Artist: Gold Route
Ah, May in the Midwest. The snow has (probably) thawed out for good; trees are rife with greenery and flowers from April’s rainy shades of grey and cold. The grass—now that it’s visible from beneath coats of snow and ice—begins its sluggish return. The sharp sting of winter in the air is replaced by the dull, stifling weight of humidity. Most importantly, the sun returns; unaccompanied by frigid air or slippery streets. Things start to feel more alive and less like a barren, frosty tundra out of an Alien movie.
So what better occasion for a cracking, crisp and creative new pop punk release? Michigan’s Gold Route couldn’t come up with one, which means their debut full-length record Prosper is the punchy and energetic soundtrack to the transition into Summer that we all so desperately seek—and it doesn’t disappoint. Moody and melancholy at times, but certainly not without enough fun and fleet fretwork to keep listeners moving their toes and heads to the beat, Prosper is perhaps the first truly great pop-punk release of 2017, and yet another reason by Michiganians and midwesterners alike are thankful for Summer’s impending warmth.
When Gold Route claim they’re “just trying to rock out,” they certainly don’t sell themselves short. From the first bouncy and energetic attack on “Ropes,” Gold Route make no attempt to hide their fast-and -catchy blend of pop-punk with elements of alternative and moments of hardcore-infused head-strong intensity. Percussionist Steve Radzom finds himself at the band’s center, working his ass off during the first salvos of “Living Now” and “Hours,” while making sure he doesn’t do too much on more moderate tracks like the closing number, “Happier.” Here, Radzom works excellently with bassist Jordan Frame; as Frame rumbles and rolls along with a quick, slinking low end, Radzom keeps pace, keeping songs moving along with flashy fills that pepper punchy and powerful patterns that give Prosper a prominent foundation. “Hours” especially sees Radzom opening with fast feet and faster hands, while Frame makes sure his sharp snare and bright cymbals don’t outrun the rest of the song. Meanwhile, “Happier,” “Prosper” and “Ropes” see Frame working more closely with guitarists David Chapdelaine and Max Metzger. Chapdelaine and Metzger are a dynamic duo that create immersive and mesmerizing moments on “Hours” or “Void,” which contrast with “Ropes” and its sparse use of -core influenced aggression. Chapdelaine and Metzger go the full monty, even adding a mellow and emotional song in the form of the acoustic “Peak.” While it might be fair enough to say that Gold Route’s instrumentation doesn’t do things that some other bands haven’t already done, it’s also fair to say that they do things rarely done by any one band—ranging from the likes of Neck Deep and Blink-182 to Balance and Composure and Basement or Tiger’s Jaw in a single release.
What would a pop-punk release be without poignant and angsty lyrics belted from an equally angsty voice? Worry not—there is no shortage of that when it comes to the work of Gold Route’s Sean Hazen. Hazen’s voice is incredible and his lyrics follow suit—highlighted on “Peak” where his heart and soul is shown on center stage just as it dominates on the touching “Happier” and ruthless “Void.” Hazen complements the band’s instrumentation excellently, giving the driving, brutish moments of Prosper a sharp edge, all without sacrificing earnest and honest emotional experience. With “Peak” evoking the same pure heart-wrenching feeling as Loser’s “Bleach,” yet Prosper’s opening trio hitting as hard as any WSTR or Neck Deep hit, there is no arguing Gold Route’s versatility—a great amount of which comes from Hazen’s vocal expertise and lyrical excellence.
You probably hadn’t heard of Gold Route before opening this article—and if you had, then you know exactly how excited to be for Prosper. Laden with up-beat, drive-with-the-windows-down-and-sing-along moments as well as plenty of curl-up-and-mope-with-the-shades-closed sections, Gold Route create a relevant, irreverent and reckless-yet-meticulously made release that demands every ounce of praise I can give. With the release of Prosper, Gold Route ought to consider a name change—because they’re no longer chasing gold now that they’ve struck it.
For Fans Of: Neck Deep, Blink-182, Balance and Composure, WSTR, Citizen
By: Connor Welsh