Love-hate relationships are something many people have with a multitude of things. Take food for example; there’s certain types of food that people absolutely love, but at the same time hate due to how it makes them feel afterwards or the fact that the really good stuff tends to be super unhealthy. This goes to show that humans simply rely on thought processes and break down their feelings on something in a multitude of ways. When applied to music, there’s a far wider range of examples from subgenres to specific artists, it’d be fair to say nearly everyone has a love-hate relationship with something in music. One of the more immediate genres that comes to the mind’s forefront with this established relationship is the pop punk genre as it’s littered with a massive amount of artistic endeavors, most of which tend to not be all that enthralling. That being said, there are still musicians that have an appealing and endearing sound that fall under the pop punk label, one of which is San Diego’s For The Win. Taking a page out of A Day to Remember’s playbook with a sound’s DNA that is rooted in metalcore and pop punk equally, their much-anticipated sophomore album Heavy Thoughts shows that the long wait has absolutely been worth it.
[Editors Note: The album has been delayed until Summer due to a new opportunity the band had come up — you can read more about it here]
There’s a lot of clichés that fall under the umbrella of pop punk, but the most noticeable and forthcoming lie within the whiny vocal delivery, eye-rolling lyrical content and rather uninspired instrumentation. If an artist can manage to avoid these three popular genre tropes, there’s a much higher chance that they’ll have a larger draw and standout in a genre that is one of the most popularly chosen for new bands to enter the fray. This is why For The Win have excelled in their brief careers so far as they took the powerful aspects of metalcore and combined them with the enjoyable pop punk ones. Their debut album, More Than You Know laid this as a foundation, but lacked on the punchier and gritter side of the spectrum, especially sonically. That problem is solved with Heavy Thoughts which makes its mark and leaves a lasting impression from beginning to end, thanks in part to stronger production and a slightly heavier instrumental foundation. Couple that with growth in songwriting and less of a reliance on typical pop punk stylings and the result is a ten-track album that demands multiple listens.
Whether it’s the opening track ”Us Versus Them” with its call to arms for those who have been beaten down mentally, the this town sucks, peace out ideology behind “All or Nothing” or the cutthroat nature of “Dancing Shoes” with its reflection on how people only care for themselves, Heavy Thoughts showcases a variety of thoughts that cross a person’s mind on a recurring basis. Even if the lyrical content is rather typical, this is where the growth of For The Win shines brightest as they’ve clearly matured not only as people, but as songwriters by finding ways to make typical, day to day experiences musically appealing. Sonically, Heavy Thoughts has a slightly higher reliance on the heavier aspects of the genre such as strong, well utilized screams, pounding drums and sweeping leads. That being said, it’s mostly on the instrumental side where this sound comes from as vocally, the verses ooze charisma and the choruses demand listeners to sing-a-long to as the hooks are ridiculously catchy. Furthermore, one of the staples of the genre – gang vocals – are everywhere, but never feel entirely overdone or out of place. Essentially For The Win have struck that perfect balance of light heartedness and heavy desires in their music that many strive for.
As the previous artists that laid this musical foundation move on towards different sounds and approach music in a different way, the next wave of musicians are coming in fast and For The Win are one of the few leading the charge. It’s rare in this day and age to have an album that is full of strong, well-executed songs that don’t feel pieced together and Heavy Thoughts accomplishes this with relative ease. On top of that, it accomplishes what the band set out to do, which was to create a relatable, memorable album that lets people know that they aren’t alone in their thoughts all while leaving a lingering impression on the listener that will have them coming back for more and impatiently waiting for what comes next.