Meet Me @ The Altar – Past // Present // Future

While pop-punk’s Gen Z-fuelled resurgence has certainly heralded a lot of misfires, the most exciting part of it has undeniably been being able to see new kinds of voices join the fray, twisting the form in their own ways while being inspired by the legendary bands that they grew up on. Now blowing up on TikTok and running the late-night show gamut, one of the ways Meet Me @ The Altar knew they had made it was receiving a letter of approval from their childhood idol, Hayley Williams. Listening to the band’s debut certainly captures a lot of what made early Paramore so great: frontwoman Edith Victoria latches onto their specific brand of soaring, stadium-sized anthems easily while her bandmates back her up with snarling guitar stabs. The band themselves dub their work “Disneycore,” after the pop-rock songs that once dominated the commercial breaks between their shows, adding to the fun, playful nature of their sound and lyrics as well. And while things start to get a little samey even at the end of a 30-minute album, the band’s refreshing energy alone puts them near the top of the pack when it comes to new voices in pop-punk.

It may have scored a Taco Bell commercial, but “Say It (To My Face)” still stands out here as an opener and a nice introduction to the band. The members fall in one by one, first with an impressive breakbeat, then a catchy guitar melody mixed with moments of distortion, before Victoria dives in and immediately addresses the “industry plant” accusations, showing that not much is going to be lyrically off the table. The harmonies throughout might be what they have the most in common with Paramore, combining the power of the instrumentals – punchy guitar stabs mix well with moments of silence here – with some genuine beauty up front. Another thing you might not expect in the song are some DJ scratches: it’s a pop-punk band with a little bit of a different background. Cheerleader-style backing vocals complete the picture as Victoria lobs an eye-roll at online comments before things transition to “Try.” It’s great to hear the band showing a little restraint on this one – they let the melody shine over some acoustics before hitting us with the full strength of the power chords. It’s exactly what most of the new artists on the scene seem to misunderstand. You can’t be a full-on caricature the whole time, and this outfit really understands what makes the genre tick and hit so hard – it needs something to compare those hard-hitting moments to! The exasperated sneer comes so naturally to Victoria as well; she doesn’t sound like someone trying to emulate an emo cadence of their youth, hitting some big notes and running through lyrics about anxiety that are a little more believable and personal than her contemporaries.

The track “Kool” opens with some of the heaviest, crunchiest chords on the album – with a giggle in between. That’s about as good a summary of the vibe you’re going to get from a Meet Me @ The Altar album. With a dreamy, cutesy melody juxtaposed in front, just how much Victoria can extend a note is one of the most striking things about her, as the track finds her letting her imagination run wild picturing a future with the incredibly cool object of her desire. The next track is titled “T.M.I,” and it’s kind of incredible to have a pop-punk song where the singer is self-aware and acknowledges that they’re revealing a little too much to the audience – it makes us more willing to accept it. Listing out her inner doubts, insecurities and the deepest thoughts she wishes she could tell someone but keeps inside, Victoria’s delivery makes it one of the catchiest choruses on the project as well, topped off by a nice guitar solo and some moments at the end where she pushes her voice even further. “If you knew me better, you’d like me worse” is such a simple but hard-hitting line. “Same Language” is the first track here where some of the big notes don’t feel quite as earned, with some jumps to the stratosphere out of nowhere, but there are still a lot of the band’s signature stylistic moments here to enjoy – the quieter moments, the harmonies, and the sarcastic lyrics all build up to a stomp-clap breakdown.

The biggest sonic deviation on the project is the track “A Few Tomorrows,” which was a risk that paid off. With a calmer, more alt-rock oriented groove than the rest of the project, it’s reminiscent of a mid-2000s Kelly Clarkson song and Victoria really brings the energy that the track needed. Her vocal runs and the little jumps up to her falsetto feel effortless, and she also delivers a pretty touching sentiment about briefly parting ways. Beginning with “Need Me,” most of the tracks near the end of the project see the refreshing quality start to wear off a bit – but it’s clear that these guys are really excellent at what they do. Even on the more standard tracks where you know what to expect, they almost always manage to hit on an anthemic melody that gets stuck in your head by the end, and the gang vocals and harmonies that they choose just do the work to solidify it even more – these are students of the game.

“It’s Over For Me” is the last real surprise on the album, offering some of the funniest lyrics as Victoria sarcastically thanks a partner for everything that they did for her while actually being overjoyed to be moving onto better things. Leaning into the breakneck tempos with a speedy guitar lick in the chorus, the bridge is one of the most memorable melodic moments here. The next track “Thx For Nothin’,” however, even reutilizes some of the lyrics as the one that came before it as it falls into a more familiar zone. “Rocket Science” has some clunkier lyricism to go along with the more formulaic vibe as well, though Victoria continues to showcase some impressive vocal runs.

The closing track “King of Everything” finds Victoria singing about how she wishes things would go right for once – all the way down to things like the high cost of living and a broken-down car. All I can say is that if things keep going on the trajectory that she’s on, I think that her wishes just might come true.

Favourite Tracks: T.M.I, A Few Tomorrows, It’s Over For Me, Try, Say It (To My Face)

Least Favourite Track: Thx For Nothin’

Score: 8/10


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