It’s June 15th and I am overwhelmed. A couple of records dropped today and I am too excited to even function! I’ve been hopping between albums debating what to review first so here’s the first of them: Living Proof by State Champs.
State Champs are a band from Albany, New York, and came into existence in 2010. Before Living Proof, they dropped two great albums: The Finer Things and Around The World and Back. IMO, those are both amazing albums, so I was super hyped when the boys announced their new album.
The album starts off with “Criminal,” one of my personal favorites. It has a good mix of polished vocals and gritty vocals from lead singer Derek DiScanio, arguably one of the best elements that this band has to offer. The instrumentation is fantastic, the lyrics are easy to follow, and the delivery of this song definitely ensures that it will be played live. This is a killer opening track, and I think it sets the scene for what the rest of the album has in store for us.
The next four tracks blend together in the best way. “Frozen,” “Crystal Ball,” “Dead and Gone,” and “Lightning” all have the same great elements about them. “Frozen” has a really catchy guitar hook that stands by itself in the beginning, which crashes into the pop sounding chorus. “Crystal Ball,” the second single to come out, has a strong bass presence and a catchy chorus. “Dead and Gone,” the first single to come out, definitely represents this album well. I could do without the “woah oh oh’s” and repeating vocals in the background (this production is thanks to producer John Feldman) however it isn’t completely ruined by that, as the catchy chorus is able to hold the song up. The drum and twinkly guitar that start off “Lightning” lead up to the chorus which tbh, was kind of anticlimactic. Thankfully, the second verse is able to pick up some slack to get to the second chorus, which adds on more lyrics to make it more memorable.
The album turns a little bit softer with “Our Time To Go,” the typical break-up song on any record. It would have been really easy for them to make this song completely acoustic, but I’m glad they didn’t. It sounds really good with all of the instruments involved, and you can really hear the passion in Derek’s voice. This one will definitely be a fan favorite.
“Safe Haven” is next, and this is probably one of the most forgettable tracks to me. The chorus and lyrics seem a little bit bland to me, and while the instrumentation is what carries the song, this song feels like more of a filler song to complete the album.
The album picks back up with “Something About You,” a track were Derek’s voice really shines on the chorus. This one would definitely be fun as hell to see live.
“The Fix Up” is a song that kind of brings the mood back down again. The first minute of this song is just soft instruments and vocals, and there is no crashing chorus that comes in, despite the raise in Derek’s voice. It starts to pick up a little bit during the second verse and into the second chorus, however I find this one to be a little bit forgettable as well.
However, I think “Cut Through the Static” takes the cake for Most Forgettable because there just really isn’t anything that special about it, besides the fact that’s where the album title comes from. It doesn’t feel as fresh as the rest of the songs, which is where I become really stumped with this song. Maybe this is just me, but I feel like the song that contains the album title should be something a little bit more prominent and not so “meh.”
Thankfully, they recover with “Mine Is Gold,” a song that was also released prior to the album coming out. This one also seems to be a fan favorite, however I don’t connect to it as much. I will say that there is good instrumentation on this track, which picks up where the lyrics drop me off.
This album has already taken me on a roller coaster, and we’re back to another track that I do not like at all. “Time Machine” is a slower song, and it has good lyrics. In my opinion, there’s too much drums for this to be as emotional as it wants to be. I think this would be a better track if it had featured an acoustic guitar or maybe even a piano. And then, ugh, they bring in Mark Hoppus from Blink-182 to sing part of the third verse. Personally, I don’t like Mark’s voice, so his presence on this track adds absolutely nothing for me. In fact, it really turned me off. I think it made this song worse than I already thought it was. I’ve never skipped a song so fast.
Finally, we’ve made it to the end. “Sidelines” finishes out this album, a track that sounds more like State Champs than the previous *trainwreck* that was “Time Machine.” This one features more grit from Derek, something I love about their previous albums. The slow fade out that this track features makes this album feel complete, which is pretty satisfying.
Overall, I would give this album a 7/10. I like at least half of the tracks on this, and I think it’s definitely one of Derek’s best performances in terms of vocals. The instrumentation is pretty solid throughout this entire record, with punk influences not being too washed out by pop choruses or Feldman production. The lyricism holds up pretty well in relation to their last couple of albums. The choruses are memorable and anthemic, which will surely get the adrenaline flowing in a live setting. I definitely can’t wait to hear some of these songs out on Warped Tour this year!