The Wonder Years dance back into your ears with latest artistic endeavour Sister Cities.
There are very few bands that resonate with me quite so fondly as The Wonder Years do. Many artists have sent me into frenzied phases of absolute fanboying, however, as I have grown out of these periods, The Wonder Years have refused to disappear. Everything they touch seems to turn to gold. This meant that when the band released an interview-format teaser for their newest album, to be titled Sister Cities, I was not quite prepared to begin another new journey with the band. One of the take-away lines from this video explained that “if you have been following the Wonder Years, this is where it has been going”. Somehow, I knew exactly what they meant.
The band have always been an experimental outfit, I would go as far to say that they are so much more than musicians. It became clear that the album will feature a collection of drawings, journal entries and poems to accompany the record. For me, this is the perfect direction to go in. At their core, The Wonder Years are artists. They have an incredibly loyal fanbase and this feels as though it is the perfect way to give back, a view into the creative processes with the hope to inspire those listening.
Another thing we learnt from the teaser video was the focus of the album. The band have been explicit in documenting that their fifth studio album will be based on the past two years on the road, visiting five different continents. I can’t help but feel that by releasing the single that shares its name with the upcoming album, it was intended to give the fans a real flavour of this.
The track is opened by the band shooting to life, the song instantly feels different. The distorted guitar riff that greets us has a swagger about it. It is impressive how it influences the flavour of the song. Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell is very quick on the scene, delivering ever delicate lyrics which appear to address the fragmented nature of society. As he explains that “the Andes hold me close / a mothers only son”, his voice is joined by strained backing vocals from Matt Brasch which intensify the track immediately. This tempo increases, and we are launched into the chorus. I feel like the vocals work incredibly well during the pre-chorus, relentless in their mission of hyping the listener for what is to come. The chorus features drawn out vocals from Soupy, something that fans of No Closer to Heaven have become accustomed to. The three guitars of the band make the sound of the chorus completely immersive.
Once again, the vocals of Soupy and Brasch join forces to echo that “I wanna turn to steam / I wanna call it off / I want a light in the dark / I wanna swallow the sun”. The refrain of the pre-chorus is effective again, the song cannot help but elevate its tempo. Upon first listen, this was the part of the track that got me hooked. It fizzes seamlessly from verse to chorus and does so with an emphatic energy. The breakdown follows. The band step aside briefly for Soupy to serenade the listener, however, not for long. This track is not one for mild listening, it bounces back to life instantaneously. The guitar warbles with the now familiar riff and walks right out of the song. There we are, done for what I can imagine will be a long few months. It can be said that Sister Cities is an electric single, it ticked all the boxes and has left me salivating for more.
I am not done yet, I must mention the video. The band seem to have come a long way from the wrestling-themed effort for Melrose Diner. The videos for Cigarettes and Saints and Cardinals from their previous album hinted that the band have evolved into a more artistic outfit. I can report that they have stayed on this path. The production quality for this appears to be exceptional, with the message of the song been portrayed effectively through the visuals. I urge you to give it a watch.
It feels like I have been handing out a lot of generous bytes recently but to be honest the calibre of music that has been released in 2018 so far has been impeccable. For me, 2015 was a huge year for releases. The publication of Seaway’s Color Blind, The Story So Far’s self-titled album and in fact, The Wonder Years’ No Closer To Heaven showcased the just how incredible the year was for new music, all three being some of my all-time favourites. However, just 40 days in 2018 and I feel like it may be the best year yet. If Sister Cities is anything to go by, The Wonder Years are on track to producing another masterpiece.