Just a little less than six years and four albums later, New Jersey heroes The Gaslight Anthem have gone from rebellious punk to decorating the covers of dozens of magazines. “These guys are the next big thing” has hovered around for so much time now. Well, don’t call it a breakout—they’ve been here the whole time. The boys are back with a new release, Handwritten, which, in my opinion and theirs, is their finest effort to date.

Handwritten is innovative, fresh, and all their own. This release isn’t a full blown makeover of sound by any means. Instead, prevailing fans can call this a rousing project that incorporates the various graces they have shown us in the past while pushing further into hard rock, radio friendly terrain than ever before. This will jump-start their ascent from “young aspirants” to sincere ingredients in the rock recipe. Leadoff track and single “45” sets the bar high before pleasurably rolling into the album’s title-track. I have never heard mid-tempo rock sound so unforced. Another in-your-face tune includes “Here Comes My Man,” which is more contagious than a cold (you’ll see what I mean when you hear the chorus). “Mulholland Drive” is an inch ahead of the other songs on the introductory half of the record. Its intense lyrics really balance agreeably with their signature sound.

Brian Fallon’s vocal performance is by far the toughest element of the album, sounding better than ever before. Maybe it’s the new direction they have gone in or even a newfound confidence. Mid-album tracks “Too Much Blood” and “Keepsake” are heavy hitters, channeling the raw emotion and primitive energy I picked up with The Horrible Crowes.

Overall, Handwritten makes The Gaslight Anthem exceed previous praise and success, and shows the world what can be done when a musician writes from the soul. This is a whole-hearted, authentic sounding album that you can easily fall in love with immediately, and feel butterflies again once you let it age. Vinyl recommended.

In A Word: Seamless

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