Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Meet Me @ The Altar – Garden

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Crystal Leww: Meet Me @ the Altar became the splashiest pop punk act with their recent signing to Fueled By Ramen, with much of the coverage trumpeting how they are three women of color, with a Black girl as the lead vocalist. And while the ~representation~ is something to be celebrated, what’s worth celebrating more is how this is the freshest any act on Fueled By Ramen in years — not since maybe two Paramore albums ago. The formula for good pop punk has remained the same over the years since I was a bratty teen, and “Garden” hits all the right elements — the guitars rise and crash, the drums propel and churn, and the vocalist sounds like, well, a bratty teen who believes the world starts and ends over the object of their affection. This one starts with the tenderness of a hand hold, like the pleading face emoji in song format.

Juana Giaimo: I understand why Fueled By Ramen chose “Garden” to introduce Meet Me @ the Altar: it’s upbeat, powerful and has encouraging warm lyrics. The loud vocals, the heavy drums and the playful guitar all work together to show the whole potential of them as a power trio. I generally dislike hopeful lyrics like this because they can be a little generic, but in “Garden” the words are as straightforward as the music and for that reason they sound heartfelt to me (besides, I love how they describe the toxic relationship with social media in the line “Spent your days glued to your telephone and hoped that someday you’d feel less alone”). I only wish the bridge, which is such a refreshing break, was longer or had a stronger impact in the last chorus.

Leah Isobel: This serotonin blast of a chorus promises that “your garden will finally grow,” but the song itself provides the nourishing sunshine. It’s a great marriage of lyric and form — Meet Me @ The Altar understands that the great strength of pop-punk is its warmth and empathy, the way it validates every feeling it expresses. They use big, impactful gestures to structure the song, from the chugging hardcore guitar that underpins the verses to the skyscraping vocal melodies, so that those choruses land with maximum impact. I might be overrating this a tad, but it feels like such a relief to listen to something so big, so joyful, and so tender at the end of this absolute shitstorm of a year. 

Nortey Dowuona: The slamming drums, shining guitars and loopy, dazzling bass are spun around the lead croon of Edith Johnson, who bounces higher and higher, passing through the sun, then Sirius, then dives through a black hole breakdown, crouches and leaps up each ridge within, then leaps right out of the Milky Way with Tea Campbell, wrapping it in her bass and Ada Juarez simmering it with her drumsticks, and EDITH hurls the galaxy out into the universe, a little more protected than before.

Jonathan Bradley: Meet Me @ The Altar crams compressed blocks of guitar into place like Tetris bricks, which is not entirely a good thing: the thing about Tetris bricks is that they disappear when crammed too tight. The feat does, however, drop the band into its label’s lineage; for its existence, Fueled By Ramen has welcomed groups who are a bit too much, whether for good (Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco) or bland (sorry, Cute is What We Aim For). But Meet Me @ The Altar’s melodic instincts are sharp. A bridge in which singer Edith Johnson falls out of meter to gush “I’ll never forget when you came to my doorstep/With tears on your shirt; yeah, I swear I’ll do anything for you” stumbles enough to knock the set patterns out of sequence, turning “Garden” into a song that starts piling up in your mind even after you’ve turned your attention away. It’s a bit reminiscent of The Anniversary — but then, I always preferred Vagrant to Fueled By Ramen.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: In 2020, Panic! at the Disco is soundtracking Pete Buttigieg rallies and Hayley Williams is exploring her pop and mellower sides outside of Paramore, so thank the lord for this infusion of pure punk dynamite. “Garden” is an absolute slapper that makes me want to paint my nails black and be a brooding 15 year old again. And here’s the real kicker: despite the lyric’s clear grunge and angst, the overall message is positive, being about solidarity and allowing yourself to thrive even in uncertain times. Extra points for this Fader interview, where the three women of color in the band throw shade at other pop-punk being about “white dudes, crying over their girlfriends.” 

Thomas Inskeep: Young women of color make okay pop-punk and get signed to Fueled by Ramen, so… progress, I guess? Just wish it were better. 

Edward Okulicz: There are moments of ass-kicking excellence in here, and few songs could maintain the level of euphoria and adrenaline of the end of the second verse, where punk guitars crash into a rush of vocals ascending into pop heaven. That the rest of it is only good isn’t really a criticism for a young band with all the tools to have an army of kids following them within a week of them dropping an album. The lyrics are a little generic, but if the band were crap, you wouldn’t notice or care. I noticed, and I don’t care, because the band’s got the power to blast you away, the power to uplift, and the power to beguile.

Reader average: [2.5] (4 votes)

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