Release Date: May 6, 2014
Studio: Antlur Media
Genre: Pop Punk
For Fans of: Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, Weekend FM, The Wonder Years
Cranking out pop punk jams since 2012, Arbiter City issues forth their energetic stylings from River Grove, Illinois without holding back. The band cites influences such as My Chemical Romance, The Story So Far and Blink-182, and the infectious vibrancy that propelled those bands to stardom is readily heard on Arbiter City’s debut EP, This Day in History. The EP jumps right into the middle of the liveliness expected of such bands, and sets the bar fairly high with a full-bodied intro track.
This Day in History hits the ground running with “The Bus to Mount Weather,” the band’s intro that lasts just under a minute. The listener is greeted with a shimmeringly digital arrangement of each member’s instrumentation. Arbiter City holds nothing back on this track, weaving massively catchy melodic lines from lead guitarist Will Barker with an equally vigorous backdrop from the other instruments.
Perhaps the most quickly noticeable characteristic of Arbiter City’s music is lead vocalist Matt Renta’s ability to hit his notes spot on. Hundreds of local music scenes across the U.S. are rife with pop punk bands, but it is less common to find bands within this genre whose vocalists can play their parts accordingly.
“An Interesting Narrative of Life and Time” is a galloping track that represents the core of Arbiter City’s sound. The band keeps up their animated spirit on this track, serving as a reminder that pop punk requires serious stamina to execute in a live setting.
At this point in This Day in History, it is more recognizable that drummer Michael Jardine’s kit is muffled and flat, lacking the crisp, clean and thick sound that could aid the band’s variety of pop punk better. Jardine’s chops are not missing though, as he works his way through fills on each song that appropriately build and release tension.
Almost halfway through the EP, the band brings their lively persistence down just a notch on “Home Showcase at the Ice Box.” Renta’s vocals continue to fill a lot of aural space in the band’s soundscape, not necessarily smothering the other instruments but perhaps coming on a bit too strong. Rhythm guitarist Jordan Arredondo and bassist Brian Bogg keep the band instrumentally solidified as they provide cleanly-executed chug patterns.
The vocal and guitar harmonies conjured up on “Home Showcase at the Ice Box” are tight. The instrumental clarity of debut EPs from pop punk bands are not typically this precise, so this characteristic of This Day in History warrants praise.
“Divide and Conquer, or Fall Together” opens up with interesting samples, and the band kicks into heavier and angrier riffing than was heard up until this point. Arbiter City seems to be able to effortlessly push their sonic velocity forward, as vocalist Renta reaches impressively high for a number of phrases on this track.
During the latter half of the song, the band works a number of interesting riffs into their traditionally-structured pop punk sound. Arbiter City frequently writes to satisfy the oft-loved chorus-centric qualities of pop punk bands, but their songs are dynamic and original enough to stand on their own. If the band continues to write catchy and accessible songs, they should see a continued uptick in their support and success.
“Red Lights and Right Turns (Pandora’s Box)” is the final track on the EP, and the band has done anything but slow down, which is to their credit. Arbiter City pulls out all the stops on this track as they build on every element which they can consider a strength.
About halfway through this final track, the band opens up room for a few bars of introspective and dispirited instrumentation, before Renta rips the mood apart with an impressively primal scream that lasts a number of measures. By the end of the EP, the band has amassed a veritable variety of emotions within their music, and this is a good sign for the future of a young band.
With This Day in History, Arbiter City cut a clean piece of music, and with their style, will likely have plenty of show offers in the years to come. It will be interesting to see how the band proceeds to unfurl and develop their sound, and the following that they will garner from their future recordings. Arbiter City is a talented mark on the pop punk scene of greater Chicagoland. Download This Day in History for free through the band’s Soundcloud, found below.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.
Review by Brad Johnson