After three long years, your favorite pop-punk band from southeastern Pennsylvania is back.
On Friday, April 6, The Wonder Years released their sixth studio album titled “Sister Cities.” The band teased the release of the album with two singles, “Pyramids of Salt” and the title track “Sister Cities.” The album comes five years after the band’s top-20 Billboard 200 charting album “The Greatest Generation” and three years after the highly acclaimed album “No Closer to Heaven.” In the fall of 2017, the band also released an acoustic EP, featuring songs from their past three albums, titled “Burst & Decay EP.”
To best judge “Sister Cities,” you first need to look back at the band’s last three albums, “Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and I Now I’m Nothing,” The Greatest Generation” and “No Closer to Heaven.” “Suburbia” and “The Greatest Generation” are like your quintessential pop-punk albums; they’re about small hometowns, young love and breaking through. They are about uncertainty and thoughts on the future. “No Closer to Heaven” reveals a more mature, more emotional side to the band. It’s less about growing up and more about funneling yourself into certain roles. There’s a mix of dissatisfaction about the future and a desire to change it. And there is a hope to all the songs. The sound of the third album is not so much pop-punk, nor emo; but rather, it’s somewhere wonderfully in between.
And then we hit “Sister Cities.” Not only has the band’s sound matured throughout the album, but their message and outlook have as well. If the previous three albums were about growing up and coming into your shell, then “Sister Cities” is about being all grown up.
The Wonder Years are no longer the next up-and-coming pop-punk or semi-emo band. With “Sister Cities,” the band has fully developed into their own sound, and honestly, it’s almost unkind to call them pop punk at this point. There’s a new depth that the band has reached since their last few albums, and now it’s almost easier to characterize the album as a collection of rock ballads.
The title track “Sister Cities” and the opener “Raining in Kyoto” both deal with finding your place in a new location. But it’s not just simply about being lost and receiving help. It’s about the hope that others can bring to a situation and the hope that even as things are going wrong, they can still get better.
“Flowers Where Your Face Should Be” is one of the most mature love songs that the band has written. The song chronicles the planning of the Dan Campbell’s wedding in 2016. Unlike previous love songs, this has a depth to it that can only be born from a long-term relationship and an understanding that goes deeper than your average teenage love song.
Through their newest offering, The Wonder Years have grown into their own sound. Every single album has offered something new for fans to listen to and this one is no different. Calling them pop-punk implies naivety and stagnation. With “Sister Cities,” The Wonder Years show a band that has traveled the world and experience so many new things, a band that has found their home in their community and their place among friends. Now they are looking for their place in the world, but unlike the anxious searching of a young adult, The Wonder Years exhibit a hopeful realism about their place in the world and the kindness in can have. Even as the rest of the world goes to hell, there is always a silver lining.
If the only brand of The Wonder Years you’re interested in is the one that jumps around in sweaty basements in small towns in Pennsylvania, then this album isn’t for you. But if you want to see a band that has matured over time and experienced the same anxiety that we all experience, then “Sister Cities” is for you. As a millennial and young adult, coming of age with an uncertain future, the idea that there is a sliver of hope, even as things look bleak, is something that I can resonate with. I cannot recommend this album enough.