300 York St,
New Haven, CT
Friday, March 20, 2020
All ages – 7pm – $23.50~$27
THE WONDER YEARS
The Wonder Years is an American rock band from Lansdale, Pennsylvania that formed in July 2005. Since their inception, they have released six full-length albums, two EPs, and several splits/compilations. The group is currently signed to Hopeless Records.
After two studio albums and nearly seven years as a band, Free Throw is making a significant change to their identity. The group — who has sung openly of personal struggles related to substance abuse and body image — is holding nothing back on What’s Past is Prologue, their third full length record, due out March 29, 2019 on Triple Crown Records.
Past releases may have provided small glimpses into Free Throw’s history as a band and personal lives outside of music, but What’s Past is Prologue is the group at their most forthcoming. The 12 tracks contained on the album detail the continuing mental health struggles of lead singer Cory Castro, and serve as a complete story of what happens when you decide that everything in your life needs to change.
“This album is very much about me hitting rock bottom from a mental health standpoint and the process I took in building myself back up,” Castro explained. “With the last record, I was trying to talk about my mental health, but at the time I was actually going through it. The last album felt like I was yelling from the void. This time I’m looking back into the void and I’m able to understand what was going on.”
The beautiful anguish that often comes with personal growth and an unexpected reckoning of self is palpable from the album’s outset. Beginning with “Smokes, Let’s Go” — a track of transition that features surprisingly delicate vocals and simple strings switches to impassioned shouts and furious instrumentals — Free Throw lead us out of the darkness and into the light.
As Castro explains, the record is split into two parts. The first half of What’s Past is Prologue explores the weight of personal blame, with singles — including the gunning and practically unstoppable “Tail Whip, Struggle” and the limitless, swaying tenderness of “Stay Out Of The Basement” — setting the stage for an impactful finale. As the album nears its conclusion, “Today Is Especially Delicious” provides a tumultuous turning point, with the band tearing through Castro’s shouted confession of “Is this what I had planned for my life/I need a hand of some type to pull me up and break this cycle of drinking for breakfast.”
That frank sincerity propels the album forward, and serves as a catalyst of change for the band. As a group, Free Throw has consistently turned their darkest days into moments that fans can sing and dance-along to, and for the first time, the band has arrived at this place where it’s all coming together, and maybe this is really only just the beginning. “This is the first Free Throw record with a happy ending,” Castro said. “The album leads to an ending of where the band stands today. We’re all happy to be doing what we’re doing, and it’s kind of the happy moment where we’ve become the band we were always meant to be.”
SPANISH LOVE SONGS
When you’re young, you just want to be heard,” opines Dylan Slocum.
The singer and guitarist of LA-based punk quintet SPANISH LOVE SONGS is referencing his band, but he could just as easily be talking about himself. Since forming in 2014, Spanish Love Songs certainly have been heard, from legions of underground audiences at The Fest and South By Southwest to outlets like NPR, who hailed the group’s 2018 album, Schmaltz, as a “wellspring of big ideas, bigger riffs and the biggest possible feelings about love, war, fear and existential crisis.”
Schmaltz was an album colored by guilt and self-doubt, an insular collection of soul- searching songs that found the singer amplifying his grief while kicking back at a world that seemed to be doing its best to keep knocking him down. It was a cathartic album, one that admittedly took a lot of Slocum’s soul to create. (“I don’t want to be the band where each album is me complaining about myself for 40 minutes,” he says.)
So instead, Slocum decided to look outward for Spanish Love Songs’s third album, BRAVE FACES EVERYONE, due out February 7, 2020 on the band’s new label, Pure Noise Records. Steeped in the same detail-rich storytelling of Bruce Springsteen, The Menzingers and Manchester Orchestra and filtered through the band’s sweat-soaked punk fervor, the songs on BRAVE FACES EVERYONE represent the situations Slocum and his bandmates — guitarist Kyle McAulay, bassist Trevor Dietrich, drummer Ruben Duarte and keyboardist Meredith Van Woert — experienced during 30-some weeks of rigorous touring during the Schmaltz album cycle.
These are character stories set in small-town America and anxious urban jungles alike, unfurling heartbreaking tales of addiction, depression, debt and death juxtaposed alongside looming societal bogeys like mass shootings, the opioid epidemic and climate change. They’re all at once personal vignettes and universal truths of life in the 2010s, the lines blurred between Slocum’s own experiences and those of his friends and acquaintances. Because, as he sings in “Beachfront Property,” “Every city’s the same/Doom and gloom under different names.” These are the things that affect us all.
But for all its emotional heft, Slocum doesn’t see BRAVE FACES EVERYONE as a pessimistic album. Rather, the album — produced by McAulay at Howard Benson’s West Valley Recording — seeks to find balance between realism and optimism. It implores us to harbor less judgment and more empathy, to talk less and listen more. To understand that life never goes off the rails all at once. Rather, it’s a years-long series full of seemingly imperceptible events that snowball into life-altering issues like heroin addiction, mental illness or suicide. But just as things didn’t break overnight, happiness and redemption aren’t as simple as a flip of the switch. It’s a day-by-day, step-by-step climb we have to work to attain.
Ultimately, BRACE FACES EVERYONE boldly declares that even though things might be bad, they’re not hopeless. On the appropriately named “Optimism,” Slocum sings, “Help me weather this high tide/But don’t take me out back and shoot me,” while the album-closing title track bears the album’s central thesis: “We were never broken/Life’s just very long.”
Ultimately, Spanish Love Songs are trying to break through that pessimism however they can. Sometimes that’s as simple as a hopeful lyric or soaring chorus to cut the tension in an otherwise weighty song, a brief respite that gives listeners a comforting melody to rally around. “If you sing something loud enough and long enough,” Slocum muses, “hopefully people are able to find some peace in that.” Experimenting with more traditional song structures and fewer forwardly caustic moments this time around haven’t dulled the band’s sound. If anything, they’ve accentuated the most important parts of it. When everything is loud and urgent, nothing is. But when Slocum’s voice swells to a roar on a song like “Generation Loss,” the undeniable power grabs you by the collar and forces you to pay attention — and that’s the difference between simply being heard and truly being understood. XX