The Wonder Years
Release Date: April 6, 2018
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Hopeless Records
It's been eleven years since the Philadelphia six-piece known as The Wonder Years released their seminal debut, Get Stoked On It!, a twelve-track release that barely scratched the surface of the potential they had. Eleven years later, numerous world tours, and six albums in, The Wonder Years are able to do what very few acts can do after six records: stay relatable. It's their superpower, their niche, and what sets them apart from the broad spectrum of "get-me-out-of-my-hometown" pop-punk that has permeated its way onto the scene over these past ten years. T
Their self-proclaimed "trilogy of records (2010's The Upsides, 2011's Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing, and 2013's The Greatest Generation) put them on the map and cemented them as a staple within the scene, touching on the anxiety, loneliness and seclusion that vocalist Dan Campbell encountered while living in American suburbia. 2015's No Closer To Heaven took the band's vision and sound a few steps further, pushing them into alternative rock territory and even more mature subject matter. That raw emotion and subject material is even more prevalent on Sister Cities, their unabashedly mature and heartfelt sixth studio album, which was released just last month via Hopeless Records.
Abruptly opening with "Raining in Kyoto", where vocalist Campbell details grieving the loss of a loved one while halfway around the world, it's clear that the tone is darker this time around. While No Closer To Heaven does delve into topics like the aforementioned "loss of a loved one" subject, this feels different. Musically, the opening number makes me think of what Fall Out Boy would have sounded like if they had not gone in a more pop direction after From Under The Cork Tree.
"Pyramids of "Salt" combines soft vocal melodies over calming synth lines and instrumentals, something that I can't personally recall ever hearing on a Wonder Years album in previous years (at least, not in this way). "It Must Get Lonely" and the album's title track bring things up to speed in a refined fashion, highlighting the band's progression with clean guitar verses that transition into powerful choruses that will be sure to be screamed at many upcoming shows. "Flowers Where Your Face Should Be" represents one of the more placid moments on the record, before launching into "Heaven's Gate (Sad & Sober), where what is sure to become an iconic Wonder Years lyric in the coming years ("Sad and sober/on a Sunday afternoon) is nearly screamed into the microphone as the band play on through chorus after powerful chorus.
"We Look Like Lightning" starts off with a simple, synthesized beat before adding instruments in layer by layer, eventually reaching a crescendo with a full-band attack and guitars blaring through their amplifier cabinets. "The Ghosts of Right Now" is on par, energy-wise, with "Sister Cities", while "When The Blue Finally Came" presents one of the more hauntingly serious songs in The Wonder Years' discography thus far. The mood picks up once more with "The Orange Grove" before turning to "The Ocean Grew Hands To Hold Me", an utterly perfect conclusion to a record that shows a band pushing through more growing pains and hitting their stride as they expand to the larger world outside the small Philadelphia suburb they spent years reflecting on.
Eleven years into their career, and The Wonder Years have never made being lost in the world sound so poetic as they have with Sister Cities.