The Upsides, the latest album released by The Wonder Years, has got to be one of the most honest pop punk albums I have heard in a long time. Throughout the entire thing you can hear the truthfulness in not only the lyrics but also in the way lead vocalist Dan Campbell belts them out.
The opening track, "My Last Semester," has a slow start but doesn't hesitate to pick right up into a faster pace; a classic way of pulling the listener in. The opening lyrics, "I'm not sad anymore/I'm just tired of this place" subtly hint towards what seems to be the main theme of the record, as this idea is brought up repeatedly throughout.
"Logan Circle," the second track, includes very similar lyrics, "I'm not even sad anymore/I'm just so tired most nights,""which begins to make the theme a bit more obvious. Towards the end of the song there is a group chant (something that is not rare in this genre of music but is always a welcome addition to most songs) which invites the listener in even more, as if it is saying he or she is a part of this, too.
The fast pace continues for quite a few more songs before arriving to the tenth track, "Hey Thanks" (featuring Rachel Minton and Matt Belanger). The song slows the pace of the album right when the fast pace starts to become a bore. With the use of ukuleles and horns it's a nice break from the previous tracks.
The following song, "Washington Square Park" puts the album into a fast paced mode once more. At one point, Campbell sings, "I'm looking for the upsides to these panic attack nights" - once more alluding to the main theme of the album.
The last track, "All My Friends Are In Bar Bands," seems to finally answer this question. With many guest vocalists from other bands, including Shane Henderson, Dave Mackinder, Matty Arsenault, Jamie Rhoden, Nik Bruzzese, and Charlie Saxton, the song repeatedly states "I'm not sad anymore/I'm just tired of this place/And if this year would just end I think we'd all be okay." The last track is done just right with its trick slow start gradually building up into a faster song, keeping it interesting and making it less predictable.
The Upsides is definitely one of the best pop punk albums of 2010 and is well worth a listen.
5 out of 5 by Freelancer: Ali Conklin