Somewhere between after-party shenanigans and Monday morning commutes sits Winnipeg’s Stick Around – a band who is decidedly too mature for pop-punk labels, even if they listened to all the cool So-Cal bands in high school.
Their sophomore release In This Life draws influence from late 90’s skatepunk while also channeling the more refined songwriting and stylistic cues of current pseudo-punk bands like Smoke or Fire and The Flatliners. Released in April 2018, it is lively, well-intentioned, and full of reminiscence without a hint of pretentiousness or political agenda. There’s also a subtle sense of confidence that elevates these nine songs above the standard set by their first EP, displaying less angst and more patience in their approach.
“Curtains” introduces reverb-soaked vocals behind persistent guitar strumming before breaking into one of the mid-tempo gallops that comprise much of the record. The directness of the vocal delivery and the accompanying background harmonies are consistent elements and help to lift this arrangement above most run-of-the-mill punk tunes. Its blue-collar intensity is honest and accessible.
On their strongest tracks, like “Detox” and “Point the Blame,” Stick Around manage to create a unique and consistent identity with their sound. They weave interesting guitar parts with call-and-response vocal phrases to produce a calculated aesthetic that is anchored by straightforward, no-bullshit drumming. There’s something about this record that feels very concise and measured, not unlike The Menzingers’ On the Impossible Past album. The relative rawness of these mixes keeps In This Life from feeling overly produced and they sound the most comfortable when playing fast and loud.
The album’s track order does a good job of varying the overall dynamic, making it a comfortable listen-through experience. Collectively, the band sounds smooth throughout and the few mediocre sections that do exist – the arduous chorus of “Summer Nights”, for instance – are generally excused as minor missteps. And these guys seem like awesome dudes to grab a beer with, so there’s that to account for as well.
Stick Around have put out a solid second effort and continue to progress with their brand of not-too-serious punk rock. In This Life checks most of the right boxes and is a worthy listen for fans of anything from Pennywise to Hot Water Music.
Written by Mickey Ellsworth
*edited by Mike Milito