On this next Heavy Hump Day post, I thought I would provide something super accessible for people who usually listen to more mainstream music, since I gave a relatively heavy album last time. And what better “heavy” genre to try than pop punk?
Thus, today I’ll be discussing the album “Lost Touch” (2018) by Canadian pop punk band We Were Sharks, an album which I’ve been listening to a lot lately.
This is the band’s third album and in my opinion, their best production-wise. It’s always nice to see a small band grow not only in fans, but also in song quality, partially attributable to the means they have access to in order to provide that better music.
It’s clear on “Lost Touch” that the band’s signing to Victory Records allowed them to put together a much cleaner body of work with greatly improved mixing. Not to say that their other stuff is bad, but it’s nice to see that they’ve been moving up in the world.
In terms of the music itself, We Were Sharks ditched their earlier easycore influences, which appeared in places on their first album “Highways” (2012). For those who don’t know the term, it essentially defines pop punk music, but without metalcore-inspired riffs and sometimes full heavy breakdowns. In their early song “Glory Days” linked below, that little breakdown with shouted vocals after the chorus is very easycore-ish.
The band mostly let that go on future releases, which fans haven’t seemingly minded. It’s been clear from the start that We Were Sharks aren’t really an easycore band, despite having a little more grit than perhaps the average pop punkers.
My experience & why you should listen
I was personally introduced to We Were Sharks through this album. I heard five seconds of their song “Hotel Beds” in a YouTube video by The Punk Rock MBA, and just that was enough to have me frantically rewinding to see the displayed name of the band and song. Imagine my glee when I found out they were Canadian – I’m all about supporting artists and creators from here whenever I can.
After listening to the whole song, I quickly put on the whole album, because that gritty style of pop punk is probably my favourite type of music in the entire world, and I haven’t heard a new band do it this well in a very long time.
I checked out the rest of their discography, and while it’s really good and I listen to it quite a bit, here’s why I’m specifically recommending “Lost Touch” to you readers.
First, the songwriting is excellent. It’s the best We Were Sharks has done on any of their albums to date, and for someone who maybe doesn’t listen to a lot of heavier or guitar-driven music, this album would be excellent starting point for that reason. Despite the album being grittier sonically, the lyrics and song structure scream “pop music” and “catchiness” – take a listen to the chorus of the song “Ashley”:
When I first heard that, my immediate thought was that I wanted to learn every word so that I could sing along to it. The vocals have this undeniable pop musicality to them, and having that layered so seamlessly over punk instruments is what I think could make this song (and album) so accessible to mainstream listeners.
Of course, I can’t go without mentioning the original song that got me hooked on this album and this band: “Hotel Beds”. Take a quick listen to it:
Again, that is a killer chorus. I think the specific pop punk combo of pop-based catchiness and song structure and punk-based grit and high energy is something that a surprising amount of pop punk bands fail to strike a good balance between.
Not We Were Sharks, though – they nail it.
They’re almost too high-energy to listen to sometimes (like if I’m really trying to relax) but I think that that aspect is what really brings in new listeners and would allow non-heavy music listeners to get over the grit and heaviness, so to speak, and really get behind the energy and catchiness of a song like this.
I also like that “Hotel Beds” gives you a taste of those cliché pop punk lyrical themes, but without going too overboard. I love this verse especially:
“You crossed my mind when I crossed state linesWe Were Sharks, “Hotel Beds”
I know I really should have called you
Between the city signs on the all-night drives back home
I really should have called you but I just didn’t want to“
That first line especially is so simple, yet so clever. Just a classic sad line about some girl who broke his heart or whatever – it’s such a quintessentially pop punk trope that a lot of people get sick of. Yet it’s so well-done everywhere in this song and throughout this album that I can’t help but sort shake my head, smile, and appreciate it. And I think other people will too, especially if you’re less familiar with the clichés of this genre.
As I briefly mentioned earlier and as you might have gathered from the couple of songs I put on here so far, this band is extremely high-energy, which I love. The drums are constantly going at full speed with hardcore-inspired beats and the guitars are always roaring (see “Beyond Repair”, “Drop The Act”).
However, there’s also those more emotional songs that are maybe a bit less punk-y and chaotic, but that still have fire and grit with a beautiful chorus that’ll suck people in (“Always You”, “Sober”, “Stay”, “Never Looked Better”). A lot of bands fail to vary the energy level on their songs, which leads to an album where everything sounds the same.
We Were Sharks, however, doesn’t really fall into trap in my opinion. They inject variety all over this project, making for a pretty diverse set of songs, which can be hard to achieve in pop punk where specific tropes really reign supreme. Don’t get me wrong – the tracks I just listed in the previous paragraph absolutely slap and it’s definitely not like you’re in for a ballad or anything, because that’s just not this band’s style. Again, though, the energy level as displayed through speed and instrumentals is definitely altered to emphasize different musical elements and to create variety in the songs.
Take the album closer, “Always You” – the intro is a bit busy sonically (practically heading in easycore territory again), but they really break that chorus to simpler elements to keep the focus on the heartwrenching, well-delivered lyrics.
That “I get it, I got it, you’re gone” in the chorus always gets me. It’s a subtle but brilliant bit of songwriting, and I can guarantee that this sort of thing is all over this album.
Finally, let’s talk about vocalist Randy Frobel – he’s got just enough grit to compete well with the loud guitars and busy drums, and while he doesn’t have a ton of range, he doesn’t need it in order to be effective on this album.
He knows how to harness his voice to nail those beautiful melodies and get the emotional message across extremely well. He can do the shouting chest voice traditional of pop punk singing, but he doesn’t sound whiny doing it.
In fact, there’s this bit of a silkiness to his voice that sort of catches you off guard – it’s like he sounds too smooth to sing pop punk, and yet he doesn’t, because it just… works (I feel like I keep saying that when I’m trying to explain these guys, but this is what I mean – at first glance they might not strike you as a really stand-out band, and yet it’s a collection of small things that really work to their advantage). I heard it first on those initial verses of “Hotel Beds”, notably when he sings that opening line (“You crossed my mind”) – it’s a lot less grating than if someone like Tom Delonge of blink-182 had sung it, or even someone like Parker Cannon of The Story So Far, and I think it works to the band’s advantage. It really sets them apart from the pack.
I also think this is something that Randy refined on “Lost Touch” – that’s another aspect of this album that causes it to really have an edge on all of their prior releases.
I recommend that everyone listen to this album from top to bottom, regardless of whether you listen to heavy music already or not. That first half of the record is slightly stronger in my opinion, so I think it’s good to start with those, but really, the entire album is just one massive banger. You will be nodding you head and wanting to dance around as you scream along to the great lyrics, trust me.
I do it all the time – I’m doing it as I’m writing this.
In conclusion, here’s why I think you should listen to “Lost Touch”:
1) The all-around excellent songwriting, from structure to lyrics, especially the choruses
2) The band’s inherent and balanced grasp of what solid pop punk should feel and sound like without falling into too many clichés
3) The album’s often high, but varied energy
4) Randy’s unique voice
If you took a listen to “Lost Touch by We Were Sharks, let me know in the comments!