5. Blink-182, ONE MORE TIME… 

Blink-182 One More Time… album cover art

I’ve been waiting for this album for quite some time, and it delivered in every way possible. Blink-182 was the first band I made a true connection with as a young music listener. My brother, who is three years older than me, introduced me to all the bands I still love today—he really shaped my love for music and how it’s so much more than sound. 

Blink-182 helped us through a very difficult and critical time in our lives. I mean, I was in fourth grade when Tom DeLonge flipped me off (well, the whole balcony at Aragon Ballroom in Chicago). This is a good memory. It lived up to the punk-rock mantra I heard him—and the band—preach for years.

Check out my interview with DeLonge for Angels & Airwaves’ 2021 Lollapalooza performance where we discussed punk rock as a lifestyle, and how Blink-182 was that space for him.  

ONE MORE TIME… is not just a reunion album, it’s a contender for one of Blink-182’s best albums to date. It feeds the nostalgia for the original Blink lineup, but it also marks a point of rock maturity for the group. Sonically, different songs pull from different eras in DeLonge, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker’s lives.

TERRIFIED brings listeners back to Box Car Racer days; ANTHEM PART 3 is a satisfying follow up to Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’s song Anthem Part Two; TURN THIS OFF! speaks to short, humorous songs like Happy Holidays, You Bastard; and See You (a bonus track) has a very Angels & Airwaves-esque intro.  

This album was specifically made for long-time fans of the band, bringing listeners back to previous albums and moments. But it also stands out as a phenomenal alternative-rock album for those who might not know the band’s work. The production is crisp, lending to the maturity in Blink’s sound. But it doesn’t stray too far from what their devoted fans love them for: Catchy melodies, rapid drum solos, duo vocals from DeLonge and Hoppus, and punk anthems about love, broken homes and life’s curveballs. CHILDHOOD notes how much they’ve changed throughout the years, reflecting on the mistakes and wanting to go back to the way it was before.

Pay attention to the layers of each song. It’s poppy. It’s catchy. The songs are rhythmic, but they use real instruments rather than synthesizers or overdubs. This is what made Blink-182 a driving force in the pop-punk genre, which the music industry is seeing a revival in. 

The album has 19 tracks, giving listeners plenty to choose from—and each song holds its own weight. It captures the band’s enjoyment in experimenting and making music the members love.  

Check out my review of Blink-182’s single EDGING here.  

4. Shakey Graves, Movie of the Week 

Shakey Graves Movie of the Week cover art
Shakey Graves Movie of the Week album cover art

There isn’t a Shakey Graves album that I don’t listen to from start to finish, but this one takes the cake. It begs me to go through the 50-minute journey each time—if I don’t, it almost feels wrong.

Movie of the Week is a spooky, cinematic journey through the world around frontman Alejandro Rose-Garcia. And it’s only one snippet of an imaginative project that takes the band to new heights.   

The album is a body of work that came out of Garcia’s approach to writing a movie soundtrack. After turning in some tracks and realizing he and the director saw the movie very differently, Garcia decided to build from those ideas for what’s now a new Shakey Graves era.   

 Starting as a solo project for Garcia back in 2011, Shakey Graves has gone from a stripped-down folk sound to drawing more influences from alternative rock, nodding to artists such as The Kinks, Elliot Smith, Broken Social Scene and Built to Spill. But Movie of the Week isn’t a typical rock album. It’s an animated extension of Garcia and his backing band, The Problem.   

The album is draped in lush instrumentation, making it fresh on each listen. Movie of the Week marks a new chapter for Shakey Graves, one that pays attention to the visuals, emotion and rawness behind the music.   

Check out my full album review here.   

3. Caroline Rose, The Art of Forgetting 

Caroline Rose The Art of Forgetting Album album cover art

I’m the type of music listener who prefers to listen to albums from start to finish, rather than playing singles at random times.

The Art of Forgetting is one of the albums in my rotation. It’s a beautifully cohesive piece of art about the art of moving through trauma, relationships and healing for oneself. The album essentially makes sense in its entirety.  

The album starts slowly and mysteriously, before kicking into high gear with Miami. Caroline Rose’s first album since 2020’s Superstar, Caroline Rose dug into the depths of themself. The album is crisply produced and full in sound—heavy in booming percussion and bass. But despite being a cohesive album, each song is quite different in range. They treated the album as a form of audio-documentary, with audio clips and messages from their grandmother throughout. Possibly a note to their support system and living up to an image.  

While lyricism takes the gold on this album, the groovy rock instrumentation and use psychedelic synth are not lost on me. Rose spent just as much time on the music as they did on the lyrical meaning. This indie rocker knows how to keep it fresh with pop, folk and Americana tendencies.   

2. Slow Pulp, Yard 

Slow Pulp Yard album cover art

This was another album I had the pleasure of indulging in early on. Thanks to my first-ever bout of COVID-19, I had to miss out on Slow Pulp’s Chicago show in November—but having seen the band multiple times already, I can imagine the live performance lived up to my expectations.  

Yard shows that the band understands the power of isolation. Recording some vocals and chords individually, the band also knows when to bring it all together—intentionally balancing the process to create an album full of nuances.  This is Slow Pulp’s second full-length album and puts the band’s growth together on display.

Singer Emily Massey takes a leap with her vocals on the album, highlighting her ability to let go a bit. Hitting a higher pitch on some songs, her voice is almost reminiscent of folk-rock singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers.   

Slow Pulp takes new approaches to writing and recording Yard. The album shows off a more Americana spirit than previous efforts, including more pedal steel, harmonica and banjo. But Slow Pulp doesn’t drop its pop-punk tendencies completely. It maintains a sound that suggests the gritty, yet folk punk of Superchunk, The Breeders and Liz Phair.   

Check out my full album review here.  

1. Ratboys, The Window 

Ratboys - The Window cover artwork by Jennifer Cronin
Ratboys’ The Window cover artwork by Jennifer Cronin

Ratboys’ The Window is the band’s most cohesive and complete album to date. It’s light and airy, with folk influences and buzzing instrumentation. The album displays Ratboys at its absolute best, featuring the same energy it’s had on past records, but homing in on an Americana drive. The use of instruments such as rototoms, talk boxes and fiddles helps make the band feel more connected, and that connection is evident on stage.  

For me, a big aspect of my connection to music is developed during a live performance. I can adore a digital album, but once I have a visceral reaction to it live, there’s no changing my mind.

I attended Ratboys’ record release show in Chicago in September and had memorized all the lyrics to every song by then—the day of the release. That’s the beauty of reviewing an album and getting access to it a tad earlier than everyone else. I devoured The Window. I listened to it multiple times a day for two weeks straight before initially writing a review on it. So, by the time of the record release, I got to enjoy it live from a hardcore fan perspective.  

I’m a lyrics gal, and The Window delivered such a powerful and comforting message for me. It’s frontwoman Julia Steiner’s most inward-looking take on songwriting, with a recurring theme of windows making a metaphorical and literal appearance on multiple songs.  The Window is a raw reflection of love and grief through light-hearted humor. The Ratboys have come to a place as musicians where the band’s music speaks for itself—every ounce of emotion is felt through Steiner’s vocals and the vibrations of instruments.   

In songs like Bad Reaction, I can find my own meaning in the shared experience of grief and longing. If you are a music fan who keenly listens to lyrics, The Window is an audio form of poetry. And it’s sonically soothing and dynamic.   

Ten years as a band, and for the first time with a full-time lineup, Ratboys are in a place musically that it was always meant to be. The Window is an emotionally satisfying collection of music that listeners might walk away from with a sense of gratitude for the life they lead.   

Check out my full album review here.  

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Kendall Polidori is The Rockhound, Luckbox’s resident rock music critic. Follow her reviews on Instagram and Twitter. @rockhoundlb