Saturday, March 17, 2012

Album Review: Boxer - Undertow

Album Rating: B
In the technology-laden present day, most of us do not go more than 24 hours at a time without being connected to the Internet in one way or another.  Though our dependency on the World Wide Web seems to disconnect us from the real, tangible world of music, social networking sites, message boards and music blogs are undeniably convenient means of both discovering and sharing new music by bands that would otherwise go unnoticed outside of their local scenes.  In fact, I stumbled across one of last year’s biggest and best surprises, Joyce Manor, after Jeremy Bolm of Touche Amore recommended them via a post on Twitter.  In the same way, a Facebook post from up-and-coming pop punk band, Turnover, lead me to discover sonically similar, Richmond, Va. based Boxer, an energetic group whose debut EP, Undertow, shows a huge amount of potential.

Undertow had been a long time in the making, and was released early this year despite a previously projected release date of July 2011.  For a self-released EP, the production is ultra-crisp all around, with notably powerful drum and bass tones.  The five tracks combine pop punk, emo, and alternative music in a fashion similar to Deja Entendu-era Brand New, but with an edge comparable to contemporary groups such as Title Fight or Such Gold.

A dual vocal approach featuring a more nasally, melodic voice and a hearty yelling tone in contrast adds to the band’s versatility and allows Boxer to create a range of emotions throughout the EP.  While the first and catchiest track, “Anagram,” features more of the clean vocals, the four songs that follow are noticeably rougher and more aggressive.  “20/20” begins with staggered clean vocals, bringing names such as Seahaven to mind, but explodes into an absolutely crushing verse that successfully uses gang vocals without sounding trite.

The two aforementioned tracks are Boxer’s best offerings on the EP, and while the others are by no means unlistenable, they simply lack the same originality.  Admittedly, it is not easy for bands of the genre to stand out, as there are countless other acts with the same ethics, influences, and intentions.  However, with Undertow, Boxer proves that they are capable of implementing their own twist on the pop punk/emo/melodic hardcore/whatever sound; they just need to do so more consistently without merely settling for adequacy. 


Track List:

1. Anagram
2. Homesick
3. 20/20
4. Lost Cause
5. Medicine Cabinet

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