Review || The Wonder Years - "Sister Cities"

My reviewing duties came back to the forefront of my everyday life with a feeling of enthusiasm, after getting word about weighing in on the freshly released “Sister Cities" by The Wonder Years (dropped on April 6th 2018 via Hopeless Records). The Wonder Years, hailing from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, span a 13 year musical career making numerous pop punk LP’s of similar aesthetic, headlining tours alongside great bands globally and generally being considered somewhat veterans of that scene. Reading through the press release for "Sister Cities" and not having listened to a single note yet I could tell this record would have a completely different approach for the Wonder Years; and it does. For that reason I am compelled to try something different for the review of "Sister Cities" as well, in that I will not rate it but rather will complete my input with a decision of whether or not the LP actually makes my collection; if it does it means I really liked it and if it doesn’t…well you’ll know why.

If you think about contemporary pop punk you can easily label a Wonder Years record; for years the band tried the catchy choruses, the notable guitar riffs and the groovy hooks. Dan Campell always had a personal story to tell with his lyrics, not really showcasing a lot of variety while using his excellent singing skills, but knowing exactly what to do to make things sound fitting in a pop punk framework. Having said that, "Sister Cities" sounds like a completely fresh start for the Wonder Years. From the very first seconds of the record the shift in sound is characteristic. What we have here is a modern alternative rock record with a lot of emo touches and -now- only a few pop punk fills. Dan Campell does it all vocally on "Sister Cities", from the lower heartfelt verses and intros to the extremely challenging choruses. This man has an incredible range and from a production point of view his singing is the number one thing you notice on this record. The lyrical approach is also something new, a noticeable novelistic style of writing which fits the general feel of the record and his vocal variety. I felt like hearing Davey Havok on various parts of this record both from a lyrical point of view as well as from a vocal performance one.
Most of the songs on Sister Cities -"Raining in Kyoto", "Pyramids of Sand", the title track, "We Look Like Lightning", "The Orange Grove"- fit the aforementioned atmospheric feel of the record, while only a couple of songs -"It Must Get Lonely", "Heaven’s Gate (Sad & Sober)"- could clarify as a part of the bands pop punk past but again in a different way; Thrice’s last record slightly comes to mind. Two interlude-like songs -"Flowers Where Your Face Should Be", "When the Blue Finally Came"- and a post hardcore-esque final tune make for a very interesting LP. 

I have no issues whatsoever with bands trying new things, taking different musical routes and approaches; The Wonder Years are reinventing themselves and while a few of the new parameters aren’t a total fit for me personally -the uneven production between the guitars and the rhythm section, the at times over the top lyrical and vocal aesthetic, to name a few- "Sister Cities" is a record I will definitely be adding to my little collection as it is not everyday too many elements I like blend to an incredibly interesting and memorable result.
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