You wouldn’t believe the amount of pop-punk that passes through my inbox. From all corners of the world, I’m assaulted by a ton of bands that still manage to sound exactly the same. Which is why it’s always a real pleasure when something that stands head and shoulders above the rest manages to slip through – and that’s exactly what Above The Underground have done with Sonder.
In our review of Autumns, we noted that these guys had plenty of potential, but with the release of their debut LP, Above The Underground have managed to seriously up their game. Sonder is an absolute joy to listen to, and it’s fantastic to see just how far the band have progressed. The album’s structure is a lot more coherent, the songwriting is much stronger, and all in all, Above The Underground have managed to nail ten solid bangers, none of which will leave you disappointed.
The first half of the album is a bit more of your straight forward pop-punk fare, and it starts with the short, acoustic ‘Prologue’ before launching into ‘Return To Point Pleasant’, which demonstrates some great dual vocal work in the chorus. Although virtually all pop-punk is inspired by our friends from across the Atlantic, Above The Underground do a great job of not giving into the nasally vocals and cookie-cutter riffs; there’s plenty of sunshine, but with a little more bite. ‘Lavender Town Syndrome’ doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel, but it’s easy listening; perfect for an afternoon drive with the sunroof cranked open and some proper posi lyrics to propel you along. Lyrically, the album is just as strong as than Autumns, if not stronger – each track is its own emotional journey, and embodies the confusion and excitement of youth in a deft and intelligent way.
But midway through, the album, and the band, begins to reach a turning point with ‘Cheer Up’ – a slow burning instrumental, reminiscent of that Northstar or Inkwell style, which rings out beautifully before becoming a launchpad for ‘Not Home’. Potentially the best track on the record, ‘Not Home’ is an aural assault of minor chords and perfectly timed palm mutes. ‘Shine’ is a beautiful acoustic ballad, melancholy yet uplifting. Although it’s much of the same, ‘Bring Me The Sun’ has some stellar woah’s in the chorus, before end track ‘Reprise’ hits like a freight train. Eschewing gang shouts in favour of a proper gang verse, the band show their skills off loud and proud and leave you ready to hit repeat.
Above The Underground have really proven themselves with Sonder. Will it be hard for them to replicate? Only time will tell, but for now, Sonder is a truly exciting record.
4.5 out of 5 high fives!