Photo credit: Ali Nugent
AuxCordFM is proud to present the third installment in our ‘Best of 2018’ albums countdown. The ten albums selected by Editor James Shotwell will be announced and celebrated through a series of essays. Click here to review the full list and follow us on Twitter for additional updates.
Grief is a monster no one can outrun. Just ask Dan “Soupy” Campbell, frontman of The Wonder Years and someone incredibly in touch with their emotions. Campbell has spent the last decade putting crucial moments from his life into songs, and in turn, The Wonder Years have become a beacon for those who feel lost or alone in this chaotic world. Fans have followed the narrative in the group’s albums and found peace in the emotions detailed through the group’s cathartic lyricism. Sister Cities, the band’s sixth studio album, is no different in that respect, though the emotional well it taps for material runs far deeper than anything they’ve pulled from in the past.
Born from experiences captured while caught between the people listeners need them to be and the humans those closest to them hope they remain, Sister Cities channels years of grief, loss, heartache, and hope into a collection of material that is equal parts catchy and heart-wrenching. Unlike the band’s previous records, which on the surface detailed a rise from the underground to the national spotlight and all the highs and lows experienced along the way, Sister Cities mainly details instances when things fall apart. It’s an album that seeks to find peace in the seemingly endless storm of life, gasping for breath as forces beyond one’s control do their best to crush even the most optimist souls.
The album opener, “Raining In Kyoto,” exemplifies all of this with painful honesty and a propulsive rock sound. Campbell details learning of his grandfather’s death just as he and the band were boarding a plane to tour Japan. He tries to find some distraction or sense of peace in the beauty of the area, but his mind won’t allow him to ignore the final moments he shared with the departed, nor the regret that now weighs on his chest.
As much as the impact of grief informs Sister Cities, there is another lesson to be learned. The world is much smaller than we think. Though thousands of miles can separate two people, they are never so far apart that they cannot feel the other inside their hearts. Our lives are built on the ties we create to others. The people we love, as well as those who love us, are really all we have in this life. Love gives our existence meaning, and when we die, it is the way people remember the love we gave that will define our legacies.
People complain a lot about the way the world is in 2018, but there is a silver lining to be found in the fact that it has never been easier to feel less alone. Someone in Tokyo, for example, can find a friend on the other side of the world by posting their thoughts online. Housebound individuals, as well as those in long-term care facilities, can stay connected to family and friends throughout social media. It’s far from a perfect system, but we live in a golden age of communication. Sister Cities celebrates this while simultaneously speaking to the work that still needs to be done on the part of individuals everywhere. We need to love more, care more, and generally give a damn because we never know what moment will be our last (or the last for someone we care about).