Ever since The Story So Far released their debut, Under Soil and Dirt, in 2011, the band has been exponentially building buzz in the pop-punk scene. I loved interviewing the grounded, deeply emotional lead vocalist Parker Cannon and named the band’s performance at The Troubadour last March as my top concert of 2012. The Story So Far was featured in Alternative Press’ “100 Bands You Need To Know in 2013” and has been confirmed for the full 2013 Warped Tour. With all this hype built around an album that came out almost two years ago, the band had a lot riding on their follow-up, What You Don’t See, and I’m happy to report they delivered.
Bands releasing less-than-stellar follow-ups to strong debuts is no rare thing, especially when the band is trying to mature or change their sound to satisfy a record label. What You Don’t See elevates The Story So Far to the next level of pop punk by perfecting what sets them apart from the overpopulated scene. An intense energy that will no doubt carry into live performances lies behind every track on the album, and the group’s unabashedly emotional lyrics are still on display, such as in the line “However long you’ve gone, I will wait” from “Framework” or “I can’t control you, selfish if I do, all of the plans that you made never included me” from “Face Value.”
The title of the album no doubt refers to the emotions the band keeps buried underneath, a theme behind their debut as well, although the hidden struggles may now be due to demanding tour schedules rather than just growing pains. Infectious hooks are endless, especially in “Empty Space,” “The Glass,” and “Right Here,” which will be a crowd favorite at shows, while fast-paced drums drive the tracks “Small Talk” and “Bad Luck.”
Pop punk has rarely seen a frontman as vocally powerful and emotionally commanding as Parker Cannon. Whether he is penning introspective lyrics or giving every ounce of energy he has performing live, Cannon is shoulders above other pop-punk vocalists. When not behind the microphone, he is quiet and thoughtful, yet his infectious energy and overwhelming personality on What You Don’t See demands listeners’ attention.
The production value on What You Don’t See is sky high thanks to Steven Klein of New Found Glory (who also produced Man Overboard’s self-titled), and while I love the tighter musicianship and crisper sound, I know other fans have complained about the lack of “growth” or how “polished” the album feels. Some of my favorite bands have found longterm success sticking to what they do best while subtly maturing musically (Jimmy Eat World, Alkaline Trio, New Found Glory, and Dashboard Confessional, to name a few), and The Story So Far is doing pop punk better than any band out there. If it’s not broken, why fix it? What You Don’t See not only hits the bar The Story So Far set with Under Soil and Dirt, the album also raises it.
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