As an avid listener and follower of The Wonder Years since the beginning, it is easy to say that the band has a unique punk sound and songwriting style like no other. Dan (Soupy) Campbell’s lyrics and the full band’s arrangements have stuck with me during some of my most emotional moments – let’s face it, “Came Out Swinging” is a song best heard with the volume maxed out. So, when I listened to Burst and Decay, the new acoustic EP that The Wonder Years just released, I was just as enthusiastic but pleasantly surprised by each track, although I had heard each of them before on previous records. While none of the songs are new, Burst & Decay brings vulnerability through delicate acoustic guitar parts, light strings, and Campbell’s emotional voice.
The EP begins with “A Song for Ernest Hemingway”, a slower tune that starts with a warm guitar and vocal. Soupy begins singing delicately and politely in his lower register, almost pleading the listener to “pick (his) body off the ground.” The somber lyrics juxtapose the happier folk-medley, one that fans of Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties are familiar with and fond of. A shuffle beat joins the mix and Campbell’s infamous range shines through, adding even more strength to the words.
I was very excited to see that “There, There” was included in this release. It’s not only my favorite TWY song, but the first one I ever listened to. This acoustic arrangement is very much powerful and bright, and I appreciate that the tone of the song remains bitter and biting. The band does a nice job making sure the song creates the same impact on the listener. Plus, I’m a big fan of the harmonies.
Next there’s “Coffee Eyes”, and I already relate greatly to the title. I’m very impressed by the multiple lead guitar parts filling both of my ears – this doesn’t feel like an acoustic arrangement because of how full the mix is. I especially like the musical interlude bridging the gap between the second and third choruses. The strings and flute (I believe it is a flute – correct me if I’m wrong!) are excellent additions that help create dynamics in a very energetic song. This song reminds me of the late nights I’ve spent with my friends drinking coffee and talking about our lives.
“Cardinals” is just as dynamic as the previous tracks, including harmonies, backup vocals, a full drum kit, strings, multiple acoustic guitars, and a whole lot of emotions. This song could very well be played in a beautiful wedding scene of a romantic movie – or, at least, I’d love for this song to play at my wedding someday. Campbell swears that he’ll never let the listener down again, and I believe him. But of course, I’m a sucker for his raspy tone and a string section.
“Don’t Let Me Cave In” is another one of my favorite songs by The Wonders Years. I really like how calm and intimate it is. This intimacy is maintained through the end of the song as Campbell tells a story about life, love, and America. It stands out for its delicacy.
“Dismantling Summer” is a happier tune off of the EP that leaves me reminiscing summer. It is a nice addition to the release that brings more brightness to the record as a whole. It also adds another layer of emotion to the idea of heartbreak.
Lastly, “You In January” finishes the record strong by intertwining Campbell’s voice, strings, and a bright piano. In the chorus, a surprising female voice is heard in the background that creates wonderfully breathtaking harmonies. This love song is a triumphant and unexpected way to finish an EP full of heartbreak and isolation. It allows the listener to move forward feeling both hopeful and content.
All in all, I think this is a great record for The Wonder Years because it truly showcases the meanings of each of the songs that are typically behind break-neck drum fills, roaring octave chords, and screaming vocals. It is dimensional, honest, and raw.
Burst and Decay (An Acoustic EP) is available everywhere now.
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