Final Score: 4.5/5
One of the last major pop-punk albums of the year is out now and it outshines most of the other releases from earlier this year.
State Champs, right out of Averill Park, New York, are a fairly young band formed in 2010. They have gone further in just five years than most would go in their careers. Just coming off tour with the bands All Time Low and 5 Seconds of Summer, State Champs are now releasing their second full-length album “Around the World and Back.”
Starting back in 2010, State Champs quickly gained popularity among pop-punk listeners. Putting out a self-released and self-titled EP, early the next year the band was quickly signed by Pure Noise Records, whose current roster holds some heavy hitters in the scene, such as Four Year Strong, Gnarwolves, Senses Fail and The Story So Far.
It wasn’t long until they put out two more EPs and their first full-length album “The Finer Things,” which was released in 2013. Followed by an acoustic album in 2014, State Champs have been busy these past few years and show no sign of slowing down any time soon.
“Around the World and Back” is a pretty average-length album. With 11 tracks total and clocking in at 33 minutes, none of the tracks are longer than four minutes, and just a couple don’t hit the three-minute mark but manage to do a lot in that time.
State Champs is easily labeled as pop-punk. All pop-punk bands are trying to convey the same message. It is the delivery that puts State Champs on top. The solid guitars riffs and in-your-face vocals don’t really separate the band from the competition. It’s the lyrical content and buildup of their songs that’s their defining feature. With lead vocalist Derek DiScanio’s smooth voice and two back-up vocalists, the harmonies are great and not as rough around the edges as others in this genre would have.
Lyrically, this album can roughly be compared to any other punk band out there. With the common themes in all the songs being girls, breakups and hanging with friends, nothing new to the mix is present, but the presentation and context are outstanding. State Champs are able to find relatively new ways of singing about these old subjects. Overall, it stands out as some of State Champs’ best work to date. You really feel the heartbreak in tracks like “Around the World and Back” and “All You Are Is History.” There is hope in tracks like “Breaking Ground.” Taking on the common themes you see in the scene today, the band is able to stay fresh and relevant with their lyrics, and signs of maturity are a lot more present this time.
Musically, the band has taken what has worked well for them and made it better. They showcase that they are more than a one-trick pony and show a lot of range in their music abilities. Whether that is the fast-paced grunge-like rock or the slow and soothing acoustic tracks, State Champs have variety and it works well with them. That is the defining feature of the band. You can hear the angst in many tracks like “Tooth and Nail.” Where the drumming and guitar are very important to the flow and overall tone of the song, in tracks like “Perfect Score,” the focus is on the vocals.
There wasn’t much experimentation this time around – nothing new was really added to the formula. That is not to say that it takes away from the record at all – it wasn’t playing it too safe either. The band has found their sound pretty early on in their career and mange to refine it every time, taking out the parts that don’t work for them and making a solid record.
For any fans of the pop-punk scene, this record is a must-have. State Champs have managed to raise the bar, making this one of the top releases of the year. Even earlier work by State Champs will struggle to hold a match up to “Around the World and Back.” New listeners will find something to relate to in this record. The band manages to take the tropes most commonly associated with the genre and put them in 11 catchy and solid songs. Either way, if you’re a new fan or an old one, you should pick this record up.
Collegian Music Critic Alec Erickson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CTV_ACE.