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Wednesday Feature: A Fresh Batch of Pop-punk

Posted by - 08:34 AM on 05/18/11
Burned out on the Blink-182 or Saves the Day classics? We can all be sometimes, which is why a few staffers spent the last couple of days putting together a list of 20 Essential Lesser Known Pop-punk Bands to Know. The goal? To help introduce AP.net to new pop-punk. Of course, we don't pretend to have covered all of them, so hit the replies to see the list, and throw in your own recommendations if you've got some!
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08:34 AM on 05/18/11
Matthew Tsai
Born and raised
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Disclaimer We realize that some of these artists are relatively well known in other niches. Ultimately, the goal of this feature is to introduce the members of AP.net to new music, so interpret “lesser known” how you will. “Underrated” might be an apt alternative interpretation.

The Artist Life

If you like your pop-punk on the poppier side, check out The Artist Life. This Toronto band finally released their debut full-length through Underground Operations and it's definitely worth a listen. These guys can really write a hook, but it probably doesn't hurt that Greig Nori (the man behind your favourite Sum 41 records) was the producer. Whether they're singing about girls or politics, you're sure to sing along.

Album to start with: Impossible (review)

The Artist Life - "Impossible"

Barely Blind

Barely Blind have to be near the top of the list of bands that are most likely to blow up on AP.net in the coming years. Though it seems like they're beginning to add an indie-pop layer to their sound, 2009's My Life With A Giant was solid pop-punk. Y'know, big hooks that are familiar without being cliche, lyrics that are nostalgic without being overdone, and so on. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but for the most part, it was memorable enough.

Album to start with: My Life With A Giant

Barely Blind - "Tommy With the Lights Out"

Better Luck Next Time

Better Luck Next Time aren't as concerned with setting new trends as they are with upholding old ones. They've got a fierce old school, mid-'90's vibe that sounds something like Jordan Pundik singing MxPx songs, and they're about as straightfoward in sound as you can ask for: 4 chords, big hooks, and it's on to the next song. It's a surprise then, that they're bigger in Japan than they are in the U.S. They've certainly got enough songwriting talent to make us want to change that.

Album to start with: Third Time's A Charm (review)

Better Luck Next Time - "Carry On"


Classic rock mixed with punk might be a better way to describe Carpenter's sound. But it's catchy and most importantly underrated so that's why they're making the cut. Their latest record, Sea to Sky, expands on the raw and honest songwriting that's found on their Smallman Records debut. Most of their songs will definitely get stuck in your head. Just take some time to give them a listen.

Album to start with: Sea to Sky (review)
Carpenter - "You Might Be Right"

Craig's Brother

Santa Cruz's Craig's Brother are a former Tooth & Nail band that never received the promotion or attention they deserved. The band is over 16 years old, and the lack of buzz becomes more baffling every year. Case in point: Their latest album on Yellowcard's Ben Harper's Takeover Records, The Insidious Lie, is nothing short of epic - not an adjective commonly used to describe pop-punk/punk rock. It's got powerful riffs, glorious harmonies, and a raw undertone, which is, to use a cliche, "everything I wanted and more."

Album to start with: The Insidious Lie

Craig's Brother - "1000 Yard Stare"

Dear Landlord

One of the best records of 2009 came from a band called Dear Landlord. It was also one of the most underrated, so now's as good a time as any to hear what you might have been missing. Dream Homes is catchy and gritty, two elements Dear Landlord have nearly perfected. They're doing a split for Paper + Plastick with The Dopamines so keep your eyes peeled out for that.

Album to start with: Dream Homes

Dear Landlord - "Whiskey and Records"


Dikembe have a joke-y album title with silly song names. Which is very misleading, because Chicago Bowls is anything but a joke-y album. With extremely personal admissions like, “I talk when I’m nervous / I talk all the time,” or, “Lately I’ve been losing / More friends than I’ve been making,” Chicago Bowls is a trip through the psyche of the self-involved twenty-something. Which is fine if you’re, like me, one of those people. But it’s the way these lines are delivered, with high-pitched shouts over noodling guitars with a grudge, that makes Dikembe the most promising pop-punk band I’ve heard in a year full of promising pop-punk bands. And I don’t care how many times that sentence has been typed for how many different bands, because I’m the only one that matters – right, Dikembe? Right!

Album to Start With: Chicago Bowls EP (which can be downloaded for free on bandcamp!)

Dikembe - "Scottie Spliffen"

The Flatliners

We might be stretching the boundaries a little here, because The Flatliners are usually all about gritty, blistering punk rock. But on Cavalcade, they fire off several pop-punk numbers that are just too good to pass up on. Songs like "Monumental" and "Count Your Bruises" demonstrate nothing short of mastery of the genre, and were likely some of the best of 2010. Oh, and while you're checking these out, it might be worth noting that Cavalcade is a must listen - pop-punk or not.

Album to start with: Cavalcade (review)

The Flatliners - "Count Your Bruises"

Half Hearted Hero

It's easy enough to classify the New Bedford, Mass., natives as a pop-punk band that leans toward the punk end of the spectrum, but that doesn't really do the band's sound justice. On Running Water, the group's first release for the upcoming Animal Style Records, Half Hearted Hero present us with six abrasive, honest and purely passionate tracks. The six songs take their time, coming in at a hearty 24 minutes - almost as long as some full-length records these days.

Album to start with: Running Water (review)


Hostage Calm

Looking for some more technical pop-punk? Hostage Calm play calculated, rhythm-shifting music that will catch your attention and then hold on tight. They're arguably one of the most interesting Run For Cover bands - look for them to build a cult following in the years to come. In the meantime, they've turned many heads with 2010's self titled release, but should turn many more this year.

Album to start with: Hostage Calm (review)

Hostage Calm - "A Mistrust Earned"

How Dare You

On The King, The Clown and The Colonel, Orlando's How Dare You are irresistible - no exaggeration intended. They're very reminiscent of the poppier side of Caution-era Hot Water Music (think "Trusty Chords"), and they pull their sound off with so much zest that they leave you enraptured, fingers forever steadied on that repeat button. If you aren't a HWM fan, don't let the comparison turn you away. How Dare You are accessible enough that you don't have to worry who they sound like to get involved.

Album to start with: The King, The Clown and The Colonel

How Dare You - "Week of Heart Attacks"

Joyce Manor

Joyce Manor play pop-punk for those of us who find the genre sometimes too poppy. Combining catchy hooks with throat-tearing aggression, their self-titled album has won the praise of critics, and slowly but surely, the attention of listeners. They're sometimes described as Jawbreaker meets the cacophony of A Wilhelm Scream, but whatever they sound like, one thing's for sure: They seem to have a knack for leaving people thirsty to hear more.

Album to start with: Joyce Manor (review)

Joyce Manor - "Call Out"

Junior Battles

Toronto's Junior Battles aren't making pop punk that you've never heard before. But they are making pop punk that you haven't heard in a pretty long while. With shades of early Green Day, The Offspring and Dude Ranch-era blink-182, Junior Battles' brand of 90s pop punk is an insanely catchy one. Their upcoming full length is called Idle Ages and will be out June 28 via Paper + Plastick. Trust me, it's worth the wait, and everyone who checks out the record will watch it become the soundtrack to their summer.

Album to start with: Junior Battles, the self-tited four-song 7" they released on Kiss Of Death Records. But really, you should be waiting around for Idle Ages, which is in my top 3 so far for 2011.


Living With Lions

We've been pushing this band pretty hard on the site, but that's because they're really worth your time. Holy Shit just came out on Tuesday and despite losing their original vocalist, they've been able to release their best record yet. Living With Lions has grown so much since they were opening for Boys Night Out in 2007. It's time to check them out, especially if you're a fan of the Swellers and the Wonder Years.

Album to start with: Holy Shit (review)

Living With Lions - "Maple Drive Is Still Alive"


These guys sound like Blink-182 but with male and female vocals, and they're quickly becoming the talk of the scene. Their music is rife with "the world sucks"-ism's, as well as nostalgia, friends, love - the typical summer menu when it comes to lyrics. "So fuck the world, now I feel a little better, I don't care what's on your mind, I'm feeling a little happier today," they sing on "Nothing Can Kill the Grimace" over one hell of a hook. If there's one band you absolutely do not want to sleep on, it's Mixtapes.

Album to start with: Maps (download for free here; review)

Mixtapes - "Nothing Can Kill the Grimace"

Paper+Plastick's Protagonist sound like a blend of Strike Anywhere, Comeback Kid and Set Your Goals: Frequent and furious hardcore bursts that flirt with pop-punk hooks. On The Chronicle, they've got your summer covered with their passionate lyrics about friends, touring and the whole nine yards. After all, their focal declaration is "We play fast, we play hard, we play together!" Need I say more?

Album to start with: The Chronicle (review)

Protagonist - "1095 Days"


Not only is the album cover amazing, but so are the songs on Funtitled, which was just released physically this month through Asian Man. This band hails from PA and they sound a lot like Latterman, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. Listen to them for awesome pop-punk that's short and sweet. Also listen to them for their lyrics, they have some great one-liners.

Album to start with: Funtitled (grab for donation based download here)

Spraynard - "Spooky, Scary"

Stay Ahead of the Weather

You might not expect members of Into It. Over It., CSTVT and Native to come together and play pop-punk, but that's exactly what Stay Ahead of the Weather is. They're all about the early 2000's Midwestern brand, and though they've only officially released five song, their debut We Better Get Goin' If We're Gonna has most everyone drooling for more. It's not hard to see why; the album's an impressive demonstration of talent, and somewhat of a pat on the back for pop-punk: People can come from all sorts of bands that play different styles and still enjoy this genre together.

Album to start with: We Better Get Goin' If We're Gonna (review)

Stay Ahead of the Weather - "Get Old Or Die Tryin'"

Teenage Bottlerocket

This might be a stretch, since these guys are on Fat Wreck and released their first record in 2003. But it's just not summer unless you're jamming to Teenage Bottlerocket. If you love 90's punk and the Descendents, look no further. This Wyoming quartet take their veteran influences and create some ultra catchy tunes. With lots of fun, repetitive choruses.

Album to start with: They Came From The Shadows (review)

Teenage Bottlerocket - "Skate or Die"

Think Big!

Think Big! hearken back to a time when pop-punk bands could be melodic and poppy and still retain respectability. In other words, none of that Forever the Sickest Kids or All Time Low tomfoolery. Aside from a brief soundbite, Losing Ground is all business: 6 tracks of potential-ridden, no-frills pop-punk. It shouldn't have much of a problem finding an audience here.

Album to start with: Losing Ground (download for free here)

Think Big! - "I'm Laying Down I'm Eating"
08:35 AM on 05/18/11
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jds10912's Avatar
i loves me some pop punk
08:37 AM on 05/18/11
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So-Crates's Avatar
nice mention of better luck next time, I think they deserve more love
08:38 AM on 05/18/11
full of shit and free beer
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evvandflow's Avatar
Grown. Ups.
08:39 AM on 05/18/11
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trindaddy's Avatar
Most of this list is light years better than the pop-punk being created by more main stream acts today.
08:39 AM on 05/18/11
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jds10912's Avatar
i'm gonna throw out a recommendation of Red Car Wire's West Coast EP. simple, summertime pop punk.

here's Summer 301 off that EP
08:44 AM on 05/18/11
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incognitojones's Avatar
Dikembe, Stay Ahead of the Weather, Spraynard, Junior Battles, and Hostage Calm are all pretty awesome.
08:46 AM on 05/18/11
all hope lies in Doom
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xapplexpiex's Avatar
Good mentioning Living With Lions. I recommend their new album. Soooo good.
08:48 AM on 05/18/11
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DevinDomino's Avatar
Awesome list! Can't wait to go through the ones I haven't heard yet

Turnover! Great band that recently released an EP.
08:49 AM on 05/18/11
Holly HoX!
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Saves the Day

The amazing transparent man
August Primer
08:51 AM on 05/18/11
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Chrisj182's Avatar
Will have to check these out, apart from Living With Lions, who I already love.

Save Your Breath
I Call Fives
08:52 AM on 05/18/11
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hiya's Avatar
cool list, I like when there's features like this. I'd recommend Iron Chic, Crucial Dudes, Washington Square Park, Daytrader, and Go Rydell.
08:54 AM on 05/18/11
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i2ockbotm's Avatar
Broadway Calls is my favorite under-the-radar pop-punk band.
08:57 AM on 05/18/11
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ThisIsNotDan's Avatar
surprisingly solid list

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