This Time Next Year

Drop Out Of Life

It’s really too bad that Drop Out Of Life, the sophomore full-length by Walnut Creek, California, pop-punks This Time Next Year, didn’t drop into our iPods at the start of the summer, rather than now, with fall already upon us and another winter not far behind. Loaded with breezy, sun-soaked melodies, the album is a perfect backdrop for a lengthy cruise under bright blue skies; once hoodie weather rolls in, though, listeners might be forced to find something a little more substantial to warm their bones.

For this second go-round, TTNY tapped New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert to produce, and as one might imagine, the band end up sounding an awful lot like NFG (in a good way). Vocalist Pete Dowdalls has always come off like a cross between Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Yellowcard’s Ryan Key, so the greater influx of NFG hallmarks like killer breakdowns (“Better Half” and “My Side Of Town”) and raucous gang vocals (the title track) add a rich extra element to TTNY’s straightforward pop-punk.

Even when they do revert to Green Day mode (“Living Hell,” which sounds straight off of Insomniac), they do it with toothy, muscular guitar riffs that do Gilbert and his NFG cohort Steve Klein proud. The musical apex of TTNY’s particular fusion of said influences comes with the mid-album stunner “Spoontonic,” which builds gradually throughout the song until it reaches a crushing bridge, throwing some intriguing melodic twists at listeners along the way. Moments like these, found in fair abundance on Drop Out Of Life, are what make all the difference, elevating the tracks above pure ear candy.

Lyrically, Dowdalls covers familiar turf for the genre, mostly using the album’s runtime to either lament or skewer past loves. It’s perfectly appropriate and expected, but not as impactful as some of the recent works by TTNY’s peers, notably current tourmates the Wonder Years, who’ve set the bar extremely high for the genre in 2011. That doesn’t make Drop Out Of Life less enjoyable, just different, and definitely lighter. Perhaps that’s because it’s always sunny in California, but in Philadelphia, not so much.

Equal Vision http://www.equalvision.com

“Spoontonic”