The Story So Far – What You Don’t See
Record Label: Pure Noise Records
Release Date: March 26th 2013
We’re four months into 2013 and I haven’t listened to a lot of pop-punk records, to be honest. Not many have come out, either, but on the plus side, a lot of “bigger” bands within the genre have records coming out this year, such as The Wonder Years, Transit, Man Overboard, and finally, CA’s The Story So Far. Last spring, I got way more into pop-punk, and this was one of the first bands that I got more into. I mean, I was always into pop-punk, and some of my favorite pop-punk bands were (and still kind of are) Fireworks, New Found Glory, Blink-182, Fall Out Boy (their early material, but I do enjoy everything they’ve ever done), A Loss for Words, State Champs, and a few others. Needless to say, a few of those bands in there are part of the “new generation” of pop-punk, so I still had a lot of catching up to do. The Story So Far were one of those bands, and I’m surprised I have not listened to this band much sooner. Well, I did last spring, and I remember listening to the band’s debut record Under Soil and Dirt, which impressed me quite a bit. It wasn’t anything unique, or anything really mindblowing, but that’s why I liked it. Some bands know what they are, and they know what they’re doing. Despite being a very young band, I feel as though The Story So Far knows what kind of band that they are, and they don’t have any qualms about it. They’re not here to change music, but just to play some songs and make some records for people who love pop-punk. That’s not a bad thing, and that’s what makes them so awesome to me.
Another thing that really caught me off guard was vocalist Parker Cannon. Pop-punk is a genre where the vocals and lyrics mean just about everything, because the instrumentation is typically not that unique. Well, Cannon’s vocals are unique, and to be honest, he has one of the best voices in pop-punk I’ve ever heard. His vocals are absolutely killer; they’re very strong, loud, and confident. He sings every word with such sincerity, honesty, and even aggression sometimes. His voice was rather auto-tuned on Under Soil and Dirt, but not to the point where it was hard to tell where the auto-tuned ended and his real voice began. Lyrically, the record was also very aggressive, and full of a lot of “f**k you” anthems to girls or awful friends, as the genre mainly is about. The lyrics were really heartfelt and sincere, but also angry, and that’s okay, because Cannon and the other guys are in their late teens/early 20s, so that angst still burns within them. That’s fine, but this time around on sophomore record What You Don’t See, it shows the band in a new light, and the album title really rings true. This is a side of the band that we haven’t seen before. Well, the instrumentation is more or less the same, but lyrically, this is a side of them we, the listeners, haven’t seen. Cannon’s lyrics are less angry, and more retrospective, and even question the flaws and downfalls of relationships. The lyrics do revolve around relationships, and that would bother me if the lyrics weren’t so damn good. The first time I listened to this record, I wanted to shout every word as I was listening to the songs. Every word is heartfelt, sincere, and honest. However, it’s much less angry, and much more intelligent, and thoughtful. Maybe it’s because the guys are in college, and that’s what college does to you? I don’t know, but the ending result is something a bit more enjoyable than the already near-perfect Under Soil and Dirt.
The record starts off with “Things I Can’t Change,” and just the title alone really catches my eye because it seems like they’re trying to say that their sound is something that they can’t change, and I’m a firm believer in the phrase, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, their sound works very well, so why should they change it? In pop-punk, it’s really easy to lost in fray of other bands trying to make it, but this band has something unique, whether it’s Cannon’s booming voice, or his aggressive and introspective lyrics, this band is a bit above the rest. The song itself is actually one of the highlights on this record. What’s really interesting is that while this isn’t pop-punk that’s totally unique or original, it’s done wonderfully. There actually are melodies and very catchy choruses, guitar riffs, etc, etc. Almost every song is memorable on its own, as opposed to a lot of the genre, where bands seem to play the same song throughout their records. This band does switch things up a bit, however. Lyrically, this is also a nice song to start off the record, especially when Cannon says, “Lie alone, it’s all you can do now, and hear me drone about the things I can’t change.” In a way, it’s almost he’s describing how you should listen to this record. And that’s one of the songs on the record with a very strong chorus. A few other songs have choruses like this that really just sticks in your mind. All in all, this is a killer opening song, and not even just for pop-punk, but just in general. Opening tracks are very important when it comes to records, so having a very strong song to start off an album means good things are about to come, or it’s very misleading. In this case, it’s the former with very good things on the rise.
Of course with a pop-punk record, you can’t have the good without a little bit of bad; if you’re a pop-punk fan who isn’t too picky, you’ll love this record. Even if you are picky with your pop-punk (try saying that ten times fast), this should please any fan of the genre, but people who are not accustomed to the genre might not really enjoy this too much. That’s what I wonder with people who aren’t too familiar with the genre, so if you’re not very familiar with the genre, I would recommend this, because it’s a good dose of pop-punk, and this band is one of the better ones to come out, but this is a genre that’s not for everyone, and for good reason. With that being said, this record is quite short at about 30 minutes. It’s a couple minutes shorter than their last record, but only one song makes it past the three-minute mark, and that’s my favorite song on the record, actually. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few songs on here that really do stand out, but there are some that really don’t, and that’s not to say they’re terrible songs, but compared to the songs that really stand out, and make a difference, there are a few that just don’t do anything or go anywhere. The first half of the record, on the other hand, is REALLY good. It’s very solid all the way through the first half, with maybe the exception of second track “Stifled;” that track is good, but it’s really short. It doesn’t have a chance to really develop. It’s ends as quick as it starts, and I feel the same about a couple tracks sprinkled throughout the record. However, songs like “Small Talk,” “Playing the Victim,” and “Right Here” is a triad of wonderful tracks that just pummel through one another.
My favorite song on the record comes in the form of eighth track “All Wrong.” This song is definitive Story So Far track; Cannon’s vocals are insane, his lyrics are wonderful, there’s a very strong chorus, and the backing instrumentation is just absolutely killer. This song is definitely one of the best they’ve done, and really sums up the entire record, not lyrically, but just the overall sound. It really works, and it’s my favorite track. After that, there’re only a few more songs, but these songs work just as well. Closing track “Framework” is another one of my favorite tracks, because it ends the record just like “Things I Can’t Change;” it ends it with a bang, basically. That song is just as strong as the album opener, and I love when a record does this, when the closing song is just as memorable. To put it simply, this record is a nice 30-minute burst of pop-punk, but it does manage to be something a bit more in places. Cannon’s lyrics are a lot more intelligent this time around, especially in tracks like “Things I Can’t Change,” “Playing the Victim,” “Right Here,” and “All Wrong.” These tracks have some of my favorite lyrics in them, and they’re also some of my favorite tracks on the record as well. All in all, if you’re a fan of the band, you’ll surely be a fan of this record. It’s nothing unique or groundbreaking, but that’s okay, because you can tell that Cannon and co. put their hearts and souls into this record, and the end result is a record that will appear on many peoples’ AOTY lists, including mine.