Pop Unknown – The August Division

Pop Unknown
The August Division

It’s a shame how little recognition Pop Unknown seems to have gotten, despite the oft-mentioned ex-member of Mineral (drummer Gabriel Wiley) and their former affiliation with Deep Elm. Their first few releases did sound like a band trying to find their own sound while trying a myriad of approaches from the straight-ahead rock to the more melodic emo. With The August Division, their second full-length and first for Sessions Records, the Austin, Texas band has found their own sound, and they’ve put together one of the best power-pop rock albums I’ve heard this year.
Tim Lasater’s unique, deep voice is the defining characteristic of this band, giving each song a very unique feel. But the three guitars lend the songs their power, with driving, hook-laden chords and a slightly melodic tone. The rhythm gives the songs a punk-rock feel, and while they’re consistent throughout, each song has a very discernable feel.
They start with the emphatic rocker “Another Holiday,” but “The Invisible Complex” is better, bringing in some more melodic guitar work and allowing Lasater’s voice to take more prominence. Along those same lines, the up-tempo rhythm leads on “B-Sides,” but Lasater’s vocals are just as emphatic, and the backing shouting vocals provide a nice contrast. While there’s no slow songs, really, “Contact” is close, feeling more mid-tempo and introspective. By contrast, “The Next Big Thing” is the band’s great big rock song, an ode to the desire for fame and fortune in Hollywood done with crunchy guitars and big choruses. A close second is the chugging guitar-driven “In Spite of.”
The band still holds on to its melodic tendencies, as displayed on the spacey feeling “As God and Everest,” a stellar track with some interesting vocal and guitar effects, and “Morphine” uses some cool vocal samples to spice up a similarly spacey, textured track. These songs provide nice interludes.
As longstanding emo bands seem to be fleeing from the emo tag as fast as possible and trying anything they can to get a new identity, Pop Unknown have taken a back to basics approach. But hook-laden, chord-driven rock will never grow old, and these guys give it a completely fresh feel. You’ll be singing along with these songs after two listens and hitting repeat when the album’s over. It’s that good. Surprisingly good. And they’re definitely out from that “ex-member of Mineral” banner.