The band’s sound may bring California beaches to mind, but you may be surprised to find out that pop-punk quintet State Champs hails from Albany, New York.
State Champs are also hopeless romantics. A band that has created a lyrical career based off of the boy-meets-girl dynamic should consider the intricacy of the instrumentation as well. Consistency is key, but its fourth studio album, Living Proof, proves it can become a double-edged sword.
Living Proof grapples with themes ranging from adolescence and nostalgia to infatuation and heartbreak, all of which hit home with relatability. This record evokes that bright red teenage blush that follows a date. Songs like “Criminal” and “Something About You” embrace the authenticity of the narrator’s monologues with fast-paced, happy-go-lucky guitar riffage. “Criminal” breaks into a chorus that is equal parts magnetically catchy and poetically clever, leaving the subject of his affections surely smitten with adoration. In “Something About You,” the story is more involved, but still colored by the same lyrical hues.
The quintet stays true to its roots but provides newer sounds in the classic pop vein. “Dead and Gone” borrows the infectious intro used in “Kiss Me Kiss Me,” by boy band 5 Seconds of Summer, and then continues the tune in a desperate path that works equally as pleasingly. Drummer Evan Ambrosio provides a live feel in this emotion-fueled bop as he does in “Frozen,” which is an excellent choice for the second track to let the band show off its surfer boy vibes.
Frontman Derek DiScanio’s proficient vocal ability weaves thoughts together into compelling narratives. To put it simply, this album will leave fans swooning, and that is owed to DiScanio. But because of the overwhelming emphasis on matters of the heart, bringing in some disparate rhythms and arrangements could add complexity to the project. Taking a walk back to the 2000s-era The Maine, “Safe Haven” touches new depths for the band on lines like: “My heart’s not built for bitterness/ I’m on the last train home/ Let me clear my head and think aloud what to dream.”
In addition to intelligently timed percussion and staccato vocal arrangements, State Champs can also pull off a gut-wrenching ballad. Pairing synthy piano and softer drum clashes, DiScanio brings listeners on a journey of heartbreak and disappointment. “I wish I had a time machine so you would never have to leave and so I would never have to say sorry,” he sings on “Time Machine.” On “The Fix Up” the vocals are even set in a deeper alto instead of his usual falsetto. This strummy love song seeks empathy.
State Champs have a consistency to their songwriting, sticking to what works. Their vibrant storytelling and guitar work accentuates the energy required of pop-punk.
Follow writer Vic Silva at Twitter.com/VicSilvaaaa.