Review Summary: Love isn’t dead, and neither is pop-punk.
Why did I crumble at the thought of you last night？
I can still remember the feeling in my chest the first time I had my heart stomped into a million pieces. I was seventeen, and a classmate that I’d been gradually trying to win over for two years finally decided to “let me down easy.” Of course that saying is a total farce, because unrequited love is one of the most devastating experiences that a person can suffer through. I mean you build up this world in your head, filled with genuine hope and irreplaceable memories. Like skipping class on a Friday in late May to drive to the ocean, just the two of you, blasting Ocean Avenue
the whole way and screaming your lungs out to those huge summery choruses. Or like the time that she got into a horrible fight with her parents, and the two of you just drove around until 4 a.m. talking about life until you found yourself parked in the middle of nowhere and listening to Futures
, trying in vain to keep the sun from rising. The problem with these kinds of memories is that you begin to romanticize each one, even if it was never intended that way. Perhaps your friends even try to warn you, but the uncertainty of how she feels only adds to the drama and intrigue. It’s an intoxicating blend of emotions, and when all of it is suddenly pulled out from beneath your feet, it’s an excruciating kind of pain – I’d argue even worse than an actual break-up.
You haven’t seen me in a long time
But I still walk along the beach at night
By now, all of this was nearly half of my life ago. I’m thirty one years old, happily married, working full-time, taking care of a house, and I’m about to become a father. But despite having an entirely fulfilling life, it still
feels like a knife is being twisted in my chest when I relive that very first heartbreak. You can forget conversations, faces, even names – but how someone made you feel is something that never truly fades away. For example, I can’t listen to pop-punk without being at least a little
reminder of her, because it was something we both loved and that we shared together daily. I don’t have much faith in the genre anymore though -- the dirty not-really-a-secret
about pop-punk is that it’s a cheap, flimsy excuse for music, which is something I didn’t know in high school but that I quickly came to realize later on. The vocals are often nasal and pitchy, desperately trying to be rescued by an over-the-top chorus that waxes poetic about unrequited love. It’s cliché-ridden, angst soaked drama. No wonder it was so easy for an entire generation of teenagers to relate to.
I wanted to see you, to see if I still wanted to see you
Just like your first heartbreak, though, music has a remarkably strong nostalgic pull. I don’t actively seek out new up-and-coming pop-punk acts (partially because I don’t care, and partially because they barely exist in 2018), but Antarctigo Vespucci is a project that immediately made my ears perk. The super duo consisting of Chris Farren (Fake Problems) and Jeff Rosenstock (Bomb the Music Industry!) feels like a final crusade in the name of pop-punk. They espouse those enormous-sounding earworm choruses while effortlessly tying-in heart wrenching, confessional lyrics about relationships that are enough to make any former fan of the genre involuntarily swoon. It’s actually their second full-length LP following 2015’s Leavin' La Vida Loca
, and the chemistry between Farren and Rosenstock is palpable. While the majority of the vocal duties are handled by Farren, when the two share the mic they manage to sound inspiringly confident, even when singing about isolation and depression. It simply feels like they were meant
to be together in the studio / on stage, and their work as Antarctigo Vespucci sounds far more dynamic than anything that either artist has achieved on his own.
I promise that you'll want me around
All the stars in the sky start aligning, or something
Hot take alert: I never listened to Leavin' La Vida Loca
. Like I said, I don’t pine for pop-punk at this stage in my life. However, I can confidently say that this release, Love in the Time of E-Mail
, is one of the best and most emotionally affecting pop-punk records that I’ve ever heard in my life. Just about every verse is plainly stated but hits you in the gut. The entire album has the “why didn’t I ever write that？” effect, which I’ve always found to be evidence of superb lyricism – lines that tell the truth without having to dress them up. It’s obvious from the start, when Farren admits on ‘Voicemail’ in a slightly awkward, blush-inducing manner, “Is it weird that I've been thinking about you？ I know the normal thing to do would be to talk to you…But I won't.” It’s that Weezer-styled geekiness, but for some reason I want to believe every word he sings – it simply feels more honest than Rivers Cuomo’s inflated sense of self-worth. They even have something of a romantic concept album going on, bookending that sentiment on the closing ‘E-Mail’: “But I'll keep staring, paralyzed or something…'Til I think of how to look away / Pretend I'm just some dumb, distracted weirdo, pretend I know someone standing behind you…”
I’m getting better in the worst way
Learning how to go on without you
When did it become so much easier？
More than anything, Antarctigo Vespucci is about bringing upbeat musical energy to downtrodden feelings. While Love in the Time of E-Mail
goes through the ups and downs of love, there’s a greater focus on the latter. On ‘Do It Over’, Farren sings “I wish I didn’t give so much to anyone…I would never be sad again.” It’s these sentiments of total desolation and regret that dominate most of the album, even when Rosenstock ramps up the energy level to make it sound fun and inviting. This is probably the case on ‘White Noise’ even more than it is anywhere else on the album, bouncing atop energetic drum fills and hand claps while Farren laments, “I don’t want to say it out loud / ‘Cause if I do, then it’s real / If it’s real, then it hurts.” There are the occasional rays of sunlight that poke through the clouds though, such as on ‘So Vivid!’, a song awash in light reverb that feels like a cool, refreshing Spring breeze as Farren serenades, “Every time I close my eyes there you are / Some kind of hallucination / It used to be so vivid” – a testament to his ability to gradually overcome a daunting breakup.
All these nights we spend
Love in the Time of E-Mail
I hope they’re always worth something
is a throwback pop-punk album in all the best ways. It’s a go-to breakup record, but it also works as an up-tempo, carefree summer jam. It packs in all the nostalgia of the pop-punk classics I grew up with, but it doesn’t sound like a retread at all. The chemistry between Rosentock and Farren brings every single word – and every musical idea – to life. It’s a depressing album at its core, but it never leaves you without a silver lining. This record should do for teenagers and young twenty-somethings what Ocean Avenue
’s self-titled did for me. Love in the Time of E-Mail
is a companion; it’s that album you put in your car and never stop playing because it’s always applicable. As for an old man like me, I can spin this album and instantly have memories – both elating and shattering – rush back to me. I may not recall a lot of the individual songs and albums that defined my youth, but I’ll never forget how pop-punk made me feel
as a teen. All I can say is that Love in the Time of E-Mail
makes me feel that same away again – young, vulnerable…heartbroken. And there’s something really damn special about that.