If someone asked you to name a pop-punk band, the list would go on for days. When asked if you could name a pop-punk band with a female lead singer though, the story changes. As of now, I can only think of two: the under-appreciated VersaEmerge (fronted by Sierra Kusterbeck), and the mainstream darlings Paramore. Now that Versa is now a duo, and Paramore just getting back into the studio, a large hole has formed in that sub-genre that seems to grow only larger by the start of a lot of mediocre (at best) bands who enter it at a daily basis.
That’s where the Australian-based Tonight Alive come in. The power-pop quintet are now invading our alternative shores; bringing with them their American debut What Are You So Scared Of?. And to my surprise, Tonight Alive more than fills that gap.
What Are You So Scared Of? is an album full of delightful anthems that welcomes new listeners with open arms, while sticking to a rather familiar pop formulas. “Breaking and Entering” is a raw concert starter, that doubles as a great. “To Die For” is a witty boy-girl story, with one hell-of-a chant worth chorus ready for the live circuit. They can even soften their sound some, done incredibly well on one of the later tracks “Safe and Sound;” a great relationship song for that special someone. They even team up with Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 in “Thank You & Goodnight,” an upbeat fun duet which picks up the last third of the album tremendously.
The biggest selling point is their vocalist Jenna McDougall. She doesn’t have as much angst as Paramore’s Hayley Williams, but she does have her range. Songs like “To Die For,” “Amelia,” and my personal favorite “Starlight” really shows off her talents as a singer, and ranks right up there with the better voices (in both male and female) in the genre today. But it’s not just a one person operation, as her band behind her does a fantastic job. Some of the backing drum fills are done incredibly well (“Let It Land”), while the accompanying guitars make for a great listening experience on each track.
Now on tour with Go Radio, and later being on Warped Tour this summer, Tonight Alive look to be making quite a huge splash in 2012. And it’s well deserved; the vocals and musicianship are both a refreshing take on the overpopulated sub-genre and hopefully just a taste of what’s yet to come. Tonight Alive is going to be one of the bands this year that your friends will say “I liked them first.” Hopefully, you will have the sense to go check them out right now before that happens.
Final Grade: B+
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Go Download: “Starlight”