Mixing the fiery energy and honest lyricism of pop punk without shying away from electronic and pop tendencies, Stand Atlantic are an excellent example of a band with a fresh take on a well-loved genre.
On this second, two-day-late (oops) installment of Deep Dive, we’re going to be looking at the discography of this Australian pop punk band, and I’ll be answering the usual question: should you bother taking a listen to their entire discography?
This band first dropped on my radar in late 2018, where YouTuber ARTV gave their debut album “Skinny Dipping” a bit of a lukewarm review, but did enthusiastically call the main single “Lavender Bones” a “must-hear” track, so I went and took a listen.
He was definitely right on that – this song is amazing and still one of Stand Atlantic’s best ever. I liked it so much that I checked out the full album, and I’m so glad I did.
The band’s first official release was their EP “Sidewinder” which had the minor underground hit “Coffee at Midnight”. This fast-paced track sees lead singer Bonnie Fraser belting out in her chest voice in that appealing, strained pop punk style – she immediately drew me in with the power and range of her voice. The way she attacks those notes is to die for. That chorus makes me want to jump right into a mosh pit.
The rest of the EP is strong, but I don’t think it’s as solid as any of their future work, because it repeats some of those basic pop punk tropes both lyrically and musically. It’s above average pop punk music for sure and I listen to it regularly (“Push” is a great song), but I’d definitely argue that their music has improved with every new release.
Their debut album followed relatively shortly after. “Skinny Dipping” is definitely a step up from “Sidewinder” – it spawned “Lavender Bones” which I mentioned earlier, as well as with the clever title track and the energetic “Bullfrog” (which has a great hook).
The band really leaned into their pop side on this release, focusing on creating choruses with more repetition and easily-singable catchphrases. Many of the songs (particularly “Bullfrog”) have those hooks that hundreds of people can sing together at a concert while jumping around. I really think this comes from the band trying less hard to make something intricate and going more with that high-energy, live-show-ready songwriting – and it pays off big time. I mean, look at this live performance of “Bullfrog” – doesn’t that just look and sound like so much fun? Listen to the crowd singing along.
Yeah, good shit. Makes me want to be there.
In terms of deep cuts for “Skinny Dipping”, I can’t go without mentioning two of my favourites: the heart-wrenching “Toothpick” and the killer second-to-last track “Clay” which features Hannah Greenwood of Creeper, a vocalist I absolutely adore. Both of these are very different sonically, but the lyrics and vocals on both are amazing.
From “Toothpick”, the lines “And I wish I was just as strong as I make myself out to be” and “I’m twisting my words to appear like this doesn’t burn” get me every time. Plus, that whole imagery of “toothpicks under fingernails” is so real and visceral, and to be able to portray that so well in a slow song as opposed to something more aggressive is very impressive. We also get lots of Bonnie’s awesome lower register in this song.
As for “Clay” which I can confidently designate as my absolute favourite track on the album and possibly my favourite Stand Atlantic song, the lyrics discuss breaking bad habits and feeling blue as you’re going through life. In the way that “Toothpick” slowed things down to get its message across, “Clay” does the opposite but does the job just as well. It’s extremely upbeat with its bright guitars, quick bass line, and layered vocals. I think the opening line is my favourite: “Oh I, I’m as vibrant as an ashtray” – it made me chuckle the first time I heard it. Hannah’s featured verse is also excellent.
I loved this album when I first heard it and I still love it now. I’ll recommend it to anyone I know who likes pop punk music. Criticisms did pop up about this album not doing much more than “Sidewinder” to innovate within a genre that has definitely gone stale in places. I somewhat agree, but “Skinny Dipping” is still a huge improvement.
That’s all the negativity I have to say about it, though, because I really do love it. If you were to only listen to one of its tracks, my personal recommendation is “Clay”.
After touring lots, the band put out the single “Hate Me (Sometimes)” in September 2019. In my opinion, this is one of the best song they’ve ever put out. It takes everything Stand Atlantic are so good at a step further and introduces more electronic elements.
This single alone proved that their next album was going to be full of creative risks. This bothered people who feared that they would hit the infamous “sophomore slump” (where a band’s second album takes risks that some fans think deviates too much from the music they fell in love with in the first place). This isn’t an uncommon phenomenon, but more of it in my opinion can be attributed to the expectations fans have for bands as opposed to the actual quality of the album they put out.
Personally, I couldn’t stop playing this track; it’s the definition of catchy.
I was impressed upon first listen with all the singles that followed throughout 2020 except “Shh!” (which did end up growing on me). These tracks prefaced their next album really well without taking away from the surprise of the deep cuts.
Their second studio album “Pink Elephant” came out only a few days ago. I knew immediately that this was going to be a solid project when the opening, non-single track “Like That” kicked off. That repetition of “it’s just like that” throughout is so sweet-sounding and makes for such a fun song. It also has one of the best choruses on the album – I honestly haven’t been able to turn it off.
“Jurassic Park” is one of the heaviest tracks Stand Atlantic have ever put out – that guitar and bass combo in the chorus goes so hard, and yet the production and effects-ridden vocals are more electronic than much of their previous material. The song is living proof that a band can get heavier and evolve towards a more poppy sound; few even try to do that, and fewer still manage to actually pull it off.
Stand Atlantic did, and not just on this song (see “Eviligo”, “Wavelength”, and “Soap”). Their tasteful production choices take tracks that might sound like just another pop punk thing (albeit a good one) to a whole other level.
As I mentioned earlier, I can think of few pop punk bands who have so seamlessly incorporated electronic elements into their music, aside maybe from Waterparks.
However, it’s on “Silk & Satin” where in my opinion, Stand Atlantic took their biggest risk yet. This song is full-blown emo trap with a really unique, drippy beat and some soft guitars in the background. Fans are super divided on it, because amidst what I think is a highly cohesive album, it stands out for not being a pop punk song.
Contrary to my roots as a lover of heavier music, I actually love this one and I think it’s amazing that they decided to do something like that on “Pink Elephant”. I’m super picky with what I like from this genre of music, so for a non-emo trap artist to make a song that I like in a genre that I usually dislike is extremely impressive. I love that simple hook “I’m all I have” and the guitar in the background is so nice.
I think that this track actually fits really well within the album. The higher register vocal moments are like strings that tie this song to the rest of the album and give it just a hint of that pop punk sensibility. It’s just brilliant.
If “Pink Elephant” has proven anything, it’s that people should never underestimate what this band can do. Stand Atlantic are just so creative.
My primary criticism would be the slight overproduction on this album – there are lots of moments where Bonnie didn’t need so much layering on her voice.
Additionally, I always skip “DWYW”. The extra guitar riff added to the “do what you want” line repeated in the chorus irks me. I think it takes away from the rhythm by bogging the chorus down and making it feel too cluttered. Something about the percussion is off too – I think it’s the combination of syncopated real drums and the electronic hi-hats. It’s really too bad, because I love the lyrics in the pre-chorus. Take a look:
Dosed in oxytocin, hope it fucking overflows– From “DWYW” by Stand Atlantic
Hesitate in aspirations, I’d rather lose than die alone
And I cut my teeth on apathy
Taking bones from the grave
Doing what you want
Such a shame the intrumental choices here really take me out of it.
Aside from this, I thoroughly enjoy the rest of “Pink Elephant”. It’s an extremely solid record filled with huge creative risks, notably the increased use of electronics and the decision to include an entire song in a completely separate genre that somehow still feels linked to the rest of this highly cohesive project.
I can’t praise this album enough.
I’ve actually struggled to listen to much else in the past few days, because this is just so fresh. “Pink Elephant” is a massive step up from “Skinny Dipping”, and the latter was huge step up from “Sidewinder”, which is already solid – that tells you a lot.
Additional general thoughts
You can tell that Stand Atlantic are innovators, even from their earlier, “less unique” work – I want to emphasize that while they have fallen into pop punk clichés at times, they find ways to make themselves sound fresh anyway. Their creative spark shines through all of their music, even the songs I don’t like – there’s something so fearless and headstrong about every single thing they release. I struggle to really pinpoint that for you readers and define it as anything else than their spirit, or their essence, which sounds ridiculous, but just listen. I honestly think you’ll hear it too.
They’re also hitting it out of the park with leaning into the “pop” part of “pop punk” – they’re not scared of electronics and when they include them, it tends to work in their favour almost every time. I think it’s because they don’t leave their grit and energy at the door like so many other bands who include pop elements seem to do.
Finally, I want to commend Bonnie Fraser personally. She’s so unapologetic about who she is. You can tell from her social media that she has a huge personality and it’s been so amazing to watch her be what I really think is her authentic self in that regard. Unlike many other artists, her focus is on just that – her art, who she is as a vocalist and person, and not necessarily about scoring points with particular communities, which she could definitely do by harnessing the fact that she’s an LGBTQ woman.
I’m not trying to get political or to insult anyone, but as an LGBTQ woman myself, it’s really inspiring for me to see more of us in the scene being ourselves without needing to place the focus on sexual orientation, which is only a part of one’s identity, but without having to hide that part of who we are either.
Bonnie is the prime example of someone who is so unapologetically comfortable in her own skin – whether that’s the reality or not, I don’t know, because I don’t know her personally. I’m certain she has moments of difficulty like anyone, as can be inferred from some of Stand Atlantic’s lyrics, but overall, I get the impression that she’s someone who’s very open and grounded in herself, and I respect the hell out of that.
So, should you bother with Stand Atlantic’s whole discography?
I think I’ve made my answer pretty clear throughout this post: yes. Absolutely.
While I’ve said throughout that I like their later material better, all of it is great. They’re one of the most creative bands in the scene as of the last few years, and with the recent release of “Pink Elephant”, I think they’ve proven that they’re here to stay.
Now, for my listening guide.
I think that you’ll be more hooked in if you drift towards some of the singles from different eras first rather than listening chronologically, so that you can get a grasp of what each of their three main releases is all about. It’ll give you a taste of every era of the band, and will leave you wanting more from each.
In my opinion, “Lavender Bones” should be your first Stand Atlantic listen, full stop. It’s so quintessentially them, it’s such an excellent song, and it’s what hooked me in right away with them. Then, move on to “Bullfrog” and “Coffee at Midnight” to get a taste of the band’s grittier sound and to hear the extremes of Bonnie’s voice.
After that, I’d say you have two options. Either begin listening chronologically with the “Sidewinder” EP first and working your way up, or take a listen to some of the “Pink Elephant” singles (“Blurry”, “Hate Me (Sometimes)”, “Wavelength”, “Shh!”).
I think that since this latest album is so varied, listeners will have different perspectives on how to approach it – some will want to hear a bit of a preview to decide if it’s really for them, while others will prefer to hear this especially unique project without spoiling it with too many singles beforehand. There’s no right or wrong way to listen to music of course, but “Pink Elephant” will take people by surprise and by storm, and I want to recommend it in a way that enables it to do that for the listeners who care about that sort of thing, if that makes sense. So if you’re the type of person that loves getting swept away by an awesome full-length album, I’d say dive in without listening the singles first. What I’d give to hear “Jurassic Park” for the first time as part of the album…
Whatever route you choose to take, just make sure you take it, because all of Stand Atlantic’s discography is undoubtedly worth a listen.
What are your thoughts on Stand Atlantic? Leave a comment below to start a conversation!