It’s a common and special scene within the circles of pop-punk and its dozens of subgenres: A tightly packed bar or basement, filled with the reverberations of double-time drums and distorted guitars, layered with piles of bodies in band tank-tops shouting back to their favorite singer. It’s a series of moments that Boston’s Transit built a fanbase and style on, refining their sing-along anthems with every release. However, these five young men found the courage to leave that basement, both physically and sonically, resulting in Listen & Forgive, a compact, emotional rock record that stands out sharply as the quintet’s best.
The bouncy rhythms and loopy guitars of “You Can’t Miss It (It’s Everywhere)” serve as the perfect introduction to the less ferocious, catchier band that is Transit 2.0. Lead vocalist Joe Boynton and his gruff counterpart Tim Landers sound clearer than ever, trading off gracefully on biting one-liners such as “It seems I only have two speeds/ Too much, too soon, or not enough.”
“Long Lost Friends” was the first track released from Listen, and for good reason. It takes all of the creative energy and sincerity that made last year’s Keep This To Yourself such a special record, and condenses it down to a fantastic, heartfelt 3-minute pop song.
The guys revisit their old selves on “Cutting Corners,” a galloping rocker with the best guitar work on the disc. One of the album’s pleasant surprises, “Don’t Make a Sound” could have been co-written with Vampire Weekend or Tokyo Police Club, as the off-kilter staccato guitars give way to Boynton asking “Who asks to be born, and who wants to die?/What are we other than ships just passing through the night?”
Transit already proved how efficient and evocative they sound unplugged on Something Left Behind, and “Skipping Stone” is the apex of their acoustic output. It’s poignant and to the point, as Boynton admits “We grow into those sadder songs/ And leave our love behind in every single line.”
Closer “Over Your Head” is a trudging waltz through a failed relationship, as Boynton manages to arrest your ears with lines like “Lost in an ocean of passing days and cars/You stood out like every accident does.” It’s a fitting end to what is essentially a breakup record; One that’s so sincere and refined that it sheds the whiny, overdramatic stigma associated with so many albums in the genre.
Where Keep This To Yourself was an adventurous romp through loose song structures and yell-filled chants, Listen & Forgive is an exercise in concise, honest pop music. Transit’s best qualities (schizophrenic guitars, memorable drum work, raw vocals) are all there, they’re just presented in a more digestible, polished package. The guys in Transit owe their musical careers to those aforementioned basement moments, but they’ve grown comfortable enough as artists to simply create moments.