The year is 2015. Rocking your “Defend Pop Punk” T-shirt, you elbow through the masses hoping for a prime spot against the railing beneath the Journeys Left Foot Stage at Warped Tour. Your feet fry like eggs on the blacktop beneath the scorching summer sun. Dehydration, not scary viruses, is your biggest worry. Those were the days.
So much has changed in five years. Yet, songs released at the peak of pop punk’s revitalization still feel fresh. Let’s get nostalgic for better times and praise the power-chord gods for allowing these bands to still kill it with new music.
Neck Deep – “Can’t Kick Up The Roots”
“Can’t Kick Up The Roots” might be the most perfect pop-punk song on the most perfect pop-punk album of the past decade. It was the shiniest gemstone on the genre’s crowning achievement, Life’s Not Out To Get You. Lyrically, this Neck Deep jam is quite dreary. The chorus utilizes the often used but totally relatable stuck-in-my-small-town pop-punk trope. “I’ve been wasting away/But in a town with no way out/There’s not much else to do anyway,” singer Ben Barlow croons. But the bouncy melody masks these dark lyrics, giving the song a cheery ambiance. It’s a common blueprint among our favorite bands. “Can’t Kick Up The Roots” just embodies excellence.
Knuckle Puck – “Disdain”
It seems like just yesterday when Knuckle Puck were an up-and-comer. Now, the five-piece are scene favorites, thanks to 2015’s Copacetic. The ocean-deep album is without a week tune. “Disdain” is a standout track that mixes paces, front-loaded with energy before a pleasingly groovy second verse. The band continue to pump out quality tunes, with their next record dropping Sept. 18. Aptly titled 20/20, it will undoubtedly build on the Chicago natives’ ever-growing reputation.
State Champs – “Secrets”
There’s a decent chance you remember where you were when you heard the bouncy verse “You caught me in the right place/At the right time, so I’ll just dive right in” for the first time. It’s crazy to think that was five summers ago. “Secrets,” the standout track from State Champs’ breakout album Around The World And Back, is still their most recognizable song. So catchy and gleefully infectious, the tune begs for the repeat button. It rightfully earned a Song Of The Year nomination at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards. While it didn’t win the award, State Champs captured the Breakthrough Band Skully at the ceremony.
All Time Low – “Something’s Gotta Give”
All Time Low kicked off a year full of pop-punk bangers with “Something’s Gotta Give” in 2015. The memorable music video began innocently enough before devolving into a gruesome zombie apocalypse. We still can’t unsee the image of Alex Gaskarth ripping out bandmate Rian Dawson’s intestines. It was like The Walking Dead meets Game Of Thrones with a score composed by ATL. The song catalyzed Future Hearts, reflecting their ever-progressing sound. The album provided a bridge for the band to get from their quintessential pop-punk early days to their recently released masterpiece, Wake Up, Sunshine.
The Wonder Years – “Cigarettes & Saints”
The Wonder Years pushed pop punk’s mini revival in the early 2010s. “Cigarettes & Saints” was a gut-punching exclamation point to their run of popular singles. Lyrically, it’s unmatched: “I’ll bury your memories in the garden/And watch them grow with the flowers in spring/I’ll keep you with me.” Dan Campbell often writes heavy, but this is next level. The line “This goddamn machine, hungry and heartless/My whole generation got lost in the margin” seems to target every millennial burdened by an avalanche of bad luck, from ballooning college debt to massive recessions. Five years later, those emotions likely ring true for TWY fans trying to figure life out in today’s nutty word.
Against The Current – “Paralyzed”
Against The Current’s 2015 EP, Gravity, was an explosive introduction to their capabilities. “Paralyzed” has zero-chill as Chrissy Costanza’s vocals could give a reptile goosebumps. The whole band knock the tune out of the park, carving their own niche in the pop-punk stratosphere. Every song on the EP is good, but “Paralyzed” is the tune worth plenty of repeats.
Broadside – “Coffee Talk”
You were undoubtedly pierced by the gravelly voice of Ollie Baxxter belting the line “Lately all I want to do is lie around with you and complain about the youth” while making playlists in 2015. The hook to “Coffee Talk” cuts through the noise, jump-starting this high-voltage track while introducing listeners to this brilliant band. The whole album Old Bones is a classic. Their 2017 follow-up Paradise was also chock full of quality. Their new record, Into The Raging Sea, continues that tradition of greatness and is must-add to all your current playlists.
Man Overboard – “Borderline”
How has it already been five years since Man Overboard’s last album? Heavy Love dropped in 2015 before the New Jersey natives embarked on a hiatus. “Borderline” stands out because the band’s two singers, Nik Bruzzese and Zac Eisenstein, effortlessly harmonize in this well-written tune. The line “I guess it’s just like me to get real sentimental before I leave” is a fun one for fans to belt. Also, maybe a little foreshadowing. The song kicks it up a notch with the simultaneous vocals before a loud, final chorus. It’s a great pop-punk jam that leaves fans excited for Man Overboard’s forthcoming project.
The Story So Far – “Nerve”
“Nerve” has one of the most bumping choruses you’ll ever hear. In fact, the line “It’s all in my head, there’s not much I can do/You set your place, I keep mine too” still echoes in fans’ cranial cathedrals. It was peak the Story So Far—Parker Cannon’s throaty vocals, semi-truck-heavy power chords bedding over a bouncy drum beat. This song would spark a circle pit in a nursing home. The Story So Far’s shows are nothing short of riots when this track is played.
Fall Out Boy – “Uma Thurman”
Talk about a career revitalization. Some fans may have cast Fall Out Boy aside after Folie À Deux, but there’s no denying the enormity of American Beauty/American Psycho. It built on the hugely successful Save Rock And Roll, solidifying FOB as one of the 2000s and 2010s biggest bands. “Uma Thurman” didn’t attract the popularity of the stadium-rock “Centuries,” but it was at least digestible for fans who preferred their Take This To Your Grave era. The line “May death find you alive” is the track’s most memorable moment. It pushes the pacing and soul of Fall Out Boy’s earlier work and is their best tune since the days Pete Wentz cameoed on One Tree Hill.