Hold Tight! - Blizzard Of '96 [12-inch] (Cover Artwork)

Hold Tight!

Blizzard Of '96 [12-inch] (2012)

Animal Style

Hailing from Richmond, Va., Hold Tight! are a four-piece pop punk band that simply is above almost all of their peers. With 2010's Can't Take This Away, last years ridiculously short yet stellar EP Call the Zoo, a few other releases under their belt (including their bizzaro hardcore band Tight Hold! that released a split with Direct Hit! this year) and their great live show, Hold Tight! have been showing the punk scene that they are not a band to be ignored. Blizzard Of '96 makes this even more apparent.

For an album called The Blizzard Of '96, it feels like it should be listened to all summer when you're out drinking with your friends. Upon a first listen, it might feel like the songs blur together, but after a few listens each song definitely has it's own distinct identity.

"A Cup, A Ship, A Speeder" kicks things off with vocalists James Goodson and Jake Guralnik singing "This is a secret, deep down in your heart just for when you need it," and goes on to drop plenty of posi lines like "There are things that matter more than the bottom of a bottle or some pills to make things better" and "Sometimes I hate this place / But only half as much as I love it." The track bleeds into "I Guess This Is Fucking Up," with perfect "woahs" and a chorus that's simple but perfect for basement show sing-a-longs. Hold Tight! make it apparent that they are not short on hooks.

"Graduation Day" is another highlight of the album. While I can't say that this song is as good as Vitamin C's "Graduation (Friends Forever)," it's still a key part to this album and one of the best songs I've heard all year. But the real gem of this album comes a few tracks later with "Sky Watching." While most of the album is played at pretty breakneck speed, "Sky Watching" slows things down a bit. It contains some of the best lyrics the band has ever penned. The only complaint I have about them is that it doesn't seem like they wrote enough lyrics to fill the whole song, and instead just kept repeating lines, which is something they do a lot on this record.

"The Town That Begins With Love" might be the finest heartbreak song of the year. It's pretty clear that this is a song written about the effect of being in a touring band can have on your romantic life. "What do you do when the only things you love can't exist with each other? / And I'm too scared to move cause no matter what I've got something to lose." The closing title track follows and while it's the longest cut on the album, it just touches two-and-a-half minutes, and bookends the album with almost the same lyrics that it started on.

Blizzard Of '96 is maybe the finest pop punk album released in 2012, filled to the brim with urgent and anthemic songs. Hold Tight! have been busy for the past two years touring the States, whether it be in basements, bars, skate parks or the Fest. I can only hope and expect for more big things to come for these guys.