Leaving the comfort of Philadelphia basements, diners and cul-de-sacs, The Wonder Years take on the world in their latest release, Sister Cities. Inspired by documenting life on the road, Dan Campbell and crew had no plans for the album. Rather, it just came to be as a two-year conglomerate of witnessing the way “humanity towers above all else,” the band explained via Twitter.
It’s truly a story of humanity, and the love and loss that comes with it. As life has evolved for The Wonder Years, so did their sound, transitioning from pop-punk hooks and Campbell’s wailing lyrics, to a more alternative rock approach. Sister Cities is diverse in both stories and sound, ranging from aggressive tracks like “Raining in Kyoto” to slower, bass-driven tracks like “We Look Like Lightning”.
The band’s ability to document and share their experiences and emotions through music is ceaselessly interesting. Unplanned acts of kindness from strangers gave way to the title track, as a group of locals in Santiago, Chile helped them put together an impromptu show, due to an earlier performance being cancelled. Singing about being taken home by this “sister city,” the band has clearly found a sense of community, oceans away from their Philadelphia home base.
Sister Cities is not completely about finding a sense of home anywhere in the world — it is layered with gloomier themes, such as the guilt Campbell continues to face. Born from the lead singer’s experience in Japan as a local man ushered him through the steps of honoring his dying grandfather, “Raining in Kyoto” illustrates the emotions that continue to weigh heavy on the band. Fast paced guitar riffs, a driving drum beat, along with Campbell’s signature wail, guilt, anxiety and uncertainty are remarkably portrayed within this track.
I, myself, have found a bit of “home” in each song. Being from Jersey, I can’t help feeling a connection to “Flowers Where Your Face Should Be,” as Campbell sings about the flowers he “grew back in Jersey.” The guitar melody drives this track, giving it a nostalgic, almost melancholy feel — listen to the lyrics and you’ll certainly feel sad. Nostalgia heavily characterizes Sister Cities, most likely because it was crafted from memories, photos and journal entries.
Taking listeners on a journey around the world and into The Wonder Years’ experiences, Sister Cities is the turning point in the band’s identity. Maturing in themes and in sound, the alt-rock, introspective record ventures off into something larger. Inviting the band’s original fans and music lovers of all kind, Sister Cities is the album that will illustrate the enormity of humanity for anyone who listens.