I came across Devon Kay & The Solutions while mindlessly listening to Spotify’s Punk Unleashed playlist at work. Now, if there’s one thing you need to know about me (other than my obviously FLAWLESS taste in music), it is the fact that I am an absolute sucker for brass instruments sneaking into my pop punk music. So, needless to say, when Yes I Can’t (available now via Paper + Plastick) came across on the shuffle, I took notice! From there, I decided to dive right on into the album and I was blown away with what this band has put together and presented to the world.
The album opens with a short track, “More Years,” and what I would consider a tribute to being young and learning that the struggle is half the fun of living. I remember thinking to myself how well this short track could easily map out the lyrical tone for the rest of the record, when BAM, a banjo comes plucking along and smacks me right in the face. These refreshingly unexpected tones, shortly accompanied by a wall of some hearty brass instruments, pulled me out of my own head and right back into the album, leaving me eagerly wondering what was coming next.
By the time I made it to the bridge of the second track, “Make No Mistake,” I was bouncing around my kitchen like I’ve heard this song a million times. The powerful third verse includes a high-energy wall of sound swelling into excited vocal work that would (in my humble opinion, of course) certify you as Crazytown™ if you don’t dig the hell out of it. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules, folks.
In the track titled “Fresh,” we follow the vocalist’s journey of coming to a repetitive realization that things need to change, and that sometimes, accepting help from others is a necessity to overcome personal struggles. To me, this track has the perfect blend of spicy, high-energy riffs, poignant, meaningful lyrics and assuaging harmony vocals that remind me of Hot Mulligan.
As I made my way to the meat of the album, I came across the titular track, Yes I Can’t, which dissects the experience of growing out of a good friend. The vocals create an atmosphere that feels a little bitter, and slightly frustrated, and the sporadic, mathy drums showcased helps to drive home the feeling of confused inner turmoil that would be present during such a difficult situation.
“Old Scent,” the song buried perfectly in the middle of this album, hits hard and fast and gives me an uncontrollable urge to climb a mountain. Our lyricist digs deep to describe his fear of growing older and changing. With lines like “I know I’ve done wrong,” and “I’ve given up on giving in,” listeners follow the journey of realization that growing as a person is necessary and eventually seen as a positive experience.
My self-reflection on these lyrics were soon displaced by a delightful jazz intro, and subsequent folk-inspired track, “Rerelocating.” The cheerful outro left me with the strangest yearning to find a hoedown. And speaking of a hoedown, “let the dancing begin!” opens the next track, “Good Pill Hunting,” which is a magnificent jumble of ska-punk rolled up into a classic pop-rock sound. Imagine “One Way Or Another” by Blondie, but with TRUMPETS.
Next, “Broad Shoulders” is a lamenting ballad about uprooting one’s life to move to a new place. With quirky lyrics like “we’re sure that we’re sure that we’re not too sure,” and “I saw a roach that was cocked,” the listener can easily identify heavy influence from The Front Bottoms in this track.
“Great American Runaround” is a catchy, finger snapping ska tune that sets up a stark contrast for probably the most intriguing track on the album, “One Outta Two.” This song’s intro establishes a slightly psychedelic and airy vibe, creating a mellow tone. But just as I was settling in to the comfortable, easygoing vibes, so entered a quick, clap-beat tempo, some bluesy keys, and that folksy banjo again! This song has yet to stop blowing my mind. Its quick, jubilant tempo and banjo picking obviously lends itself to the folk genre, but the soulful melody and thrilling lead guitar work could also land this song with an alt-rock classification.
“Temporary Displacement” is an excellent closing track for the album. It neatly ties together both the musical style the band possesses and the lyrical theme of attempting to survive young adulthood. Within 2 ½ minutes, the listener follows the emotional roller coaster that is college. From unabashed willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve, mounting student debt, depressed friends and heartbreak, this final song is a scattered commentary on the culture of today’s college students. For me, this song in particular highlights the band’s ability to evoke a wide range of emotions in a short amount of time using their unique blend of genres.
Throughout the album, tempos weave between fast-paced and laid back, smooth vocals and harsher, chanting-styled vocals, and to me, this type of back-and-forth is incredibly representative of the vast range of highs and lows experienced in the formative years of young adulthood. While it was incredibly exciting to pick out the influences I heard from some of my favorite bands, Devon Kay & The Solutions are still able to retain much individuality in their sound. They are ska punk with some folk rock delicately sprinkled on top and baked to perfection. I double-dog dare you to listen through Yes I Can’t and try to sit still.
Each song on Yes I Can’t is drastically individual and unique from the rest of the album. Even the vocal styles can change drastically from one song to the next. This band has found a way to weave together every unique component of each individual song and produce a grand declaration of the sound Devon Kay & The Solutions’ calls their own.