Light Years – I Won’t Hold This Against You
Record Label: Paper + Plastick Records
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Refreshing. A word I would have never imagined using to describe pop-punk band’s debut album in 2013. However, Light Years’ debut full length, I Won’t Hold This Against You, is just that. Here’s a band that seems like the members have been rocking more +44 than Blink-182. They aren’t trying to sound like New Found Glory. They don’t rely on hooks, angst-fueled songs about girls, or chanting gang vocals. The general goals for most new pop-punk bands seem to not exist for these four dudes from Cleveland, Ohio, and the result is a pleasing one – vocally, lyrically, and musically.
Even “Uphill Battles” doesn’t open the record with a bunch of palm mutes as the vocals come in. Rather, Kent Sliney’s drumming builds the track up in the background as the guitars keep cranking up the speed. As the guitars cut in and out, vocalist/guitarist Pat Kennedy takes center stage to deliver a line that really defines the feel of this record: “There’s a fire in my chest / It’s burning me / And I don’t want to put it out.” Well, that fire continues to burn for all twelve tracks, that’s for sure.
Single “Parking Lots” keeps the dial cranked up as a nostalgic-inducing number. Seriously, I’ll be damned if plenty of listeners don’t latch on old memories to this song when Kennedy sings, “Do you ever miss the parking lot / We hung out / Time that we grew up / Not being held responsible for all of the shit we used to do.” Later, “Deadlines” further reflects this sense of nostalgia and need grow up, this time employing a heavy bass line and guitar distortion to do so: “I wish I was still eighteen / And life was like a movie / Except I’d never have to leave / But not I’m getting close to thirty / And life keeps playing dirty.” Simple lyrics, yes, but this idea of growing up to miss the easiness of the past lingers.
The instrumentation throughout the record sounds remarkably crisp and clear. Producer Will Yip proves to be the perfect selection to bring Light Years’ sound to life. The chorus of “Throwing My Life” knocks it out of the park due to the drum buildup leading to basic yet rough guitar strums. After the chorus, the guitars caper around for awhile before Kennedy grabs the mic again, making sure it stays with you. Moreover, in “Ringing In My Ears,” the guitars don’t parade in full force until after the line “Yeah I’m a pessimist / Apathetic and arrogant / But that’s who I’m always been” gets on the field. As a result, the line stands out and stays in your head. Even later the line “And I know they’re making room for hell in us” becomes memorable due to the repetition of it over different backgrounds – originally the words are backed by loud guitar strums but the transition to soft drum beats and a background guitar chord gives the line a distinctive feel. Simple instances like this set Light Years ahead of other bands, as the composition of each song makes certain parts stand out.
The album’s most interesting track comes late with “Hindsight.” It starts out as an acoustic number – or so you think – but then Tommy Englert’s bass kicks in and continues to pulse throughout the track. It’s something that I’ve never really heard before – an acoustic guitar and a bass together – and this alone makes the track stand out. Not to mention with a lyric like “I run my hand across my father’s grave / And I realize we all end the same / So why am I so afraid / To take a chance and a risk / Before it all gets swept away,” it doesn’t get much better than this song. Such dark acceptance mixed with a reason to move forward.
It’s pretty hard to believe this is a debut album. Musically, the structure of each song highlights certain elements and pieces, while lyrically there’s a theme of growing up despite hardships and longing to hold on to the past. Clearly, the initial fire continues to burn throughout these twelve songs, as I Won’t Hold This Against You is bound to be one of the top pop-punk albums and one of the best debut albums of the year.