This sampler is for anyone who grew up playing Tony Hawk Pro-Skater games and promptly popped an ankle on their first drop into the half-pipe in real life. Enjoy four EPs that will take you back to that fateful moment in one listen:
EP by Why Not
Hailing from the twin cities of Minnesota, Why Not combine the mathy twinkle of Midwest emo with Philly style indie punk and a smattering of prog. EP is a whirlwind of groove shifts, gang shouted hooks, noodly guitar lines, and massive expansions into reverby space. Perhaps the best example of this comes in the penultimate track Thud. Dead., which substitutes a traditional chorus for a hard-hitting octave riff before turning on a dime into an off-kilter clean section layered with pitch shifting guitars. This then promptly changes time signatures before literally exploding into a heavy, groovy Chon riff that transitions seamlessly back into the faux-chorus. For an album so focussed on musicianship, EP is surprisingly fun and lighthearted. Of the four tracks, the only one that veers into really melancholic territory is the closing 10 minute odyssey Eighth Year, an impressive prog song complete with 5/4 time, noise and glitch sections, a minute long guitar solo, and a heavy-hitting slow-burn chorus where vocalist Henry Breen sings his most iconic line: “Now I’m standing tall/ I’m a tree/ Now I’m standing here/ Just to be me.” It’s altogether one of the most impressive emo/ indie punk EPs to come out in 2019, and a great surrogate for anyone looking to fill the void left in the wake of JANK’s demise.
Divide and Conga by King Punch
Ska-Punk is one of the most quintessential offshoots of 90s and 2000s punk music, but in 2019 it is unfortunately in short supply. Thankfully, London’s King Punch has come to the rescue with their newest EP, cheekily titled Divide and Conga. Divide and Conga is 14 minutes of infectious, skank-inducing, existential ska-punk reminiscent of 3rd wave legends Streetlight Manifesto, albeit a little more streamlined. Lyrically this fast paced EP comes out swinging. Opening track Sit Still ends with a double bridge with the ringers: “there always seems to be someone speaking for me” and “it was an itch to scratch/ then a bone to pick/ now a hill to die on/ boy that happened quick.” Second track Whole Lotta Love keeps up the punches with the kicker: “it’s hard to find time when you’re never free.” To round out the middle-aged angst, King Punch throw a curve ball for the fourth track on the album and cover the System of a Down hit Chop Suey!, turning a once visceral alt-metal track on its head with blaring horns and a halftime reggae chorus. Like most ska covers before it, it really shouldn’t work, but they manage to defy all odds and turn it into a humorous and thoroughly enjoyable closer to a very solid offering.
Gumiho by Gumiho
Seoul, South Korea’s Gumiho are bringing back classic, 90s hardcore punk. Their new self-titled EP is a flurry of aggression and angst delivered with the same fast and loose charm that once drew tons of disaffected youth to packed basement shows decades ago. Opening the album is the immediately catchy Destroyed Warranty, a NoFx style onslaught with a snare-kick K-punk chorus. This spills into the darkest and angriest track, Glittering Dreams with the haunting chorus: “it doesn’t have arms but knows how to use them/ it doesn’t have a face but knows where to find one.” Here Gumiho take a quick break from the blistering punk brand they’ve established and delve into more melodic territory with the serpentine -ing and the bouncy pop punk of Help Request. The reprieve is short-lived however, and soon they return to their prior form on the skate punk Twisted Mind, which transforms part way into a downtempo groove before handing the reigns to the last and perhaps the best track on the EP. We Create the Stars is old-school hardcore at its finest with plodding verses led by bass and toms and an explosive gang-shout chorus: “I’ll swing six feet/ You’ll swing in eight/ Watch the water flicker/ As our bodies hit the lake.” Throughout their eponymous record Gumiho prove that angsty music doesn’t have to brooding or gut-wrenching, in fact, in this case it can be a lot of good old fashioned fun.
Down the Path by For the Legion
What would a skate sampler be without EZ-core? For the Legion has been carving out a name for themselves in the European pop punk scene for the better part of a decade and their latest EP Down the Path shows the Swedish quartet at their melodic finest. It’s also their most mature record to date, taking a page from their peers Set Your Goals’ book on We Want You to Panic, a sing along anthem about the impending climate catastrophe complete with samples of panicked news anchors, and also touching on such adult themes as parenting and racial prejudice. It’s an album full of welcome growth in a genre with a major Peter Pan complex and a far cry from their earlier, more lighthearted and comic book inspired music. With experience comes perspective, and as long-time veterans For the Legion take this release as an opportunity to stand for what they believe in. Don’t worry that they’ve lost their edge though, because Down the Path is loaded with bangers, from the anthemic opener May, to the gutsy Thrown, the shreddy Always Out of Time, Never Out of Breath, and the subdued closing ballad Thin Air. They might be, as the name suggests, a bit more down the path, but For the Legion prove emphatically here that they still have a lot to give and they aren’t going anywhere just yet.