Various Artists

Stepping Stone, Vol. 1

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Volume 1 of the Militia Group's Stepping Stone sampler series is an energetic, youthful ride. Dominated by the earnest vocals and rushing, spiraling guitar melodies of emo, the collection doesn't waver very much stylistically; however, there are very few stinkers in the bunch. The shifting pop-punk of Nothing to Lose's "If Dreams Were Real" is matched in intensity by Reeve Oliver's "Summer," while the hushed vocals of Die Radio Die's "New England Sunrise" give the track an arresting intimacy that helps it stand out from the pack. Much the Same lights up its revivalist punk anthem "One of a Kind" with a strong melody, and Tooth & Nail's Slow Coming Day turns in the dramatic, insistent "A Part of Me Died." As the title suggests, some of these groups are as melodically accomplished as the emo genre's heavy hitters and are likely to make it into the big show themselves. Purchasing this compilation now ensures your old-school credentials for when that happens.

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