Album Review: 'Sister Cities' by The Wonder Years

By Drea Eden | Photos by Janelle Santacruz

Friday, April 6: The Wonder Years finally released their long-awaited 6th full-length album, Sister Cities, 3 years after No Closer to Heaven. The album opens with “Raining in Kyoto”, a fast-paced song that jumps right to the point. It evidences a strong comeback for this band, with a lot of the somber undertones that were also carried through their previous album, No Closer to Heaven. Somewhat heavier compared to their older sound, this song really sets the tone for the album. It says “We’re back, and we’re not playing around”.

This perfectly leads into their most recent single, “Pyramids of Salt”, a slower but still heavy song, that really caught my attention upon first listen a few weeks ago. Melancholy and full of raw emotion, this song features vocalist Dan Campbell belting the chorus, and you can tell that they’re holding nothing back, and leading into the euphoric bridge that gave me serious chills. Immediately this song is an obvious choice for a single. It really captures you in it’s vibe and while its a somber song, it still stays true to their rock sound with its fast and loud drums plus its heavy guitar riffs, and it quickly made its way into my playlists.

The album keeps up with this sad-tinged rock vibe with the song “It Must Get Lonely” before leading into the title track, “Sister Cities” that is super-energetic and reminds the listener that The Wonder Years is still the same band, just evolved. I would consider this to be the most hyped-up song of the album and it definitely stands out as such. However, this energy doesn’t last long as this song is directly followed by “Flowers Where Your Face Should Be”.

“Flowers Where Your Face Should Be” is a soft spoken ballad that's reminiscent of Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties, which is a side project started by Dan Campbell. It’s a romantic, somewhat hopeful sounding song about Dan’s wife, that is absolutely beautiful and left me in awe hearing it the first time. The last line specifically really caught my ear as its very raw and emotional, as Dan sings in somewhat of a falsetto tone “I’m gonna marry you underneath the driftwood from Crescent City”.

My absolute favorite song from the album, “We Look Like Lightning” was actually the first release of the album, when they sent 7” records of it to fans who had subscribed to their mailing list last December. However they did not release it as a single and the only way for most of us to hear it was through recordings other fans took of their records. Hearing it the way it was intended to be heard for the first time was very very satisfying. Starting off with the familiar somber and slow sound, it slowly works its way up in volume and the song is overall very dynamic and builds up to the bridge and final chorus where Dan finally starts yelling “What song do you wanna die to?”. It’s a very powerful song that speaks to me.

The album continues with “The Ghosts of Right Now”, which is another heavier sounding song, along the same wavelength as “Raining in Kyoto” but in a way angrier-sounding, in which most of the lyrics are belted out. The song overall is really intense and it made me really want to move. This is a song that you would want to mosh to.

Directly after is “When the Blue Finally Came” which is another emotional song with the strong hook “Yeah I’m afraid, but I’ll follow you anyway”. It’s the shortest song on the album being only 2:11, but it’s still hard-hitting, emotional, and a strong addition. As soon as it ends, we’re lead into “The Orange Grove” which jumps right back into the heavier rock sound but still shows off emotion and has spectacular delivery. The guitar really takes the spotlight in this song with the intoxicating riffs, and the really pretty-sounding bridge section, and then ends abruptly as the album moves onto the final, emotional masterpiece that is “The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me”

“The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me” is another slow-paced emotional song but this one has a very heavy use of somewhat monotone synth that fades in at the beginning, this song really focuses on Dan’s vocals, which start quiet and calm and eventually grow louder in the chorus and go quiet again for the bridge. After the last line “I miss everyone at once but most of all, I miss the ocean”, is delivered, it launches into a cascading section of euphoric and awe-striking music that eventually fades back into just the synth that closes off the album.

This is definitely my favorite album of theirs so far, it flows really well and has a great balance between fast and slow songs, and from the incredible lyrical content to the heavy music, I loved every song off of this album and I’m very happy about the growth that The Wonder Years has displayed since their last album.  They’ve said that this is their best music to-date and i would have to agree with that statement. I’m so excited to see where they go from here, as they show massive growth between each albums and I cannot even imagine how amazing they’re going to be in a few more years.