It’s been a few years since The Story So Far released a new album. In that time, it’s hard to ignore how the pop-punk landscape has changed. Bands and fans alike have grown, and the scene has been indelibly altered by the shuttering of events like Vans Warped Tour. For The Story So Far, this seems to have been their cue to step back and take their time with a new album. Three years after their last release, though, they’re back with ‘Proper Dose’, and a newer, more mature sound and outlook.
‘Proper Dose’ feels like a reflection of the growth of the band and the scene in a lot of ways. It’s a fair bit softer and stripped down than The Story So Far’s previous records. Notably, the punk and hardcore elements that defined the band’s early work are much less present here. In their place, however, fans get an album of complex and creative pop-rock songs, with just enough edge to remind the listener that, at its core, the band is still pop-punk.
Pop-punk has a pretty well-defined sound, and opening track Proper Dose hews to that sound. Mostly. Guitarists Kevin Geyer and Will Levy play with listeners, slowly transitioning the song’s moody opening riff to an upbeat close. The next track, Keep This Up, is raw and urgent, but undeniably catchy, with a chorus you’ll be humming for weeks. The third track (and lead single) Out Of It will be a hit to mosh to at shows with its’ cheery guitar riff and singalong chorus.
Take Me As You Please, a slower, poppier track underpinned with simple acoustic guitars, also takes the album in a bit of a different direction. Frontman Parker Cannon displays a much more nuanced performance than on previous records, but it’s especially apparent here. From here out, the album takes a slower pace, with more pop elements woven into the songs. Let It Go is an interesting mix of pop and punk, weaving brisk verses with airier interludes. It’s got the energy of the band’s earlier material, balanced with a bit of a lighter sound.
Upside Down is another ballad, with the instrumentation taking a backseat to Cannon’s vocals. If I Fall plays with the band’s traditional sound, with some fast-paced lyrics. The message is a little muddled in the speed, but it’s still a good track, and the dreamy ending is on point. Need to Know is a little weaker. The band tries to play with their old sound with an abrupt tempo change towards the end that ends up just feeling a little tacked on. It’s an interesting idea, but it doesn’t quite work for me.
With the next track, Line, the band introduces some new musical elements. There’s noticeable effects on both Cannon’s voice and Ryan Torf’s drums throughout most of the track, but it doesn’t mask the band’s performance. Penultimate track Growing on You promptly drops the electronic, though, in favor of using acoustic guitar to underpin an airy ballad. Album closer Light Year brings back Cannon’s anthemic vocals to close out the album with a taste of the band that fans came to love over the last ten years.
It may have taken a few years to get this album, but for fans and non-fans alike, The Story So Far has put out an album worth the wait. ‘Proper Dose’ is both the rallying call of a band committed to delivering the sound fans love, and a step out in to the new and different. It’s a welcome evolution from one of pop-punk’s mainstays, a changing album for a changing world.