Albany, New York’s State Champs have had quite the short, yet fruitful career, haven’t they?
Springing up in the pop-punk scene just over five years ago, State Champs quickly found a place as hopeful underdogs, filling basements and tiny venues all across the United States for two years before signing to the then-little known Pure Noise Records. However, as time passed and word spread, State Champs quickly grew out of their underdog status and are just on the brink of becoming pop-punk giants. However, the band didn’t get that way overnight, as quick as their success has shown to be.
Though the band has received a lot of support from acts like 5 Seconds Of Summer, All Time Low and the Wonder Years, who’ve taken the band under their wing through promotion and touring, a lot of State Champs’ success should deservedly be attributed to the band itself. Thanks to The Finer Things, an unbelievably catchy and thrilling debut from the band, as well as a relentless touring schedule, State Champs has shown their viability and innovation in the pop-punk genre more than enough to reap the benefits of their own success.
This makes the task of delivering on their follow-up album all the more difficult, however, as more of the public will undoubtedly be looking for the next installment to be as equally impressive as The Finer Things. While the band’s second LP Around The World And Back doesn’t hit quite the same benchmark, it still features a lot of the catchy hooks, soaring melodies and musical proficiency to continue their winning streak and undoubtedly win over new fans.
If anything’s to be taken away from Around The World And Back, it’s that the new LP marks the beginning of the act’s rise into something bigger and better—and the music is definitely representative of that fact. The pop-fueled bounce of the band’s early singles solidified their increased potential for mass appeal, yet still find enough of a punk edge to deliver the rebellious undertones one would come to expect.
No better example comes earlier than first single “Secrets,” a syllable-packed, raucously exciting jam to set the musically beefed-up tone for the rest of the record. “Losing Myself” quickly follows to deliver a similar energy, paired nicely with a set of lyrics that hit an excellent balance between living life to the fullest, while still weighing internal fears about the possibilities—not a mentality you typically find in a scene like this.
The record’s initial singles aren’t all there is worth complimenting, however. Deep cuts like the Sum 41-esque “Eyes Closed” and the rough-and-tumble grit of “Close Up” both show a lot of progress in diversifying the band’s sound. Not only that, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an acoustic ballad in 2015 more in-tune with the terrifying feeling of falling in love than the record’s title track.
While these songs do make excellent impressions and give State Champs a slab of new tracks to continue winning over fans, it still isn’t worth shying away from a few criticisms that stop Around The World And Back from being labeled as a masterpiece.
Though many songs on the record are undeniably catchy and demonstrate innovation for the genre, there are some that show signs of repeating formulas and patterns we’ve already seen from the band. “All You Are Is History,” the only underwhelming single from the record, features a hook somewhat reminiscent of a half-step down version of The Finer Things’ “Remedy.” Additionally, while the deep tracks mostly impress, there are a few in the record’s back half (“Back And Forth,” “Tooth And Nail”) that I found myself skipping over on repeated listens, just out of sheer indifference.
While these problems do exist, they still aren’t enough to spoil the fun that is the vast majority of Around The World And Back. The record’s flaws are nowhere near as impactful as its strengths, those being the continuation of solid hooks, inspired songwriting and fresh ideas capable of moving the pop-punk genre in the right direction. Upon hearing Around The World And Back, you’ll immediately see why State Champs is destined for the big time.