This one kind of slipped out from under me. I was aware Knuckle Puck was releasing a new album this year, and after how much I enjoyed 2015’s Copacetic I was reasonably excited for it. I jammed the single “Double Helix” quite a bit and really liked the direction they seemed to be going. Then the album left my mind. Now I see that the album is officially out and I had no idea. I’m not sure what happened, but I do know that this album jams.

As far as modern pop punk bands go Knuckle Puck aren’t exactly top dogs in the scene. They have enough of a following to play their own headline tours in mid-sized clubs and have a steady spot on Vans Warped Tour, but they just haven’t exploded quite like the Wonder Years have. I feel like with Shapeshifter Knuckle Puck will reach that next echelon in their career.

This collection of emotionally driven pop punk songs is stronger, more mature, and better written than anything the band has released previously. Lead vocalist Joe Taylor bares his heart on the track “Gone”: “You need a change of pace without my ghost, But you’re better off when I go.” He doesn’t have the best voice in pop punk but his voice is powerful enough that you can hear that the emotion is real. Lead guitar player Kevin Maida brings these tracks to life too with his melodic layers on top of the song.

In talking about these tracks, I can’t stress enough how much I dig some of these choruses. I should really preface that by saying they aren’t exactly radio-friendly choruses that you’d hear from some of their peers in the scene like State Champs or Neck Deep. These choruses, especially on “Want Me Around” remind me much more of 90’s emo bands like Jawbreaker, which is a great thing in my opinion. Pop punk isn’t hurting for catchy sing along choruses, but it was sorely missing some strong 90’s emo influence and I’m grateful these Illinois dudes seem to be wearing it on their sleeves.

This album slipped by me somehow but after discovering it and spinning it a few times, I can say that I really enjoyed it. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard a pop punk album that I really enjoyed. It’s been even longer since I heard one that was so influenced by emo without relying on American Football twinkly riffs. This album was just a quick, fun thing to listen to. It’s not a contender for best release of the year, but if you want an album to put on and wallow in your feelings for a bit, you won’t find a better one from this year.

I give Shapeshifter a 3/5.

Check out “Double Helix” here.

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