Pop-punk is an interesting genre. When I think of pop-punk bands, my mind immediately drifts to bands like Descendents and NOFX and, to some extent, The Misfits — bands who really took the raw aesthetic of punk rock and put some catchy melodies and hooks in between verses. Even Green Day and Blink-182 managed to keep some semblance of punk in their music as they became larger than life. Then Fall Out Boy happened.

The lines are now blurred to the point that I just tend to generalize everything as pop music. Make no mistake, New Jersey’s Breathing Blue have roots in pop-punk and on some level, third wave emo, but they are definitely a pop band.

For their self-titled EP, they open with “A Star In The West,” an exciting first track, but its big hooks and level of production smells of “radio-friendly.” To me, the recording gets underway with the second track, “Chase The World,” a song that pays homage to bands like Further Seems Forever and Sense Field; it’s an unapologetic emo-pop song where Breathing Blue singer Justin Sanford belts out some really great falsetto parts.

There’s a lot of potential and room for growth for Breathing Blue. I think the main stumbling points for the band is that their songs have very little in the way of identity. Where bands like Fall Out Boy and My American Heart were able to introduce danceable breakdowns into their pop-punk songs, they manage to keep their edge; Breathing Blue’s strength is in emotionally resonant songs (check “Sparkle” and “Chase The World”), but in their attempts to write straight-forward rock songs, they come off as forgettable.

This certainly isn’t a terrible record and I’ve already taken the liberty of uploading a few of the songs on my iPod, but for a six-track EP, I found that the record lagged and that the songs that anchor it are too far apart for an average listener to care. All that being said, I think Breathing Blue have potential to be a really great band once they get through their growing pains.

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