I’ve been slightly nostalgic recently with my Alt. Rock/Pop Punk listening habits. Discovering Above The Mendoza fit right into that mold for me. Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, they have a fun little EP to rock to. Their music falls in line somewhere between The Starting Line, The Wonder Years, and earlier Brand New. I personally love all three of those bands, and to find something that is new and finds it’s place among them is a welcome surprise. As a whole, this isn’t super hard-hitting in your face Pop Punk music, but rather a more laid back melodic sing-along stylization of the genre. You will definitely feel the influence of the aforementioned bands in the guitar work and vocal melodies throughout this EP, titled “A Shoulder To Lean On But Not A Crutch”.
A band with 3 guitar players is often something groups will under-utilize. Often times this was a complaint with The Wonder Years until their most recent album “No Closer To Heaven”, where they finally had a wonderful dynamic and melody using all three guitar players. Above The Mendoza, however, seem to have found a good balance between their three players Tyler Fernandez, and Pete & Aaron Long. The songs have a healthy mix of rhythm and leads, which is a difficult task to accomplish with so many strings in the mix. The guitar riffs and leads never seem to get too overzealous and allow the music to breathe naturally. The band’s Alternative Rock roots shine through in the especially chunky sounding rhythm sections, paying homage to bands such as Finch and Brand New.
Speaking of rhythm, the Drums are handled by Brian Horn, and Bass Guitar by Kevin Irvine. Both players support the songs on this EP with a solid backbone. In my opinion both instruments could be a little more up front in the mix, but there are a few interesting bass lines that cut through and add a bit of depth throughout the release. The drummer makes sure the dynamic flows smoothly from song to song, and the swelling crescendos he adds in create the correct atmosphere for the music.
Both Tyler and Pete take on singing responsibilities as well as their guitars. There are some interesting layers to the singing on this EP, with plenty of harmonies and overlaps between the two vocalists. They have very similar voices, so everything blends together nicely. Their lyrics tend to deal with what I refer to as the “quarter-life crisis” where someone in their mid-20’s is searching for their purpose and direction in life. The phrasing and lyric patterns could be a little less forced, some of the verses feel like they are trying to cram more words than necessary, creating a rushed feeling occasionally. I would also like to see the vocalists step a little bit outside of their comfort zone, as the vocal melodies sound relatively similar across songs.
Overall, this EP is an extremely solid entry in Alternative Pop Punk. It’s not often an unsigned act creates something that stands alongside classic releases in the genre. I feel very nostalgic listening to this release, and it wraps itself cozily into my collection. Their best song on this release is, hands down, “Father Time” as it combines extremely catchy vocal melodies with very melodic and bouncing guitar lines. While “A Shoulder To Lean On But Not A Crutch” is nothing extremely groundbreaking or forward thinking, it is an incredibly strong EP with tons of promise for this band. The band is planning on a tour this summer in support of this release, and I highly recommend checking them out.
Final Verdict: 7.5/10
Music Video For “House Special 2”: