Skate punk. Post-hardcore. Emo. Pop punk. Whatever your taste in 00s might lean toward, rest assured Living Room showcases it on their latest LP. It’s the kind of record that is as much American Football as it is Weezer or All American Rejects. Press compares the band to Thursday and La Dispute, but neither of those adequate sum up just how fun and catchy the songs on New Years are.
There’s something youthful and free about this album – one that’s nostalgic, but in a way that feels like a sort of alternate history where teenage angst never fades (or is that this reality…?). There’s nothing really immature about the album – sure, there are some lyrical tropes here and there (see “Oh Boy”) but they’re delivered so stylistically that the conviction and gravity outweighs any degree of cheese. Are the band members 20 or 40? Who really cares?
There are moments that are somewhat darker or more alternative than anything else, but the direction of the album is so undeniable indebted to albums old enough to be carded. There’s lethargy. There’s aggression. There’s melodrama. And Living Room are not ashamed about it. Take the slice-of-life ballad, “Moon Room”, which takes a microscope to the mundane. There’s nothing too esoteric about this release, which is a huge strength. Living Room kind of feels like one of those cover bands that fully assumes the identity of what they’re imitating so you don’t need to see the real thing. The only difference is that Living Room IS the real thing, even when the forerunners of the scene have largely jumped ship.
The first three tracks keep the front part of the album stacked with hits. And while not every track packs the same punch, gems like “Student Teacher” are enough to easily define the album with a positive reputation. It’s catchy, energetic, and just dissonant enough to maintain an indie feeling. And the repetition of “Life imitates art imitates life” is an incredible touch. It’s a mystery how this track wasn’t chosen as a single.
That said, the aforementioned trio of “Petrol Head”, “Mauve Frame”, and “Flood” were indeed chosen as singles. It’s an odd marketing tactic to have tracks so close together chosen to debut before release, and it unfortunately does make the album a bit top-heavy when it comes to the faster songs.
The second half of the record plays more with alternative and post-punk moods, but the closing track brings everything full circle to the start of the record. Gritty vocals? Check. Random slow part? Check. Guitar solo? Check. Prominent bass? Check. It’s a good formula, even if it’s not anywhere close to a new one.
New Years doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any stretch, but it makes you wonder when the quality of wheels started declining. It’s a refreshing throwback kind of album that holds its own among modern rock acts while also filling a void left by bands long gone. It’s fun and carefree at times, sensitive and simple at others. But it’s a good reminder that an album can simply be a joy to listen to.