Every Friday, I scour the internet for new music releases. The weekly Friday Awards will highlight my favorite discovery each week, with a special emphasis on artists that are new, new-ish, or new to me.
Theoretically, hardcore and pop-punk are at opposite ends of the punk rock spectrum; hardcore took punk rock in a heavier, metal-oriented direction, while pop-punk took punk rock in a softer, pop-oriented direction.
Genres are never as clean-cut in practice, however, as they are in theory or in definition. So what looks like a spectrum on paper is really more like a circle, or maybe like a web of circles and tangents connecting them all together. For example, the new Hot Mulligan album, you’ll be fine, shows how pop-punk and hardcore-punk can be united into the same thing.
As described in the introductory blurb above, a toss-up between who should receive the “Friday Award” will always lean in favor of an artist that’s new to me. So while I really enjoyed the new albums by Phantogram and Silverstein, Hot Mulligan was the “Who’s that?” to really win me over. Even putting that bias aside, though, you’ll be fine might actually be my favorite album from this release week, with its relentlessly appealing sing-screaming and top-notch punk craft.
I’m a little surprised that I didn’t know who Hot Mulligan was, since I used to follow the No Sleep Records roster religiously, but I guess I’ve fallen off in recent years. My mistake! you’ll be fine is the type of album that reminds me how much space has yet to be explored in the landscape of pop-punk possibilities. We might be 15 years removed from the genre’s biggest masterpieces (like Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree), but I get really excited by the ways the current class of pop-punk bands (like Trash Boat or Microwave) are fluidly, congruently making the genre heavier and heavier without relying on hardcore breakdowns or inherently non-pop-punk instrumentation. Much of this is achieved through lead vocalist’s Tades Sanville’s near-constant reliance on melodic screaming. His ability to maintain on-pitch melodies that are still catchy and singable amidst the throat-tearing aggression is seriously impressive, making tracks like “Equip Sunglasses” and “Dirty Office Bongos” jaw-dropping standouts.
However, even if Sanville sang all these song straight, with no screaming or aggression, this would still be top-tier modern pop-punk, thanks to the incredible musicians that fill out the rest of Hot Mulligan. Clearly inspired by the great emo and math rock bands of the 90’s and early 2000’s, the airtight guitar and rhythm playing throughout this album is the perfect mix of fun and virtuosic, from the massive rock-outs of “We’re Gonna Make it to Kilby!” (which would feel right at home on any album by The Wonder Years) to the tasteful guitar licks of “Feal Like Crab.”
One small misstep aside (“SPS,” which thwarts itself with its mediocre implementation of misplaced electronic drums), you’ll be fine is a stellar sophomore album that deserves to turn the ears of all types of punk rock fans and place Hot Mulligan towards the top of the list of bands making pop-punk in the 20’s.
Author’s Note: The reason I created this website and write these articles stems from my belief that artists should support other artists, in the same way that art inspires art. My debut album Unfall is out now, and I’d love for you to hear it.