One wouldn’t think the combination of pop punk, beatdowns and gang vocals could mesh together, but if done right it can be very entertaining. Bands like Chunk! No Captain Chunk! have shown us that the combination can be successful if executed correctly as they paved the way in the late 2000’s. While this led to a string of copycat bands, very few ever hit their stride as one element seemed to always overtake the other side, leaving the entire sound out of balance. In 2015, Cincinnati based Settle Your Scores released their debut EP and a year later, their debut album and while both were solid, neither had quite that engaging hook-laden sound that captured people like the genres pioneers did. That notion has completely changed as the band is set to release their SharpTone Records debut, Better Luck Tomorrow, which is a pre-eminent example of the genre done right.
While the majority of Better Luck Tomorrow leans more on the pop side of the genre, Settle Your Scores are a band that does it right. The full album is rife full of catchy choruses, bouncy riffs with the occasional breakdown in between and ensures that gang vocals make their required presence known. Getting into the finer details, instrumentally, this isn’t the average or typical pop punk album as the band does plenty to stray from that, whether its bringing heavy moments such as “Rise/Fall” and “Your Teeth Vs The Pavement” which both feature breakdowns, chugs and screamed vocals. or smoking hot riffs and solos like on “Dead Man Stalking”. This should ease some concerns that the album may play into too many tropes and instead delivers solidly on both sides of what easycore is all about.
Vocally Settle Your Scores shines in both the singing and screaming. The singing elevates each song, letting the choruses soar and hook you in immediately with the screaming being surprisingly on point as well. It ranges from crushing mids to the occasional bellowing low. All in all, there isn’t a point where the band falters on the vocal front as they execute everything insanely well. This is a very much needed and desired aspect of the genre as it’s vocally driven, giving more importance that the vocals pull the listener in and hook them straight from the get go. Additionally, it wouldn’t be a true pop punk album without an acoustic song and the album closer “My Reason To Come Back Home” delivers as they slow things down, but still deliver a catchy melody and hook.
Balance in crafting a strong, enjoyable and engaging album is key, but it’s also important to play to each band members strong suits, much like anything in life. With Better Luck Tomorrow, Settle Your Scores do exactly that as they lean more on the pop side of the genre, which is clearly where they’re most comfortable. This shows that this is a band with wisdom beyond their relatively young career and they manage to have it all, ranging from soaring choruses, catchy hooks to well executed breakdowns and the much needed sprinklings of gang vocals. The culmination of this is a refreshing amount of versatility and a resulting, ridiculously catchy album that is full of sing-a-long-ability and lasting appeal.