Artist: Neck Deep
Album: The Peace and the Panic
Release Date: August 18th, 2017
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Review by: Devin Beaudoin
Neck Deep have come a very long way since I first heard of them while perusing through Facebook 5 years ago. They hadn’t played their first show yet, and only had 3 songs recorded at that time. Now, they have landed their first top 10 album with their 3rd full length, The Peace and the Panic.
The band went through quite a bit over the last couple of years. A slight lineup change, family members passing away, and the current political climate really show through on this record. It’s extremely relatable and it shows a much more mature side from Neck Deep that we haven’t had the opportunity to see before. The album starts out with my favourite track, “Motion Sickness”, a certified banger that’s catchy as hell, and slides right into politically charged “Happy Judgement Day.” It always brings a smile to my face when a pop punk band reaches for more topics than just relationship struggles, and that truly shows on this record.
Neck Deep explored a lot of new sounds on this record, especially “Critical Mistake” – an alt rock/pop track that could be played 100 times over on any major radio station. Although they have experienced with screaming vocals on songs before (see: “Gold Steps”), none have quite been like Sam Carter of Architects guest vocals on “Don’t Wait” – surprising, haunting, and melodic all at the same time. It fit, it was unexpected, and I was so into it.
All in all, The Peace and the Panic is a major contender for my top 3 releases of the year so far. I’m extremely proud of the work that the Welsh quintet have put into this record, and I can’t wait to see them continue on their rise to the top of the scene.
Purchase: iTunes / Physical
Artist Name: The Wonder Years
Album Name: No Closer To Heaven
Release Date: September 4th, 2015
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Review By: Devin Beaudoin
Purchase: iTunes / Physical / Google Play
Every time The Wonder Years release a new record, I think to myself “there is no way that they could ever top this. This is the best record this band could ever create.” I thought this with The Upsides. I thought this with Suburbia. I thought this again with The Greatest Generation. And after The Greatest Generation, I honestly thought it was true. I knew this Philadelphia sextet were evolving their sound and maturing, and I didn’t think I was going to like it. I was dead wrong.
No Closer To Heaven, the fifth studio album from TWY, the third from Hopeless Records, is a raw, honest, beautiful piece of art that has come from the blood, sweat & tears of these men who laid everything out on the table for us to experience. We hear deeper and darker issues being explored on this record, from addiction & racism, to classism & abuse. Not only do we hear the maturity in the lyrical content of the record, the majority of which is penned by vocalist Dan Campbell, but we hear it in the instrumental content of the record as well. We hear guitarists Matt Brasch and Casey Cavaliere orchestrating arrangements I didn’t know they were capable of; we hear guitarist/keyboardist Nick Steinborn input keyboards into tracks so beautifully and in just the right places. We hear drummer Mike Kennedy and bassist Josh Martin hold the record together with new rhythms and beats I would have never expected to come from a pop punk band.
The Wonder Years have always had a way of delivering an insane amount of emotion through their music, and No Closer To Heaven is no different. Extremely apparent in a few tracks more than others, (“Cardinals,” “Cigarettes & Saints,” “Stained Glass Ceilings”) this loose concept album delivers a purpose for every song, for every note, and for every lyric sung. Some songs are catchier than others, while some are more experimental. The Wonder Years truly explored their artistry and came out on top, when so many other bands fall through the cracks and into oblivion.
It’s not the end of the year yet, but No Closer To Heaven has made a very strong case for my Album of the Year, and is now one of the best albums I have ever heard as a whole. The Wonder Years have more than proved that they are an incredible force to be reckoned with, and I’m excited to see if they can top this. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is the best record The Wonder Years has ever created.