April 3, 2018 The Wonder Years – Sister Cities (Album Review)
Inspiring wonder with their meandering, intelligently poetic offerings, The Wonder Years return this Friday, April 6, 2018, with Sister Cities, thanks to Hopeless Records.
Formed in 2005, The Wonder Years – reportedly not named for the beloved TV series – hail from the Philly suburb of Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Several split EPs would help to spread the band’s name, leading to their debut album, 2007’s Get Stoked on It!. The album’s release saw a vast increase in the band’s fanbase, leading to four more albums over the next eight years, ranging from 2010’s The Upsides to 2015’s No Closer to Heaven.
With dogged determination to the road, The Wonder Years have been across the globe and shared stages with the likes of Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, Silverstein, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals, Tonight Alive, All Time Low, Knuckle Puck, and one of the band’s biggest influences, Motion City Soundtrack. As with so many of their contemporaries, The Wonder Years are absolutely not strangers to that Warped Tour thing everyone loves.
Ever-evolving, The Wonder Years – Vocalist Dan Campbell, Guitarists Casey Cavaliere and Matt Brasch, Bassist Josh Martin, Drummer Mike Kennedy, and Keyboardist/Backing Vocalist Nick Steinborn – return with their sixth full-length offering, Sister Cities. The 11 song Sister Cities was produced by Carlos de la Garza (Cherry Glazerr, Teenage Wrist) and Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, Minus the Bear), and sees the band evolving toward a matured sound, leaning away from Pop-Punk and toward a more vast horizon.
Sister Cities begins with the marching pace of “Raining in Kyoto,” where Campbell’s gritty, emotional vocals and the band’s stellar musicianship soar as high as Tokyo Tower. The imagery portrayed in the exploration of powerlessness that is “Pyramids of Salt” is vicious poetry, while gentle rocker “It Must Get Lonely” reflects on change. The hip-shaking beat of catchy album namesake, “Sister Cities,” leads to the bittersweet ballad-sque sweep of “Flowers Where Your Face Should Be.” Hydrangeas and azaleas, to be exact. Meanwhile, rocker “Heaven’s Gate (Sad & Sober)” is guaranteed to be a cult-classic. (Get it?)
Delicious bass lines anchor the hop-step of gritty rocker “We Look Like Lightning,” which asks the intriguingly morbid question, “What song do you want to die to?” The blistering emotionality of “The Ghosts of Right Now” leads flawlessly into “When the Blue Finally Came,” a languid-paced melancholia. Ultimately, the meandering guitars of the gritty rocker “The Orange Grove” move the band into the over-six-minute-long opus, “The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me,” closing out the album on a somber yet pensive note.
With a sound that falls somewhere in the range of Death Cab for Cutie meets Brand New, The Wonder Years have fleshed out and matured their once Pop-Punk stylings but have not left behind their beautifully Emo leanings. Sister Cities, therefore, is a poetic and intelligent Rock record that marks this sextet as being lyrically above the rest. Their superb musicianship serves as a solid foundation for the band’s thoughtful and inspiring prose, crafting a collection that is as awe-inspiring to the heart as it is to the ears. For these reasons, CrypticRock give The Wonder Years’ Sister Cities 4 of 5 stars.