California’s New Years Day have swapped the terse aggression found in their last record, 2015’s ‘Malevolence’, for optimism and self-assurance with its follow-up and their fourth studio album, ‘Unbreakable’, which also sees a streamlined and melodic take on their foundations with movement towards new avenues.
Marking his first full-length with the group, guitarist Austin Ingerman joins forces with Nikki Misery to deliver spiky chords and heavy grooves that circle around the record’s opening track, ‘Come For Me’. Showcasing a melding of electronic soundscapes and the strong vocal range of Ash Costello, the record treads familiar ground with an abundance of energy.
After catering to their existing audience, ‘MissUnderstood’ begins to develop the new sound that’s hidden within the album’s confines. Piano melodies wrap around Costello‘s croon, crafting a dark pop atmosphere to create a stark contrast against the twisting riffs and gritty vocals of the chorus. Playing with a simple structure, the track is elevated by the dynamic accents of drummer James Renshaw, pushing it through to a stomping finale.
The sonic experimentation of the record takes different forms, from the weaving string section found on ‘Done With You’ to the off-kilter synths that lead the way during ‘Nocturnal’. Inevitably, with taking risks, missteps are bound to occur, as found on the contemporary R&B tinged ‘Shut Up’, a track that does have its moments yet unfortunately doesn’t have the impact that was definitely intended.
Arguably, the group are at their best when centered on tight compositions and a focus on Costello‘s vocal hooks, with songs like ‘Skeletons’ displaying a simple but memorable hook that’s certainly going to be a live staple. This isn’t to say that Costello is the strongest member; everyone delivers and pulls their weight on the likes of ‘Break My Body’ and ‘My Monsters’.
The former is a rip-roaring ride through bursting chords and an effective call-and-response chorus, all the while being held down by Frankie Sil‘s bouncing bass line, whereas the latter cements the groups new sonic venture, melding soft piano melodies with chugging guitars to satisfying results.
With the group taking a bold leap with new sounds, there are lagging moments, but when they hit the mark, New Years Day deliver stomping choruses and infectious riffs that worm their way in and embed themselves in your head for hours. Regardless, ‘Unbreakable’ is a record that delivers some career standout moments, and is unquestionably a step towards a new era for the group.