When This Time Next Year hit the pop-punk scene full force with their New Found Glory-tinged sound on Road Maps & Heart Attacks, they produced something full of promise that harkened memories of pop-punk greats while giving it a slight twist of their own. This time around, the band’s sophomore full-length Drop Out of Life packs an honest, thoughtful message that gets watered down by half-hearted songwriting and familiar sounding execution – leaving This Time Next Year on the outside of a handful of strong entries in the genre this year.
Drop Out of Life boasts songs surrounding the ideals of chasing your dreams, a worthwhile message backed up with unapologetic lyricism throughout the album. The issue lies within the over-familiarity and complete flatness of the tracks backing said lyrics. The opening title track features little to be excited over, save for the catchy yet simple melodies laced throughout the track. Where the overall feel of their last record caused many to compare them to New Found Glory, the vocal delivery and often laid-back feel of this record pulls more of a Warning-era Green Day feel to the record – giving us too many moments of nostalgia to sift through in order to hear something fresh. “Living Hell” sounds like it came straight from the pre-American Idiot repertoire, and while pulled off well, it just doesn’t sound fresh enough to rise above the sound they channel. With lyricism in searching for a chance to start a fresh life and remove yourself from the monotony of your problems, it is rather disappointing to hear the band unable to break free of the spirit of records past to mold something just as inspiring.
The record does contain a few hits to balance out the misses. “Last Call” boasts a huge chorus with a solid hook that is among the catchier moments on the record, while “Matchbook” finds the band hitting their stride with off-kilter drumming and crunchy guitars backing solid verses that set up the best written chorus of the album. If TTNY ditched the alt-punk sounds littered throughout this album, they’d have sounded better off this way from front to back. Tracks like “My Side of Town” and “Get It. Got It. Good.” harness said sounds with the needed urgency they’ve used in the past, making even familiar sounds more fitting on this record.
In the end, This Time Next Year put themselves on the line with a tweak to their sound and unfortunately come out on the wrong side of the bet. Lack of true progression and originality in pop-punk spells danger in the saturated genre these days, and Drop Out of Life shows us mostly disappointment amongst a message of hope and perseverance.