Has there ever been a more emo opening on an album than on The Wonder Years “Doors I Painted Shut” as lead vocalist Dan Campbell croons, “I don’t wanna die / At least not without you / Alone here in the August heat / In the shadows of the afternoon”? The Wonder Years’ latest studio album, entitled The Hum Goes On Forever, may be their best record to date and features several unique callbacks to the sound they have perfected over their collective careers. The set was produced by Steve Evetts and veteran hit-maker Will Yip, and the album sounds like a million bucks. The Hum Goes On Forever also features two outside collaborators/writers on “Wyatt’s Song (Your Name)” (Mark Hoppus) and “Oldest Daughter” (Ace Enders), and showcases a band blossoming gracefully in the later stages of their career.
After the cautious opening song, the album explodes into “Wyatt’s Song (Your Name),” the third single released, and possibly one of my favorite songs that the band has ever crafted to date. I found the verse of “I found glass in the garden / Dug it up with my thumb / I won’t let you cut your feet / When you learn to run / But you learned to say, “Moon” / So, we waved from your room / He called to you like it might come to you,” to be particularly well-written since it reminded me a bit of the relationship I have with my kids and wanting to protect them from the worst situations.
Things continue to unfold nicely on “Oldest Daughter,” that features a great, rolling drum line from Mike Kennedy, and the triple-guitar attack of Casey Cavaliere, Nick Steinborn, and Matt Brasch sounds as great as its ever been on songs like this. “Cardinals II” is a mid-tempo song that starts off with a vulnerable tone as lead vocalist Dan Campbell’s performance conveys the pain in the lyrics. The second verse of, “I know the feeling when the light begins to fade / And the dishes in the sink look like a mountain range / You try to will yourself to stand, but you can’t find the strength / Threw your head against the cold glass of the window pane,” set up a great chorus filled with several starts and stops to the guitar riffs to make each lyrical line reverberate over the mix.
The pace picks up again on “The Paris of Nowhere” to allow the album to avoid sounded to mellow or unbalanced, and it does a great job of building up to a powerful chorus. The picturesque storytelling on a campfire anthem, “Summer Clothes” will translate really well to the in-store performances the band has been doing in support of the record, and showcases the constant improvements The Wonder Years make from each album. “Lost it in the Lights” features on the best choruses I’ve heard this year with, “When I was seventeen / I wrote a song about how I’m drinking kerosene / To light a fire in my gut / And I’ll be coughing out embers for decades to come / I was seventeen with a fire in my gut.” Its great lyrical imagery and metaphors like these that make me proud to be a fan of artists coming into their own so gracefully at this stage of their careers.
”Songs About Death” is a dark, brooding song that wraps up just over the three-minute mark and leans on heavy riffs and atmospheric elements to hit its intended target. The opening line is equally dark, saying, “Been writing songs about death so long that I wish I could just go numb / Didn’t think of funeral processions and the way they fuck the traffic up.” It’s a pretty shocking confession and realization of the way mortality can influence our thinking. “Low Tide” bounces the tempo back up to a more comfortable level, and allows the audience to dance away their troubles. While “Laura & the Beehive” features some great keyboards by Nick Steinborn as Campbell majestically croons over it with some great poetry. The chorus of, “I just called to talk about the weather or anything you want / I just called to hear your voice / I’m sorry, I won’t keep you long / ‘Cause I know how you ask around and worry when you hear the songs / So I just called to let you know that I’m alright, no matter what,” is simply gorgeous in its delivery, as much as it is heartbreaking.
The closing duo of “Old Friends Like Lost Teeth” and “You’re the Reason I Don’t Want the World To End” further round out the latest chapter in The Wonder Years discography that is aging like a fine wine. The closer, in particular, leaves a beautifully haunting last memory of this part of the band’s career, and leaves the future so optimistically bright for a band that has plenty of tricks up their sleeves to keep their music remaining interesting. The Hum Goes On Forever will certainly be in the conversation of the best albums to be released this year, and The Wonder Years are taking full advantage of their moment.