with the instrumentals. The vocals are mixed with a slight screaming to pair with the raw emotion created through Walters’ lyrics. “This will only take a lifetime/To bury me as deep as troubled is your mind/I’m sinking deeper into your head/I’m the lie you live in, every thought you dread.”

Every track on this record is wonderful and Okay is an album that doesn’t disappoint in any way. The instrumentals follow a pop punk sound, but have twists that make certain songs stand out and lyrics that are meaningful and personal in all of the best ways. This record is more than just a listening experience; it is an experience that makes the listener really think while still enjoying the upbeat pop punk tunes.

Rating: 9.5/10

You can stream the record here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpZL8cbLq4o&list=PLsBWlr67U5NsBbWZyypkhNmXzuJycASJr

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Favorite Albums of 2016

Over the course of 2016, I discovered many new artists whose albums I fell in love with, fell back in love with old artists because of a new record and followed my favorite artist’s newest records. Each one of these showed of that new music flourished this year, many albums I listened to were a huge hit. Although others, were not. But this is my favorite records of 2016 so that is what I will be discussing. *Albums are in no particular order*

  1. Better Weather-With Confidence

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Aussie pop rockers, With Confidence were never a band that was in my sights until I saw them on a recommended video while watching State Champ’s newest music video for
“Secrets.” I heard With Con’s two EPs, fell in love, and when Better Weather was released, fell even more in love with that album. It’s truly a wonderful album, there are simple lyrics surrounded by deeper ones on many of their songs. Each one is extremely catchy as well, with choruses that can be learned after only a couple listens. That may make the record sound more simplistic, and with some songs it is, but that’s not the whole thing. With Con explores themes of avoiding normality and prides themselves with being different while pursuing their musical dreams. This is a special record and extremely easy to get into.

Stand Out Tracks: “Long Night,” “Waterfall” and “Archers.”

Rating: 9/10

2. Death of a Bachelor-Panic! At The Disco

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Panic! At The Disco is a well-established group with four other albums under their belt. With each one and different line-up changes, the sound has been changed in each record to suit the band when creating their music. Now that Brendon Urie is the last original Panic! member standing, he mixed up this record from where they began with A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. But this new sound is still as good as their original. The songwriting still shows of Urie’s talent and his vocals are fantastic, especially in the title track. It sounds more pop than the unique sound of their previous works but it works. Panic! are known for this sound changing act so don’t be disappointed yet. It really is an amazing work that deserves to be appreciated.

Stand Out Tracks: “House Of Memories,” “LA Devotee’ and “Crazy=Genius.”

Rating: 9/10

3. Double Dare-Waterparks

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Discovering Waterparks was one of the best musical things that has happened to me all year. I was familiar with them from their Cluster EP and when their debut released, I shrugged it aside. After listening to their lead single, “Stupid For You,” I finally listened to the whole thing. Thank goodness that I did, this is clearly one of my favorite records of the year and it may even be my favorite. Each song hooked me instantly; Waterparks’ pop punk sound combined with electronic elements created a unique sound and feeling that is rare to hear. I honestly have nothing bad to say about this record; you need to listen to it because it is phenomenal.

Stand Out Tracks: “21 Questions,” “Plum Island” and “Powerless.”

Rating: 9.5/10

4. Headspace-Issues

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Electronic, rock, metal and rap wouldn’t seem like genres that would blend together, but Issues makes them all work in their newest release, Headspace. Around the time this record came out, there was nothing but buzz about how amazing it was. I strayed away from them because of their metalcore elements, but kept an open-mind about this release. And I’m glad I did. Each song is truly unique from each other but is still able to create a cohesive unit as the album wraps up nicely when listened to from start to finish. The metal elements are toned down to make more room for the blending of the electronic and rock ones with sprinkles of metal and even rap. It’s an album that won’t be easily forgotten and for good reason. Issues showed off how great of a band they can be with this record and I hope they continue is this direction.

Stand Out Tracks: “Coma,” “Slow Me Down” and “Lost and Found.”

Rating: 8/10

5. The Human Condition-Jon Bellion

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Every record on this list, except this one, falls in the rock genre. And I don’t call myself a fan of rap, but The Human Condition is a pop record with electronic and rap elements on it that I instantly fell in love with. It’s fantastic and each song has a different feel to it. “80’s Films” has a nostalgic vibe to it while “Morning In America” takes a point on social issues and the world we know today. Every element Bellion experimented with works and nothing is forced. Everything is cohesive and creates a three dimensional record that can be enjoyed for years to come.

Stand Out Tracks: “Morning In America,” “Hand of God” and “Maybe IDK.”

Rating: 9/10

6. Low Tides-This Wild Life

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Acoustic duo, This Wild Life’s sophomore album, Low Tides, takes what they have created with their debut, Clouded, and  expands upon it. From the songwriting to instrumentals, each have improved and shows off what they are capable of. Many songs on this record expose true emotional reactions from the listener. This shows how powerful the songwriting is that it evokes those emotions from someone who may not even be going through the situation being sung about. Kevin Jordan’s vocals are soft and can serenade any listener. They pair perfectly with the seriousness of the topics and his emotion is reflected in the same way. This record is an easy one to listen to and a hard one not to enjoy.

Stand Out Tracks: “Hit The Reset,” “Red Room” and “Let Go.”

Rating: 8/10

7. Misadventures-Pierce The Veil

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After waiting four years for a new Pierce the Veil release, this record doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Being such a huge fan of Selfish Machines and Collide With The Sky, I was nervous that this record wouldn’t be able to compare to either of those. But that is not the case at all, fortunately. These songs are crafted beautifully and intensely; from the personal lyrics to all the band’s talents on their respective instruments. This is another band that have established themselves as a powerhouse in their genre and they still have a lot of musical fight left in them. “Song For Isabelle” is one where vocalist Victor Fuentes  shows off his personal lyricism and lets his emotions through. Meanwhile, “Texas Is Forever” shows off wonderful instrumental work. Although those respective elements shine in those two songs, they are shown in every song. This record is Pierce The Veil that we all know and love with extras that show that they are developing with every release.

Stand Out Tracks: “Floral and Fading,” “Bedless” and “Texas Is Forever.”

Rating: 8.5/10

8. In Our Bones-Against The Current

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Pop rockers, Against The Current have finally released their debut record. After listening to their two EPs front to back, multiple times, a new record was long due. And In Our Bones doesn’t disappoint one bit. The songs are catchy and evolve into a more pop rock sound that takes one step further than their previous EPs. All the songs are unique and have something about them that make them special, but the band truly shines with “Blood Like Gasoline” and “Wasteland.”

Stand Out Tracks: “Blood Like Gasoline,” “Wasteland” and “One More Weekend.”

 

 

Waterparks-Double Dare Album Review

Three-piece pop rock band, Waterparks, formed in Houston, Texas in 2011. The young group are signed to Equal Vision Records and released their debut album, Double Dare on November 4 and another EP earlier in 2016. Additionally, they also have two EPs, which were released in 2012 and 2014. The signing to Equal Vision has helped them find and develop their sound and is greatly improved upon on Double Dare.

This record showed the band discovered the delicate balance between pop rock and a more pop sound created by the use of a variety of electronic effects. Some songs lean towards either side of this spectrum, but the record as a whole is balanced. It shows that Waterparks experimented with different elements and carefully crafted a product that shows them all off in their own unique ways. Nothing is overpowering or overwhelming, it’s a blend that the listener won’t be able to get enough of.

“Hawaii (Stay Awake):” This song serves as a nice introduction to the sound Waterparks is established with this record. It’s a good introduction to Awsten Knight’s vocals and the mix of pop rock with electronic effects they utilize in their songs on this album. The effects like the ones used in the background of the chorus. Knight’s voice is so easy to listen to and seems to put you in the trance that is Waterparks through the blended elements the boys incorporated.

“Gloom Boys:” This song, along with the whole album is fun to listen to, and the pre-chorus shows that off. Knight sings this part of the song quickly and creates a special effect that can’t be achieved with simply the electronic sounds. A glow/starry effect with the slight twinkle sound is created in the chorus and between that and the hard rock/Knight’s vocals, new layers are added. Like many other songs on Double Dare, the catchiness of the instrumentals does not cause the lyrics to suffer. Knight creates creative but fun lyrics, which isn’t easy to achieve, especially for their first album. An example of the lyrics is, “I brought a knife to a gun fight, I brought my words to a fist fight…”

Stupid for you: In the beginning, they mention colors like “natural blue,” which comes from one of their older songs, “I’m a Natural Blue.” The high pitched “hey” in the chorus is a wonderful addition that improves upon the chorus. Knight’s vocal talent is unique and the way he goes from soft vocals before he explodes into harder vocals at points of the chorus creates depth. Like all the rest of the songs on this record, this is a fun song that makes the listener want to get up and dance. Like “Gloom Boys,” there is still no lack of creative lyrics, especially the use of this metaphor: “You’re a symphony and I’m just a sour note.”

“Take her to the moon:” This track is the most pop song on the record, but is one of the best Parts of the chorus seem like they could be featured in an Owl City song, with the use of the starry electronic effects. These types of effects are used the most in this song but they are scattered throughout. A technique like this allows for more emphasis on them when paired with the instrumentals.  And Waterparks makes it work so perfectly. The verse and the pre-chorus are so different, with what seems like alternating vocals, but it’s still one vocalist. He sings back and forth with himself, as if he were singing a duet with someone else.

“Made in America:” Putting the most pop song next to a hard rock one in the track list creates such a great contrast. This is a fast-paced pop rock song that has more emphasis on the instrumentals, but still has those slight electronic effects. Like in the verse, they use an effect that is similar to a synth sound. The topic of this song reminds me of Green Day’s work, as Waterparks uses certain diction when describing American culture. “We’re made in America/We’re classic hysteria/We’re culture cashing, hazard smashing.”

“Powerless” and “21 Questions:” These are the two slow songs on this record and both feature acoustic sounds. “Powerless” has a more explosive chorus, with the introduction of drums and guitars, meanwhile “21 Questions” keeps the acoustic track for the majority of the time. “Powerless” has a story element to it, which Knight auditorily paints for the listener. “21 Questions” is a rawer sound, since it sounds like just the acoustic guitar and Knight’s voice. Those vocals sound the most different out of the whole album, not as magical like on the other tracks. Both songs show off his vocal talent in a different but special way.

“Little Violence:” This song sounds like the hardest hitting, because of Knight’s aggressive vocals. Although it has these hard-hitting guitars, drums, and even vocals, the band still makes the electronic effects work. Knight can transition from the vocals listeners are familiar with featured on the rest of the record to the aggressive ones in little time.

“Plum Island:” The intro doesn’t even sound like a Waterparks song, but it’s easy recognizable once the chorus hits. The way the guitar erupts after the chorus and leads back into the drums shines with the electronic effects that are added. They can be heard after the second chorus very clearly, it’s a dreamy synth sound. There’s different aspects of this song, that are separate but when put together they fit, even though it doesn’t seem like they would when they are apart. From the hard guitar/drum combo at parts, to pure electronics, to the mix of instrumentals and electronics, all work wonderfully.

Double Dare is a work of art that hooks the listener from start to finish, and achieving an experience that cannot compare to many other releases. It creates another realm of starry and unique effects that listeners get to wander around in for 44 minutes. This album is an experience no one will want to miss out on.

Rating: 9.5/10

Set It Off-Upside Down Album Review

Set It Off originated as a pop band then moved into the genre of pop rock for many of the records, specifically Horrible Kids and Cinematics. They then changed to be a bit more pop on Duality, while still holding their ground as a rock band. This is the sound that Set It Off is, except with their new album, Upside Down, things have changed. This album is very much on the pop side of the pop rock genre and there are mixed reviews. This is not the direction they should have went; after all they really shine in the rock sound.

“Something New:” It’s a nice introduction to the album, it sounds like it would belong on Duality. The drums on this track shine the most though, even though the other rock elements are toned down. Also, they added a trumpet to many songs on this record and it works well on this song specifically. It adds a new dynamic and expands their genre, similarity to Yellowcard because they have a violinist. The beginning of the album has a consistent theme of optimism and this song exemplifies this well.

“Uncontainable:” The most “rock” song on the record, which is extremely disappointing. It sounds the most like old Set It Off, but it’s sad that there are only two songs that really feel like them. The theme of this one is very similar to “Something New,” and is a perfect song to pump up anyone and get them off their feet.

“I’m taking the crown, I’m taking it now, we never look back we’re uncontainable.”

“Life Afraid:” Once the album hit this song, it was disappointing. This song started the major transition of the album to ‘pop.’ Listeners who are fans of this kind of sound will probably enjoy it, but it’s not the sound many fans of Set It Off’s older songs are like.

“Want:” This song is a step up from “Life Afraid” and the not so stand out title track, “Upside Down.” The drums are back to what Maxx Danziger does best, playing drums to a rock song. It’s unfortunate that for most of the songs the band had him play such simple pop genre sets. Vocalist, Cody Carson, sounds much better on this song. He sounds more emotional and the listener can understand that this song has some meaning to him. His vocal range is shown off too, specifically his range for high notes.

“Diamond Girl:” Another song that they added the trumpet into the chorus, but it does not work as well as it did it “Something New.” It would sound better if they had added a guitar instead, since the trumpet interrupts Carson’s vocals. Most of the lyrics on this album are also very simple and not the complex writing that Carson is capable of. This song is the most lyrical complex though. There are metaphors through the whole thing, which is refreshing for this record.

“You’re a one of a kind fixed in gold…You were a gem lost in the rough.”

“Admit It:” From this song and on, the themes get more intense and there is more emotional poured into the lyrics and even in Carson’s vocals. In many of their previous records, Carson constantly sang about someone he disliked, some can even say hated, and this is continued with this song and some after.

“Just admit you dug your own grave and now you’re buried.”

“Hypnotized:” As for the emotion in Carson’s voice, it is shown off the most in “Hypnotized.” At some points it sounds like he’s rapping and the listener can hear his anger, it’s so prominent that this is the most aggressive song. He clearly has some built up frustration with someone and that is clearly presented in this track.

“I heard you been lyin’ and tryin’ to shit on my name talkin’ behind my back.”

“Me W/O Us:” It was nice to hear the band choose to wrap up the album with an acoustic song, but it sounds too much like it belongs on the radio. The chorus specifically reminds me of a Justin Bieber song. It’s pretty and has a beautiful meaning, but more was to be expected from Set It Off.

Depending on what sound you prefer from Set It Off affects whether or not you’ll enjoy this record. It can be clearly stated that fans of the old rock side of them will not choose to purchase or even listen to this album. The song writing is mediocre, with the exception of some songs, the sound is too ‘pop’ and not enough rock and it sounds like it could be so much better. Especially since they have been working on it for so long.

Rating: 5/10

Music Recommendations-October 2016

I listen to a lot of music, this is nothing new. And I listen to a variety of rock/alternative artists so I figured that I would share with you all who I would recommend you listen to.

Catfish and the Bottlemen:

I have never been a huge fan of the indie/alternative side of rock music because I was never exposed to it. Then when I heard “Soundcheck” by them, I was hooked. I instantly looked up their debut, The Balcony, and after listening to it straight through I knew these guys were something special. After I listened to their newest record, The Ride, I wasn’t as big of a fan of it as I was with their debut, but it still has their flare to it. Songs like “Soundcheck” and “Oxygen” are some of my favorites.

Recommended Songs: “Cocoon,” “Hourglass,” “26,” “Soundcheck” and “Oxygen.”

This Wild Life:

I discovered this acoustic duo last year and loved their debut record, Clouded. Now, their second album, Low Tides, was released last month and I finally got around to listening to it. And I am so glad that I did. This record is the perfect mix of pure acoustic to some “harder” songs with some great quality lyrics. Kevin’s inspiration for this record is clear in some songs but harder to pick out in others. That’s what makes it so great, it’s simple but complex at the same time. This is a must listen record for 2016.

Recommended Songs: “Hit the Reset,” “Brick Wall,” “Pull Me Out” and “Red Room.”

Forever Ends Here:

This is one of the bands I recommended in my Up and Coming Artists post in August and I still stand by that. I have loved this not as known band especially for their EP’s and I say the same for their debut record, Imagine This. It strays away slightly from their harder rock sound in their EP, From Where I’d Rather Be, and uses some synth effects and such but it still sounds really good. All the songs are catchy and give you another reason to listen to these guys.

Recommended Songs: “Chapters,” “Search the Night,” “Fell From the Stars” and “Send Me Crazy”

“Okay”-As It Is:

This is the newest single by UK band, As It Is, which I just wrote a post about. Just listen to the song, it’s great.

Neck Deep:

Ever since the release of Life’s Not Out To Get You, I have been obsessed with this band. I’ve been listening to them since they released this record and went back to listen to their older stuff and enjoy it just as much as their newest record. They are one of the best pop punk bands I have ever heard and are dominating the genre right now. I’m looking forward to their newest music because I know it will be amazing.

Recommended Songs: “Lime St.,” “Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors,” “December,” “Damsel in Distress” and “Candour.”

As It Is – “Okay” review

For those who follow the UK pop punk band, As It Is on social media then you know how slightly active the band was until four days ago. They announced their new album, Okay to be released on Jan. 20, 2017 and streamed their lead single, “Okay.”

They began their ‘teasing’ by posting a series of pictures on Instagram that formed this picture when they were put together:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon after, they released lyrics to their lead single, “Okay,” ‘I don’t think that I’m okay.” Along with that, they posted a variety of pictures that look like they were taken in the 1950s with the reoccurring logo that said, ‘Happy Co.’

Finally, on Sept. 22 they announced their album and single and “Okay” was streamed through their label, Fearless Records.

As for the song, I am enjoying their sound that their second album will take on. It’s still true to the sound from Never Happy, but with a new twist that I can’t seem to identify. Whatever it is, I’m liking it.

Vocalist, Patty Walter’s voice sounds as if it is improving as they continue and grow as a band. I already loved how it sounds in their previous songs, but I am enjoying it even more in this song. My only slight problem is the lyrics are not as complex as their previous songs, they are more simplified. That was a bit of a disappointment since I am used to their unique writing style and lyricism. So, I hope that continues on the other songs from this record.

Needless to say, I am a huge fan of this band and this single. I, along with other fans, have been long awaiting new material from them and this makes me excited for the rest of the record.

Rating: 8/10

 

Concert Experience: Warped Tour 2016

Now that school is starting back up, it’s the official end to summer. The weather is still warm, (it’s going to be 90 degrees at my school this week), but it doesn’t have that summer feel when we’re sitting at desks copying notes, writing essays and much more. I want to reflect on one of my favorite parts of summer, Warped Tour. There’s nothing like an all day music festival, despite the oppressive heat, sweat rolling down from everywhere and the fact that everything is expensive, there’s nothing much better than being able to see a plethora of bands all in one day. It really is the ultimate concert experience.

This was the second year that I’ve been to Warped and although last year was incredible, this year surpassed it. I got to see all the bands I came in wanting to see, which was an accomplishment in itself. Plus, I met four different bands, which was probably the best part. Here’s a breakdown of who I saw:

With Confidence:

If you’re a fan of pop punk then you probably know who these boys are. They are one of my favorite bands that I saw this year and are so good live. I was a bit nervous about how they were going to sound but I have to say I was blown away. Everything about their performance was great, they had so much energy even with playing on the smallest stage. Afterwards, I met them and they are the sweetest and really genuine guys. They are going to hit it big time, I have a feeling. If you haven’t heard of them, listen to their newest record, Better Weather, I adore it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Champs:

If you read my first ever entry on my blog then you know how much I love State Champs. They are one of my favorite bands and I love everything they’ve ever released. So when I found out they were going to be on Warped Tour, that was it. I would have went just for them if I had to. Their live show lived up to every expectation I had and then surpassed them. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing they were, so I’ll put a link of their live set underneath. After their set, I wanted to go find their signing but since there were other bands I wanted to see, I didn’t go. Later in the day, one of my friends wanted to get one of their shirts so I just went with her even though I already bought one. To my surprise, the vocalists, Derek DiScanio, was standing at their tent with hardly any people around so I got a picture with him.

Live Set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B88s68yQzJY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROAM:

I featured this band in my Up and Coming bands for August and seeing them live reaffirmed that decision. They had some of the most energy out of all the bands I saw at Warped. They sound similar live as they do on their record, and like the record they are a bit difficult to understand at times because of their thick English accents. But these boys know how to jam and work the stage. After their set I also met them and they were so appreciative of everyone who came. They are definitely worth checking out, so I would take a listen to their newest record, Backbone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayday Parade:

This band is one of the first that got me into the rock/alternative scene and being able to see them live was one of the best part of my day. I’ve been listening to their music for at least three years now and they caused me to keep looking up new bands and discovering the music I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for them. I don’t think I even have to say how great they were live, just listen to them if you’re not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those were the main bands I went to see, I also saw:

  • Issues
  • Sum 41
  • Emarosa
  • Set It Off
  • Tonight Alive
  • Real Friends
  • The Color Morale