In 2009, This Time Next Year burst onto the scene with a full-length powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline (just watched Blues Brothers). Taking their name from the Movielife album, This Time Next Year came out of nowhere to release on of the best pop-punk albums of that year, as well as one of the best modern pop-punk releases. Road Maps And Heart Attacks took cues from legends of the scene as well as TTNY's peers to formulate a record enjoyable from start to finish. Two years later, how does the band mature and does it suffer from the sophomore slump on Drop Out Of Life? Let's find out.
The closest thing to Road Maps And Heart Attacks can be found on the lead, title track, "Drop Out Of Life". The song starts out strong and follows the new pop-punk formula to a tee. The anthem-like chorus is something that crowds will be singing back to the band on every stop of every show. From there, the album takes an unexpected turn. The rest of the album is generally mellow with not a lot of the power or aggression we came to expect from their previous releases. The track "Better Half" resonates something that would be on a Starting Line album and it becomes evident that the band took cues from the album's producer, Chad Gilbert (guitarist from New Found Glory). The New Found Glory influence also shines on "Get It, Got It, Good", which rings reminiscent of the NFG song "Don't Let Her Pull You Down". Songs like "Living Hell" and "Matchbook" bring the 'friend-core' aspect of pop-punk, with a potent nostalgia feeling when listening to the song, as if it makes you remember the times you've spent with friends.
In a nutshell the album can be summarized with songs like "Modern Day Love Story" and "My Side Of Town". Catchy choruses, but extremely mellow with somewhat of a waltz tone to them. Other than "mellow" the other big 'M' word for this album is "melody". Neat vocal melodies are shown throughout the majority of this record, with "Spoontonic" being the prime example of this. The vocals never rest on a certain note or range, they are always moving swiftly back and forth, using different "riffs" and using the vocals almost like another instrument.
It's been said before by me that the opener to an album is the most important, and then the ending. This album starts with its strongest foot forward and ends with a song that isn't one of the finest, but clearly the greatest choice for closing track. "This Is An Airport Train" has a stand-out guitar tone throughout the entire song to go with the perfect mix of vocals, lyrics, and overall band tone. The lyrics speak of moving on and carrying the torch of living, which is complimented by the "traveling" tone of the music accompanying the words. It's an uplifting song that speaks of previous depression that has been turned to hope.
Overall, the album is (at least for me) a disappointment compared to their previous release. Maybe it's because this is a much mellower album and doesn't pack the same punch, but it seems like that's what This Time Next Year is best at. A few songs pack the same powerful sonic punch that was found on their previous album, but they are few and far between. Maybe Drop Out Of Life isn't the same breed of monster as we're used to from the band, but it also may be the next logical step in maturing. Maturity is a four letter word in the pop-punk world, but these guys speak of going through the gauntlet and that can do a lot to a man.
Recommended Tracks: "Drop Out Of Life", "Get It, Got It, Good", "This Is An Airport Train"
Recommended If You Like: New Found Glory, The Starting Line, old All Time Low
Verdict: 6 / 10