Ontario easycore punks Splitfist, burst onto the scene with their seven track, debut EP, Straight Outta Halton via heavyweight punk label We Are Triumphant Records in August of 2015 (has it been over a year already?). While flying under the radar a bit in a year that saw a slew of stellar releases from more tenured bands, they still managed to garner recognition among pop punk fans. One of the factors that set them apart from their peers with this freshman offering was the songwriting. Embedding it’s roots in the pop soil while being something wholly different itself, the writing is aggressive and thoughtful, far less cheesy than a lot of others in their category. Couple that unique attribute with evocative, gritty vocals and intricate music composition and it’s easy to see why these young canucks stand out from the rest of the pop pack. Check out the full review of this incredible inaugural EP below!
Toronto’s Splitfist won the category of new pop punk acts in 2015 as far as I’m concerned. They have everything you want in a fledgling group. They’re fast and angsty, but it’s a brand of pop that keeps it out of the typical three-chord, mopey, juvenile pop punk trap. These young’uns manage to fit in precise, well constructed harmonies using a perfect blend of distinctive dual vocals. “Sidelines” is probably the best example of the juxtaposition of front man Andrew Soares providing the gravelly, violent parts, backed by the snotty, disquietude parts provided by guitarist Matt Poulto. Another instance of this complex harmony building can be found a few tracks later in “Shed Life”. Every one, expertly built and performed. The guitar riffs are another take away here, wistfully weaving together in the choruses, adding a layer of depth, typically reserved for more seasoned acts.
While most of the songs tackle familiar pop subject matter like the pitfalls of growing up and the pain of heartbreak, it never feels frivolous or immature, always more level headed and deliberate. My personal favorite track, “In Clarity” reinforces this aspect. Of all of the songs, it’s the most resonating with the structure of the song providing emotional cues, most of it sounding like it’s sung through embittered, clenched teeth. Where other bands may rely on the lyrical content to convey the anger of a messy breakup, these guys use inflection and context to provide the passion. If you search the internet long enough you can find a rudimentary, acoustic version of this one, recorded back in 2010. However, it’s nowhere near as good as this more violent and more cohesive version, but it’s always fun to look back and see how the songs evolve and fill in as the band matures and grows in confidence.
I never really understood the knock on budding pop acts for writing about their realities, almost dismissing their problems or worldviews, just because it’s a different perspective, from someone in a different age group. Sure, there are bigger issues than those encountered while growing up but why invalidate an excellent song like “Knuckle Dragger” just because it’s about the insecurity of being young? The theme shouldn’t diminish the proficient drumming of Chris Hylands, as he masterfully creates a purposeful beat throughout the verses before doubling speed and peaking in intensity in the chorus, transitioning with laser like precision. Why negate the spectacular bass riffs of Tom Tonhauser in “21 and Running” just because it’s about growing apart from childhood friends and not opining government overreach? Quality is quality and the topic of the song, while important shouldn’t overshadow the talent display around it.
With seven songs featured on the album, it’s right on the cusp of being a full fledged LP so it was kind of hard to score. Do I rank it high for an EP or lower for an LP? I opted for the former when I heard that the boys were back in the studio working on their first, true full length since I’ll have that as a measuring stick in the coming months. With that in mind, this EP is nearly perfect. It checks almost every box with engaging, intelligent lyrics; passionate, suggestive dual vocals; an extremely polished overall sound and professional level production value. If there was a bit more variety and willingness to stretch outside of their easycore/pop comfort zone, this would’ve been a Five Star review. Not an easy task for a debut offering!
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