See You on the Other Side
“Pop-punk” used to be an oxymoron. How could something have mass appeal while also representing the genre that hurled “sell out” as the ultimate insult? Thankfully, that’s all over. Green Day and Blink-182 cracked the code decades ago, and then the music industry tanked, leaving pop-punk artists free to lean heavily on the pop. Like Xander Nelson, a Portland twenty-something who writes unashamedly catchy hooks at hard-rock speed. On the title track of his second EP, he starts things off with a slow strum, crooning about coming back home and feeling alone. Then he sings a couplet dripping in casual irreverence – “For a while life was easier / But now it kinda sucks without you here” – and his band erupts behind him. The satisfying way the chord progression resolves from major to minor, the charming lead riff, the bouncing bass, the crisp snare; it’s all perfectly calibrated to please the ear. And Nelson adds just enough salt to the lyric sheet to give it that devil-may-care energy. This isn’t the only trick up his sleeve. See You on the Other Side also includes the swaying doo-wop groove of “Fine by Me” and the chiming balladry of “High and Mighty,” which sounds like something Neil Finn would write if he got dumped by an evangelical. Nelson is already great at crafting earworms, and his penchant for including funny anecdotes in his songs – like being forced to watch Frozen and having to admit it was pretty good – bodes well for his future as a songwriter. If there are any old punks out there who still get mad at this kind of thing … dudes, let it go.