Monday, January 22, 2024

Minimum Champion Heralds “Better Days Ahead” - Debut EP Out Everywhere

Sometimes, there’s treasure hiding right under our noses. For over a decade, Nicholas Lopardo sat behind the drumkit for various bands on the Long Island hardcore scene. Unbeknownst to both his peers and his audience, however, there was a whole other side to Lopardo that was waiting to emerge.

Now, after many years’ worth of gestation, Lopardo steps out as a singer-songwriter with Better Days Ahead, the new EP by his solo project Minimum Champion. Unsurprisingly, some of the hard-charging, fist-waving punk elements have carried over, but Lopardo mixes them with catchy pop hooks, acoustic folk touches, and shredding guitar solos for a highly rousing blend all his own.

"My musical journey began at the age of 10,” Lopardo explains, “but I was primarily focused on percussion. That all changed at 19, when a relative gifted me an old guitar. I fumbled around on it and taught myself enough to write simple acoustic pieces. Really, it was just a way for me to build confidence in my musical abilities overall. But here I am with finished songs and a backing band where I’m singing and writing the lyrics for the first time. This is the most personal side of me that I’ve ever shown.”

In a time fraught with tension and strife, Better Days Ahead breezes-in like an upbeat whirlwind. That doesn’t mean that Lopardo pulls any punches, though. An astute observer of his surroundings, external relationship dynamics, and his own feelings and memories, Lopardo’s lines can sting as much as they encourage — which makes the songs even more satisfying for the listener.

When Lopardo sings “I may be stupid / but I’m not dumb” over a rolling acoustic-guitar strum on “I’ll See You Down The Road,” it’s just the first of several moments you can’t help but sing along with. Likewise, on the rockin’ leadoff single “Before It Gets Better,” Lopardo sings about feeling like he’s falling out of existence and dangling over a void on the verge of forgetting who he is — all on the way to admitting he’s wrong.

Likewise, with the remorseful “I’m Sorry I Let You Down,” Lopardo and company have crafted what can only be described as an apology anthem with guitar-hero fireworks thrown in for good measure. And “Summer, 2003” captures the feeling of nostalgia for times past in a breathtaking blast of high-energy rock, with Lopardo imploring us to “set fire to the day, melt the twilight and use the embers as currency” — all of which is easier to do with Better Days Ahead as your soundtrack.

1. I’ll See You Down The Road

2. Before It Gets Better

3. I’m Sorry I Dragged You Down

4. Summer, 2003

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