I don't know if it was because of the superb quality of releases last year (The Wonder Years, Transit, Fireworks), the poor quality of releases this year (everything other than Masked Intruder and Hold Tight!), or that I'm just growing out of the genre, but with under a month to go in 2012, I can safely say that this year was a major disappointment in the world of pop-punk. Luckily, 2013 is already assured of having one pop punk release at the level of the best of 2012, and the year hasn't even begun yet. Half Hearted Hero plays a punky, technical form of pop punk, similar to A Wilhelm Scream or Heartsounds, and the guitarists' metal background is very obvious. The guitar parts set them apart from most of the pop punk bands out there, but they also show an ability to move outside what one would imagine is comfortable for them and diversify outside the genre. "Vessel" is almost startlingly different from the band's other material, taking influences from Deftones (really, I swear) to punch some life into a lately stagnant genre, and basically leaving it for periods of time. Whatever is absolutely the first great pop punk release of the upcoming year, and one that shouldn't be ignored, even for those becoming increasingly disenchanted with the genre. You can stream the band's latest single "Framework" right here, and follow the band on Facebook here. Whatever is out January 15th via Animal Style Records.