The Road Back to Music Journalism #6: Next Stop Atlanta’s CD
My First International CD Purchase
I discovered Next Stop Atlanta through a compilation album on Bandcamp, Othello Music’s Summer Sampler 2013. I was initially led to that compilation through the band Reachback’s song “Get Up” (a catchy, fun song from a great band), but Next Stop Atlanta’s “Perfection” was the one that captured my imagination. Both bands are pop-punk, but I thought NSA’s brand of heavier pop-punk was a bit more unique. Not necessarily better — I really enjoy Reachback, too — but more unique among the flood of pop-punk I was hearing that summer and just a little closer to my personal taste. A real hard rock act with a bit heavier underpinning while still performing catchy pop-punk.
I downloaded Next Stop Atlanta’s eponymous debut EP (free download on Bandcamp) in the summer of 2013 and listened to it for the next year, adding the free Christmas song release to my collection during the winter, but I found myself increasingly streaming the band’s follow-up EP, The Things You Do Best, from the Bandcamp site. For a while, I waited for a future promised-almost-done album so I could order them both together — I prefer CDs for albums I like to play in my car — but eventually, after a couple delays in the still-never-released new album, bit the bullet and bought the CD (in addition to a CD of the first EP I had previously downloaded for free).
Why This Was a Step on the Road Back
This was my first international CD order. In fact, since the first order got lost in the mail, I even had to reach out to Next Stop Atlanta to get replacement CDs sent. (Thanks, Nik, and I hope whoever snagged the first CDs en route, either here or in the UK, has been enjoying them.)
CD Review of Next Step Atlanta: The Things You Do Best
The band’s first, self-titled EP was catchy, fun, and rocking. The Things You Do Best, however, kicks things up a notch. In fact, the band’s progress can be easily noted by the new rendition of “Perfection.” The version of “When Perfection is Key” on the first EP is raw, stripped-down, but tight and catchy. On the second EP, however, the song (now just entitled “Perfection”) is beefed up with more power, additional vocal fill (“don’t walk alone tonight!”), a more intricate musical arrangement; it ends up a richer, more developed version of the song, one that showcases the band’s songwriting development between recordings. Indeed, while Next Stop Atlanta hinted at the band’s promise and talent, The Things You Do Best showcases a fully developed, tight rock band, complete with songwriting geared toward its skills. Catchy, memorable lyrics combine with a well-targeted, restrained power on “Always With the Drama” and “Light the Beacons,” the song from whose lyrics the EP title was lifted. The best, most complete tune on this disc, though, and the one I play whenever I want an instant energy boost, is “I’m Not Morrissey.” Listen to this track. It highlights each band member’s special skills, the things that made Next Stop Atlanta such an extraordinary ensemble. The other video from this EP is for “Get in the Van,” a worthy follow-up to “I’m Not Morrissey,” full of pure, unadulterated Next Stop Atlanta energy.
Perhaps the most notable thing about Next Stop Atlanta, and what makes its music so original, is the way it uniquely blends the talents of its band members. Guitarist Nik Taylor generally drives the songs forward, as is the norm in pop-punk, but he also varies the chords more than you’d expect from similar bands and implements monster, catchy hooks. Drummer Anthony Joy is also a hard-driving machine, but he, too, takes liberties, straying from the beat frequently with drum runs that make the songs much more interesting listens, but they leave the bassist holding down the rhythmic fort. Then there’s singer Georgia Peters. No, she doesn’t hit those “how did she do it?” notes, but she comes close, and wow, does she have control of her strong, insistent, powerful voice. It actually took me a few dozen listens to fully appreciate the quality of her vocal skills, and now I wonder why it took me so long; in NSA’s sound, Georgia’s voice is a well-tuned instrument, and it’s easily identifiable, teaming with Nik’s axework to give the band a truly trademark sound. And, of course, I almost feel like I’m shortchanging bass player Blake Sale, but keeping the rhythm in a band like this is more impressive than you might imagine.
Next Stop Atlanta appears to have parted ways. The group had already replaced its drummer (I presume with a wise choice) since The Things You Do Best, but it has been more than a year since the band’s last original tweet, six months since its last retweet. It’s a shame that exceptional bands like this can go unnoticed long enough to disband before the world gets to hear their music, but that’s the music business. Thanks to Nik for replying to my requests for images to run with this article. I look forward to his next musical venture, and I hope the rest of the band will also reach out to me if/when they’re involved in other projects. What immense talent, and I’m at least glad Next Stop Atlanta’s two brilliantly-crafted EPs will remain their legacy.
For quite a while before the band went dark, there was a new album in the works. Depending on how close to completion it was, perhaps at some point in the future some of that music could find its way to public, too. Personal note to the band: Good luck in your future endeavors, and whether or not you perform together again, thanks for the great music!