Top 20 of 2011: 20-16

20. Set Your Goals – Burning At Both Ends

With This Will Be The Death Of Us, Set Your Goals wrote a record that exemplified the resurgence of the pop punk genre. It was aggressive, intelligent and well produced with just enough hardcore chops to show that they knew where they were from. It was a great record. Unfortunately on the follow up, Burning At Both Ends, Set Your Goals only succeed in showing that the new wave that they helped usher in might have gone past them already. Burning is a good, summery, fun record but that’s where it stops. It does sound uninspired at times and is not the compelling listen that its predecessor was.

It’s not all negative though by any means. Tracks like Start The Reactor have the trademark Set Your Goals punch that the band is rightly famous for. It, along with several others, will likely become live favourites. While Burning At Both Ends is absolutely worth the listen, it just doesn’t hit the heights the band is capable of.

19. Into It. Over It. – Proper

Proper is one of those records that I know is good, but for some reason can’t form a strong emotional connection with. Indie rock with strong pop punk influences (the “band” is Evan Weiss, who regularly tours with the likes of The Wonder Years, The Swellers, Such Gold etc) and pretty strong lyrically, this is a solid release and something that is generally right up my alley. And I’m not saying that it’s a bad record by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, it’s a seriously enjoyable listen. It’s just not something that I feel like going back to regularly. Standout tracks are Midnight: Carroll Street, which features the record’s best lyrics (“somewhere between single life and sympathy you will find me”), and the delicate, acoustic Where Your Nights Often End that puts City & Colour to shame. These songs hint at huge promise, which is almost certain to bloom on future releases.

Good, not great, but a sign of big things to come.

 

18. Highways – Enjoy The Little Things

A free EP from a brand new pop punk band from Sydney, this release bleeds potential from every pore. Highways sound inspired on the 6 tracks here, and the youthful excitement present allows the listener to easily overlook the fact that there’s nothing particularly new offered. But really, music (and in particular pop punk) isn’t as much about doing something new as it is about doing something well. And Highways do what they do very, very well. Being a pop punk band from Sydney featuring female vocals the obvious comparison is with Tonight Alive, and there are some parallels to be drawn, but Highways’ songs are more aggressively paced and performed than their major label cousins. There’s a good dose of punk in Highways’ pop. When they change down a gear they’re also successful, with vocalist Sarah Buckley even sounding a little like a young Missy Higgins occasionally on the impressive acoustic La Di Da.

This is a fantastic, catchy and fun to listen to debut. The challenge for Highways now is to maintain their enthusiasm and edge on future releases.

Go to the band’s facebook page for a download link and check it out. You’ll enjoy it.

 

17. Man Overboard – Man Overboard

Another of pop punk’s seemingly endless new wave, on their second full length Man Overboard sound more like a young Yellowcard than The Wonder Years. Songs tend to bleed together a little without the variety exhibited on their debut, but this is still a pop punk joy. It’s not going to reinvent the genre or attract the unconverted, but this record does what it does and does it well. The second half of the album, in particular, is worth writing home about. Man Overboard are on their way to big things.

 

16. The Getaway Plan – Requiem

2011 sees a welcome return from Melbourne’s finest. The Getaway Plan are not the band that made the great EP Hold Conversation, but have morphed into something equally impressive. It is clear that the band poured everything they had into this album, their first since going on hiatus in 2009. They are now so post-post hardcore that you’d have to dig deeply to find any traces of hardcore at all but they are still experts in creating a big sound and an enveloping atmosphere. Requiem sounds grander and more orchestrated than just about anything on its predecessor Other Voices, Other Rooms. This is a record bursting with ambition and ideas, the likes of which is rare in the current Australian music scene. It will be very interesting to see how far and in what direction this record carries The Getaway Plan.

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