Summer is the most beautiful time of the year. School is out, the sun is shining, and beautiful days abound. Teenagers invade parks and beaches while adults in need of vacation are nostalgic for the days they were also sun kissed and free. So what if there was an album that took the gritty sound of 90s punk and wrapped it in the modern pop-punk sound that we know to give you both the warm, cozy feeling of nostalgia, and the cold elation of summer vacation? Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you Higher Ground by Bearings. An album with no pretense, Higher Ground is not complicated or sophisticated, but it sounds like skate parks, scrapped knees, and summer festivals.
The Ottawa quarter kept it simple and stayed true to the established pop-punk recipe, checking many of boxes on the “How To Make A Successful Pop Punk Album” checklist in the process.
Strident guitar notes in the background throughout an entire song? Check! Songs about girls? Check! Two vocalists with very distinct voices taking turns with the vocals? Check! Repetitive chorus and/or bridge to maximize the chances of that song being stuck in your head for days? Check!
Higher Ground might not be a groundbreaking piece of work that transcends genres, but despite the somewhat formulaic nature of the album, Bearings found a way to keep it as refreshing and tasty as ice cream on a warm summer’s day.
My favourite piece on the album is by far “Secret’s Safe,” a piece that is the epitome of early 2000s pop punk. The song starts slowly with prominent guitar chords and an understated bassline, tricking you into believing that you’re about to be treated to a ballad. But no! It picks up right after the first verse and turns into a moderately-paced track of perfection. The beat is pleasant and the chorus is just repetitive enough, with just enough “woahs” for it to stick in your head long after it’s over.
Though that song is excellent and sets itself apart from the rest, the entire album is a fantastic piece of work that is reminiscent of some of the best pop-punk masterpieces from early in the millennium. The opening track “Constant State” immediately reminded me of Student Rick, but most of the album seems to be the result of a night of passion between Blink 182’s Dude Ranch and The Starting Line’s Say It Like You Mean It.
Higher Ground is the smell of chlorine in the backyard of a friend, the splinters in your hand from the wood used to build a makeshift kicker over the pool, it’s making out with your best friend in a dark corner of the summer’s party house just because. It is not sophisticated and it’s not perfect, but Doug Cousins, Ryan Culligan, Jeremy Farkas, Collin Hanes, and Connor Kington made a valiant effort, achieving a sound that is as gritty and oddly comforting as brand new grip tape on a beloved skateboard.
Higher Ground may have come out in January of 2015, but it is the perfect soundtrack for hot summers spent sleeping until noon, going to the beach until sundown, having a whirlwind romance with a gorgeous stranger, and spending a summer your fucked up heart and scarred knees will never forget.
Written by Kai Robidas