JANK recently released one of the funnest albums to come out of Philly this year. Awkward Pop Songs is packed with an upbeat, charismatic attitude and fresh instrumentals, which can mirror the sounds of Cap’n Jazz, Nai Harvest, and even The Dead Milkmen at different times. The band is made up of essential members of the Philadelphia DIY community, with Matt Diamond on guitar and vocals, Ruben Polo on bass, and Sam Brecht on drums.
The trio makes music that is presumably as fun to play as it is to listen to. Sporadic guitar licks are always on the fly, and the bass and drums keep songs glued together during their evolving intervals. JANK’s best tracks lead the charge with memorable lyrics and powerful choruses that work in unison with its hasty instrumentation. For example, album-opener “Ouran Highschool Toast Club” starts off with techy guitar, and plummets into blaring riffs and raspy shouts. Their songwriting and musical ability also comes through on “Wut I Liek Abt U,” where the musical vibe and Diamond’s voice work in sync to create a track that is rambunctious and dancey.
Some tracks delve a little deeper into the emotional realm. On “Caitlyn,” Diamond recalls good memories alongside sprinting riffs, screaming “you’re not real, but you’re something, you’re not real, but you’re everything, fuck!” to make for a breakneck introduction. From there, the song beefs up with heavier instrumentals, and morphs into a slow-rocking ballad with clean vocal takes.
Later into the album, “Kentucky Castle” delivers their most accessible emo track, with sing-along capacity and honest lyrics. Diamond sings, “don’t try to unfuck what you’ve already fucked cuz ya know it’s already in perpetual hell / you’re alright, you’re okay, cuz no matter how much you fuck up, you’ll get drunk at the end of the day,” and then “in the pit of my stomach, I feel at home here!,” before the track moves into an explosive climax.
The comic relief of the album is where JANK’s quirky character shines. “Loading Screen” samples Crash Bandicoot sounds, “The Hat Store” includes a goofy conversation alongside intense riffage, and “J A N K !” works in an admitted rip-off of Title Fight. Meanwhile, the album’s acoustic ballad,”weed is tight,” is a one-line ode to the group’s favorite substance. The entire record comes off as quirky and emotional, and the album’s closer, “Vin Decent,” pulls that feeling off with the most heartfelt sentiment. Alongside huge riffs and wholly uplifting instrumentals, Diamond sings, “get back in your ship before they put you in / they have no common sense, my sweet alien / come beam me up now, just come and beam me up now.”
JANK can get upset and angry, but altogether don’t take themselves too seriously. That odd persona, paired with atypical, intense songwriting, makes Awkward Pop Songs genuine, fun, and prone to repeated listens. With their laid-back and goofy approach to creating music and playing shows, it is easy to see JANK becoming a beloved mainstay of the Philly scene.
Download Awkward Pop Songs on bandcamp, pick up a purple from Honest Face Records or a green tape from Funeral Sounds. JANK is playing the first day of Kat Kat Phest, and then kicking off tour in Philly on 1/10, check out all the dates here.
Photo by Anna Ladd