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Banner Pilot

Heart Beats Pacific

I’ll be honest. I was kind of hoping somebody else would review this record. I like Banner Pilot. A lot. The reason I didn’t want to do this myself has more to do with the fact that I’ve reviewed their past couple releases and I’m not sure I can bring much new insight to the table.

Nate Gangelhoff and Nick Johnson write personal songs with a universal appeal. This is accomplished through a focus on setting and detail that uses a literary convention of inserting the listener into their point-of-view. Of course, the lyrics are only a small piece of the whole. It’s their driving pop punk that sets them apart. Taking cue from bands like Screeching Weasel and Jawbreaker (yeah, you’ve seen those names before), they structure songs with a driving beat and chord progression throughout the verses, while Johnson’s delivery conveys an emotional investment that builds into a release at the chorus, singing out a lesson and getting it off his chest. It’s singalong without being fist-in-the-air punx; it’s pop without being insultingly repetitive. The balance they strike defines them, setting them apart from most peers, and making it a hard sound to pigeonhole with a specific genre.

Songs on this record really follow the same mold as their predecessors, without sounding carbon copy either. The lyrics are dotted with Minneapolis imagery. From the snowed-in “Alchemy” to the transit-hopping “Calling Station,” the band uses their setting to establish themes. For the most part, the pop wins—the guitar breakdowns in “Eraser” and “Expat” play to the slower, melodic side of the coin, and there’s an element of snottiness in Johnson’s vocals that’s well suited to the musical style. A minor gripe would be the vocal mix. When Johnson opens up, there’s a tinny element that keeps him from really stealing the show. Furthermore, the punch that “Alchemy” packs as the opener is hard to maintain across eleven songs. The vocal tradeoffs help, but it feels a little dry at times.

Heart Beats Pacific is an incredibly Midwestern record, to the point that the play-on-words title is a bit confusing. The record probably won’t win many new fans, but it’s a quality outing that builds on their catalogue without any wild turns.

7.8 / 10Loren
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7.8 / 10

7.8 / 10

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