#Review: State Champs – Unplugged

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State Champs return to the scene after a two year absence from releasing new material and it’s probably not what was expected but it’s certainly not unwelcome. ‘Unplugged’ is a self described stripped back affair from the New York Pop-Rockers which doesn’t feel out of place in their back catalogue. In fact I think fans will welcome it. Although two tracks are reworks for the EP, we have four brand new tracks written for this release to wet the appetite of fans awaiting a full blown LP soon.

state-champs-unplugged

‘Unplugged’ opens with ‘A Thousands Hearts’ which immediately pulls in the classic State Champs sound. Despite being stripped back, there are a lot of melodic elements going on, this isn’t just a case of shoving the chords underneath the vocal lines. In this track and also ‘The Recipe’ there are beautifully crafted guitar lines woven together alongside a strong vocal presence from DiScanio. It all fits together nicely and makes it an enjoyable listen across the whole EP. It feels like the tracks were written in one go rather than being revisited and tweaked over and over.

The EP moves onto ‘10am’ and ‘Crying Out Loud’ both of which have that classic American Pop-Rock feel. These are the kinds of tracks I would imagine in my head when walking along a Californian beach. It’s cliched but it best captures the essence of these tracks to a British ear! ‘10am’ has a lot of weight to it for a stripped back number. It could easily slot onto a full release and wouldn’t feel out of place and that really shows how these tracks were specifically written for an acoustic release. It’s a welcome lift to the EP which shows that there is a lot of dynamism despite being an acoustic release. ‘Crying Out Loud’ is the stand out track from the new material and it rubber stamps this as a State Champs record. The chorus is gloriously catchy with an infectious repetitive hook. The verse is simple with a guitar and piano chords which allow the vocal lines to speak for themselves and help to lift the track into the big chorus. It’s an upbeat number hitting on more emotional feelings, which is a classic feel for this genre. This is a track that deserves a full band and release. If they felt the need to do this it would easily be one of State Champs best tracks.

Don’t think of this as a stripped back EP (because as I said, it’s not that stripped back!) but more of a different direction for the band and then it makes perfect sense.

The reworks of ‘Criminal’ and ‘Dead & Gone’ will make for interesting listening for existing fans. ‘Criminal’ has a country feel which takes the track in a welcome direction away from it’s Pop-Punk beginnings without completely losing the feel of the track. It works surprisingly well even for a track that sounds so different in its original form. As for ‘Dead & Gone’ it comes across as a completely different track. It’s now a slow paced, laid back ballad and it really works with the existing lyrics. State Champs are great at running emotional charged lyrics in upbeat tracks as the original of this track did, so the switch to an acoustic ballad was only natural. Again though it’s not a quick easy, through the chords in and hope for the best. The acoustic nature of the track is well thought through.

There is one smudge on an otherwise perfect window pane of an EP, in that it’s not all that ‘unplugged’. There is still a lot going on instrumentally on many of these tracks. ‘10am’ and ‘Criminal’ are still using a full band although granted the acoustic guitar takes the bulk of the work. It might sound like a small issue until you hear the second half of ‘A Thousand Hearts’ which breaks into full band for its middle eight along with a saxophone solo?!? As a sax player myself I should be delighted but I just don’t think it fits on this ‘unplugged’ record. It sounds like an 80s pop track but not in a good way (think George Michael – Careless Whisper). The band clearly want to show their great range of influences, but it just stands out too much on a record like this. It’s the only thing really on an otherwise awesome EP.

Sometimes a band can drop an acoustic release and it’s just so flat. It can expose vocal weaknesses and uninspired, lazy musicianship. But for State Champs it just highlights their songwriting prowess and a keen ear for how to craft some great songs. Don’t think of this as a stripped back EP (because as I said, it’s not that stripped back!) but more of a different direction for the band and then it makes perfect sense. The band said they wanted to get back to their roots with just hanging out and writing songs on acoustic guitars and having fun and this EP perfectly shows how that is the process for writing great songs. Released on Pure Noise Records 14th August 2020

Rating
4


‘Unplugged’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/unplugged-ep/1514347756



We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of the band’s latest, acoustic EP? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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#Review: State Champs – Living Proof 🐯


   

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State Champs are a pop punk powerhouse, who formed in Albany, New York, back in 2010. To date, the band have released two albums, which had great receptions, making them a staple name in the pop punk world. Now they are releasing their third full-length record, Living Proof, which is set to see the band soar to new heights!

State Champs - Living Proof.jpg

Kicked into top gear immediately, with opening track, ‘Criminal’, this epic, in-your-face thrash anthem is a high-octane way to open a record…and you’d expect nothing less from State Champs.

From there the album continues to build, from the drum-heavy and powerful ‘Frozen’ to second single, ‘Crystal Ball’, which has the perfect build-up from a calm, heartfelt introduction through to a passionate, powerful chorus. The vocals are particularly incredible on this track with a half-time section towards the end.

It’s impossible to listen to this record without craving to see them live.

Then there’s the sure-fire, off-beat crowd-pleaser and lead single, ‘Dead And Gone’, about a troubled relationship and ‘Our Time To Go’; an archetypal pop punk power ballad which tugs at the heart strings and encourages taking the positive with the negative.

Other notable tracks include, the passive aggressive, ‘Safe Haven’ which contains a brilliant musical breakdown after the chorus and a moment of solace in the middle 8 section; ‘Something About You’ is a fun, uplifting track with some superb vocal steps and is reminiscent of something by Marianas Trench whilst ‘Mine Is Gold’ has an All Time Low-vibe. It then all goes out with a bang in ‘Sidelines’; a beautifully chaotic track which breaks, in part, to a lighters-up moment of calm before descending into a final bout of pure carnage that brings the album to an epic finish.

The production on the album is top-notch too! Some stunning little effects and subtle fills make this a diverse and powerful listen!

It’s impossible to listen to this record without craving to see them live. You get every sense that a performance by this band will leave you sweaty and exhausted but greatly fulfilled. All credit to the guys for taking their time to release a new record; it’s an excellent album that will undoubtedly take pride of place in every pop punk fan’s music collection.

Rating
4-5


‘Living Proof’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/living-proof/1370452923


Living Proof on Spotify

Dead And Gone (Official Music Video)

Secrets (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of this band’s Fiction Act EP? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it? Please leave your thoughts in a comment below or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

Muzik Speaks Album Reviews


Matt – Muzik Speaks
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