In what might be an early contender for "Most Improved Band of the Year," Nothington brings us their second studio album, Roads, Bridges & Ruins. Now, when we last left the band they released their debut record, All In. While it was a fun listen, it didn't carry much lasting value and I wore it out after a few spins, so I was expecting more of the same on their sophomore record, only to have my expectations blown away on Roads, Bridges & Ruins. This record really captures Nothington maturing and progressing both as songwriters and musicians.
All In was a record that revolved around rough vocals and fast punk riffs with very raw production, and while that all makes for a solid record, it doesn't make for a completely memorable one. Roads, Bridges & Ruins, on the other hand, is almost the opposite, as it's definitely a memorable record. Nothington has tightened up their sound a lot and found a great sense of melody and made a record full of ten punk anthems. The improved production also helps with this record being in better quality along with vocalist, Jay Nothington's singing being improved a lot. He doesn't do a lot of shouting anymore, but after hearing how much he's improved with his actual singing, it's clear why there aren't a lot of his rough vocals.
Nothington doesn't waste time on this record, as the first three tracks are among the best. "A Mistake" is the opener and it's almost a perfect combination of the faster-paced sound they had on All In and their new found since of melody. In an album full of catchy anthems, this song is arguably the strongest of the bunch. "If You Say So" is a slower track that sounds like a combination of Hot Water Music and Social Distortion, with how Jay Nothington's rough vocals mix with the rock and roll-inspired punk. "Another Day" highlights the band's songwriting as the upbeat music contrasts with the sorrowful lyrics of:
I'm breaking down, I'm making up, this don't think I can fix myself / I'm waking up and it's just too much / I just hope I live to see another day.
These three songs alone carry tons of momentum and Nothington keeps the pace going with solid tracks like, "This Conversation Ends," "Not Looking Down," and the record's ballad" "Stop Screaming" but they aren't exactly home runs like the first three were. Some of the other tracks, though, definitely are. "The Ocean" has Jay and guitarist Chris Matulich trading off vocals throughout the song and makes almost perfect use of gang vocals with the "whoas" in the bridge. Likely to be a crowd favorite at future concerts. The final two tracks really help close Roads, Bridges & Ruins out on a strong note with "Best For Me" having somewhat of a Dillinger Four influence, melody wise and "Sleep Tight" carrying a southern-rock sound to it. These two songs really show Nothington embracing this new, more melodic sound that they've done so well at showcasing on this record. They've matured a lot as a band, and really made something great here.
Said this before and I'll say it again, in a year that's been loaded with great punk releases, it's really hard to find the bands that will stick around for awhile and which ones will be hot for a year and then fade away and I think Nothington will be one that's going to stick. The change in sound they've made with this record isn't dramatic but they've tweaked it just enough to where they get it right and make a record that will gain them a lot of new fans but not abandon their roots.
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