Signals Midwest - Latitudes and Longitudes (Cover Artwork)

Signals Midwest

Latitudes and Longitudes (2011)

Tiny Engines

In a genre as tried, overdone and limiting as pop punk, it's especially difficult for a pop punk band to take a new approach. But, when done right, it can also be especially refreshing and rewarding to see a band succeed in reworking the genre (A prime example would be the Sidekicks' excellent 2009 album Weight of Air). Enter Cleveland, Ohio's Signals Midwest, whose fantastic new full-length Latitudes and Longitudes transcends conventions and pushes the genre to new boundaries.

Their sophomore effort, recently released on vinyl through Tiny Engines, finds the quartet at the forefront of a new direction of pop punk. Abandoning simple three-chord progressions and formulaic song structure for complex, hard-hitting guitar hooks, noodling solos and heavy, frenetic choruses, Latitudes and Longitudes can best be described as Signals moving into "post-pop punk" territory.

The unparalleled chemistry of the band--comprised of singer/guitarist Max Stern, guitarist Jeff Russell, bassist Loren Shumaker and drummer Steve Gibson--is wholly apparent from the melodic first notes of the album's explosive opening track, "In Tensions." Traversing through powerful jams like "Family Crest" and "The Quiet Persuader," to slower, more delicate ballads like the quiet, yet striking acoustic tune "January and Seven," the album flows seamlessly.

Max Stern's vocal melodies and episodic, picaresque lyrics evokes a certain lyrical romanticism, as if the songs were the soundtrack to a long lost Ernest Hemingway novel. Indeed, the repetition of the powerful lyric "I was counting the miles / You were counting the days / Ain't it strange that the numbers we wanted / Were moving in opposite ways" throughout the record beautifully and melancholically bookends the album like a sprawling novel.

With haunting and powerful songs about the distance between everything as far-reaching as life and death, love and loss, and yearning and belonging, Latitudes and Longitudes is a deeply personal and affecting record that not only exposes a band at their most emotional, but showcases a band as purveyors of a new musical threshold.