This was a difficult list to make, as I’m confused about which bands or albums even fit the bill for “pop punk” anymore. The genre has certainly changed a lot, so it was hard to rank them accordingly.
Some of these are oldies-but-goodies and some are of the newer pop punk wave. In any case, these are a few of my favorite CDs to jam with on the drive up to New Paltz from Long Island (or vinyl to spin once I’m cozied up at home).
10. No Closer to Heaven, The Wonder Years
This album is where The Wonder Years grew up. Sure, we were all suckers for their angstier songs like “Passing Through a Screen Door” and “Teenage Parents,” but No Closer to Heaven digs up some darker demons while still retaining the band’s fierceness. Dan “Soupy” Campbell never sounded so gentle as on “You In January,” yet “Stained Glass Ceilings” (feat. Jason Butler of letlive.) rocks so hard.
9. Four Year Strong, Four Year Strong
The pure sonic energy that Four Year Strong brings to the table with their self-titled is unmatched. Their rough, throw-down persona shines through immensely, but the album is still more polished than some of their previous releases. Each song has not only a powerful vocal with catchy lyrics, but a bright and heavy guitar style that has me hyped every time I listen.
8. Blink-182, Blink-182
They’re the trio that arguably started this mess of a genre, or at least gave it great influence. I know I could’ve picked their even-punkier albums (trust me, I love those, too) but their self-titled hits me on the whole. From the high-energy choruses of “Feeling This” and “Easy Target” to the subtlety of “All of This,” Blink found ways to be boldly dynamic with their 2003 release.
7. Life’s Not Out to Get You, Neck Deep
This album is straight-up inspiring. It’s about coming to terms with the hand you’re dealt, and it confronts the pop punk trope of hating your hometown with a more positive perspective. These guys are sort of the epitome of (good) new-wave pop punk, merging influence from veterans Blink-182 with newer punks A Day to Remember.
6. From Under the Cork Tree, Fall Out Boy
Here we have a glowing classic. Where would pop punk music be without “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down” or “Dance Dance?” Plus the rest of the tracks pack equally clever lyrics in punchy melodies that Patrick Stump delivers in his unique, heart-filled vocals. The song titles may be far too long (excluding “XO”), but it’s a stamp of the emo era they come from … and truthfully, my 11-year-old emo heart never stopped loving this album.
5. Joyride, Transit
I can’t count how many times I have sang along to this CD full-volume in my car. Joyride is an amazing album even for those who are so-over pop punk. It’s got laid-back, summery vibes reminiscent of an alternative rock band’s sound. Songs like “Nothing Left to Lose” and “Summer Dust” have feel-good beats that will have you smiling in no time.
4. Talon of the Hawk, The Front Bottoms
Is this even a pop punk album?
Who knows, but all the pop punk kids dig it so it’s on my list. With the exception of “Au Revoir (Adios),” Talon of the Hawk hits heartstrings, yet at the same time is so upbeat and careless. The lyrical capacity of “Lone Star” and “Everything I Own” to tell a story is what I find so great about The Front Bottoms. On the flip side, “Funny You Should Ask” and “Backflip” are seriously fun and carry on the band’s unique and lively spirit.
3. Louder Now, Taking Back Sunday
Another classic, really. This hard-hitting album is what pop punk is all about. Thrashy tunes like “Spin” and “Error: Operator” pack a punch, while “My Blue Heaven” is more dynamic and calculated. The album is also home to hits like “What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?” and “MakeDamnSure” that simply never get old.
2. My Dinosaur Life, Motion City Soundtrack
This album encompasses the sheer quirkiness of a band I love dearly. It’s just one release in the band’s collection that addresses lead singer Justin Pierre’s struggle with addiction.
With a mix of light-heartedness and wild intensity, the band explores both lyrically and sonically. The result is awesome sing-alongs like “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” and the dramatic, 5-minute “The Weakends” alike.
1. Commit This to Memory, Motion City Soundtrack
I’m unapologetic for placing Motion City twice on my list because everything they did was perfect. Commit This to Memory is the album that the band made their name with in 2005. Current pop punk bands have covered songs like “When You’re Around” and “Everything Is Alright.” And let’s not forget their ultimate classic, “L.G. Fuad.” Overall the album is a whirlwind of emotion that defined a genre with its wit, honesty and killer synth and guitar.