Friday, April 19 2024

When Weezer and later Fountains of Wayne burst onto the stage in the ’90s with their fusion of power pop and punk rock, they inspired numerous punk rock bands to shift from the traditional formula of shouting vocals, hard-hitting power chords on the guitar, and playing as loudly as possible on the drums. Instead, these bands embraced melodic hooks, vocal harmonies, and cheerful tunes. Midland Empire seamlessly blends the upbeat melodies of power pop with the indie rock and alternative sounds of the early ’90s, along with a touch of 2000s emo. Their debut single, ‘The Second Coming,’ unmistakably demonstrates that they’ve hit the sweet spot.

Comprising Dexter Carman on vocals and guitar, Josh Shepperd on guitar, Wyatt Fenner on bass, Luke Graves on synth, and Zac Conger on drums, the band originated in 2023 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Carman, also the primary songwriter, draws inspiration from personal experiences, navigating the complexities of bipolar disorder, and exploring relationships. ‘The Second Coming’ delves into the aftermath of a breakup, tackling themes of independence and self-discovery.

The song kicks off with a steady beat on the snare and toms, complemented by palm-muted guitars, and a tight bass line, all paving the way for Carman’s energetic vocals—raw and brimming with unbridled enthusiasm. The melody instantly captivates. Their music reminds me of The Menzingers and The Augustines. Raw, but poppy and compelling.

The anticipation builds as the instrumentation tactfully retreats, briefly silencing the drums, only to unleash a powerful surge leading into the poppy, Beatles-like chorus, adding layers to the musical narrative. The chorus itself boasts a classic power pop sound, featuring a catchy melody and high sing-along value.

Midland Empire keeps the song engaging by incorporating variations in guitar power and different drum rhythms, and the guitar solo seamlessly complements the genre. The bridge introduces a more indie rock, alternative vibe before returning to the infectious chorus, ultimately concluding the song in a grungy manner.

The debut single from Midland Empire signals a promising start for the band. They skillfully navigate the delicate balance between the raw authenticity inherent in rock and an infectious pop sensibility, crafting a musical experience that is not only captivating but also profoundly memorable. ‘The Second Coming’ stands out as a catchy tune, adorned with beautiful lyrics, while the production exudes a truly professional quality. The band showcases tight musicianship, and as a devoted fan of the genre, I anticipate enjoying this song for quite some time. Despite the seemingly melancholic theme, the joyful melodies evoke a nostalgic yearning for the carefree days of summer.

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Midland Empire’s debut single ‘The Second Coming’ fuses power pop and punk rock with tight musicianship, catchy melodies, and beautifully crafted lyrics exploring themes of independence and self-discovery. The song showcases the band’s ability to strike a perfect balance between raw authenticity and infectious pop sensibility, making it a promising start for the South Dakota-based group.


song quality
vocal perfromance

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About Author

Gee Nelson

Gee Nelson has been a musician, producer and songwriter since the '90’s. Besides music Gee loves reading, writing, watching British sitcoms and playing board games. His biggest influences are Green Day, Nirvana, Offspring and Eels. His favourite genre is 90’s and early 00’s (indie) rock.

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