Cartel - The Ransom (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


The Ransom (2004)


Where did this band come from? And, more importantly, why aren't they absoutely huge yet? Atlanta quintet Cartel do what so many other bands are attempting to do today - write sincere, catchy, hook-filled pop-punk/rock. The thing is, most of their peers are trying and coming up with rather mediocre results [or, even worse, they're resorting to screaming and ruining a perfectly good vocal melody]. Cartel avoids the pitfalls of mediocrity and with this five song EP, should propel themselves to the top of the emotional pop punk heap.

The music on here is so infectious, you'll need a vaccination to get these melodies out of your mind. The music itself is on the higher side of competency, with blazing guitar riffs dominating the landscape [as seen in the Hot Rod Circuit-esque "Hey, Don't Stop"]. This record crunches at all the right places; the production on here is absolutely spectacular.

But what really steals the show is singer Will Pugh. His vocals are as pure as the winter's first snowfall with enough bite to make you sit up and pay attention. And when he hits the high note in the EP's title track? Fuggedaboudit. Even though he doesn't need any help, members of A Small Victory contribute gang vocals on a few of the songs as well.

Even the lyrics, which in this genre's case are usually rather cliche and weak, are worth listening to. Sure, lines like "I would cross a thousand seas / and in our perfect world you would wait at the other side" are a bit on the cheese side, but this kid sings them with such passion that the high school poetry aspect of it is negligible.

It's rare that a brand new, unknown band makes this much of an impact on me. But time and time again, every time I spin this EP I find myself absolutely enthralled with each and every song. This band probably won't remain unsigned for long, so get a copy of this now.

Luckie St. [clip]

Stream entire EP here