Reviews Banner Pilot Souvenir

Banner Pilot

Souvenir

Often when a critic writes of a band not changing its sound it’s meant in the negative light: art should be about exploring new boundaries and punching the listener in the face with something new. But sometimes it’s not.

Banner Pilot have been kicking out raspy pop-punk jams for the better part of a decade now—since 2005—and in that time they’ve trimmed and hemmed their sound without any drastic changes. Their latest, Souvenir, follows that lead. It’s like a warm cup of coffee in the morning: it’s comforting and familiar, but it’s also brimming with energy and enthusiasm—music-wise, that is, as the lyrics lean toward the cynical (more on that later). The overall sound is best summarized as Midwestern pop-punk. It takes some of that Ramonescore bounce but it plays down the chorus and lyrical repetition, instead pushing the melodies through storytelling structured lyrics that culminate in a cathartic fist in the air rather than a crowdsurfing whoa-oh or earworm melody. A highlight of the style comes from its ability to maintain that sense of familiarity while never succumbing to a debilitating sameness factor: every song is different, even while bearing the unmistakable “Banner Pilot” stamp. The production this time around is a little understated after 2011’s Heart Beats Pacific.

Lead vocalist Nick Johnson is a big part of that familiarity, with his tender yet raspy voice that perfectly suits the tone. The lyrics are lost, bruised, and out of step. His sense of melody falls in sync with the poppiness while the rougher edges to his voice hit on that battered life experience. There’s a vulnerability in the inflection, well illustrated in “Springless,” and this record may express that feeling a bit better than previous efforts. 

The songs are peppered with detailed lyricism that utilizes adjectives in highlighting the colors of life in the city, making it easy to relate with. Sure, many of the lyrics depict actual Minneapolis locations, but the themes go far beyond the localization. There is a recurring theme of aimlessly walking city streets while ruminating on the world.

Souvenir shows the band is still at it hard: running the van into the ground and, when at home, walking around the city, kicking debris into the gutters with a beer in one hand and a notebook full of their thoughts in the other. Highlights here include “Fireproof,” “Colfax” and “Matchstick.”

8.0 / 10Loren
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8.0 / 10

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