P.O.D. Is back with a new album, and pretty much continuing the arc they began on their last album The Awakening (Universal). Circles is the bands’ first album on their new label, Mascot Label Group, and we find the veteran band hanging out hard in their wheelhouse. By this point in their career, they know where they live musically and what their fans want from them. When they choose to experiment, like on the Rap Rock and Reggae heavy Circles, it’s always interesting at least. When they go to the tried and true, you get the classic P.O.D. Sound. There isn’t a lot of in between, or anything all new here, however.
What P.O.D. has done so well for over twenty-five years is make catchy as hell, radio-friendly jams with enough tough “street” vibe to entice you in. A lot of this rides on the talent of frontman Sonny Sandoval. The band comes to party as they usually do on their leadoff tracks, and ‘Rocking With the Best’ is no different. A big, anthemic song that is fun and has a great hook. As he does on most of this album, Sonny’s rap flow is incredible and he has enough melody to reel you in. The second cut ‘Always Southern California’ is in the tradition of their classic ‘Southtown’ and ‘This Goes Out To You’, this a great hometown shoutout song. Sandoval’s flows are tagged with a few classic Hip-Hop, reggae, and Pop callbacks. It’s definitely a risky choice if done by anyone but this band, but it works and they return to it.
I spun the title track ‘Circles’ a lot as a single, and it works well in the album too. An uplifting true-to-life tale that focuses on the current opioid epidemic, it’s a timely topic without being super preachy. Next up is the heavier ‘Panic Attack’. There is a sweet underlying Funk and reggae thread in the album the band has dabbled with but never relied on this much before. ‘On The Radio’ is another fun and catchy track.
The middle of the album is a little light on stronger songs. ‘Fly Away’ has some cool melodies and raps. ‘Listening For The Silence’ has a great ascending riff in the chorus, but that’s the highlight. ‘Dreaming’ is another socially conscious, mid-tempo jam the band are well known for.
“Domino’ and ‘Soundboy Killa’ are two of the best tracks, and I wonder why they didn’t wind up sooner in the sequence of tracks. Of course, in the Spotify era, this doesn’t matter as much to most. ‘Home’ closes things out and is a fairly solid album track.