“Twice a week I pass by the church that held your funeral
And the pastor’s words come pouring down like rain
How he called you a sinner and said now you walk with Jesus
So the drugs that took your life aren’t gonna cause you any pain
I don’t think he even knew your name
And I refuse to kneel and pray
I won’t remember you that way

I lit you a candle in every cathedral across Europe
And I hope you know you’re still my patron saint
I tried to forgive, but I can’t forget the cigar in his fist
I know that they were heartsick, but I need someone to blame
And I know how they blamed me
I know what you’d say
You’d tell me it was your fault
I should put all my arrows away.

I’m sure there ain’t a heaven
But that don’t mean I don’t like to picture you there
I’ll bet you’re bumming cigarettes off saints
And I’m sure you’re still singing
But I’ll bet that you’re still just a bit out of key

That crooked smile pushing words across your teeth

Cause you were heat lightning
Yeah, you were a storm that never rolled in
You were the northern lights in a southern town,
A constant fleeting thing.

I’ll bury your memories in the garden
And watch them grow with the flowers in spring
I’ll keep you with me.”

August is hands-down the strangest time of year. The slow, gorgeous fade of summer begins, fall creeps in around the edges, and every few years or so, my life turns upside down. Given that cycle has continued here in 2015, with the most significant sentimental loss I’ve ever faced, I’m ready to move forward, and with that comes the corresponding soundtrack. I am undeniably, unimaginably excited for the new record from The Wonder Years this fall and the subsequent tour – so much so that writing down sentences about it makes my finger tingle and I smile to myself. Some things don’t change, and that’s the way I feel about this band.

With just two songs out, I can already tell “No Closer to Heaven” is going to be an epic, dramatic album – the kind that “The Greatest Generation” was and continues to be. I see l some of my friends and acquaintances roll their eyes when I tell them I’m still – yes, still – really into pop punk and emo music. They’re especially shocked if they’ve only been familiar with my folk and indie obsessions. But I can’t get over the heightened aggression and flair for dramatic. I can’t stop wanting my heart torn out I cannot stop being impressed by Dan Campbell cutting right to the quick of it, and saying it like it is.

I’ve been binging on “Cigarettes and Saints” today, and I’ve decided this song really crushes it. There’s some kind of triumph behind that first guitar line, crystal-clear and resonant as it fades, only to come back in a patient pattern before the song erupts. The structure overall is drawn out, but purposefully so, like a funeral march, and the second half of the song begins with an anxious tone before finding its footing. “My whole generation got lost in the margin,” Campbell sing-screams in the climax, and I can’t help but think how me as well as the 17-year-olds playing this probably feel that way, too. The way he says “I know they blamed me,” breaks my heart. What kills me most about this song is the overloading of religious imagery without reverence. The candles he lights feel significant, but futile, the pastor’s words are empty and fleeting. And yet our narrator forges ahead, he vows to fight the forces that trigger these sad events, swirling in shame and regret and sadness all the awhile. What a feeling. What a story. I can’t wait for more.

“These wolves in their suits and ties
Saying, “Kid, you can trust me”
Charming southern drawl, sunken eyes
Buying good will in hotel lobbies
Buy fistfuls of pills to make sure you don’t hurt no more
You don’t gotta feel anything

Got their fangs in our veins
Got their voice in our head
Got our arms in their grips
No, we can’t shake free

This goddamn machine, hungry and heartless
My whole generation got lost in the margin
We put our faith in you and you turned a profit
Now we’re drowning here under the waves
(We’re no saviors if we can’t save our brothers)
Drowning out under the waves
(We’re no saviors if we can’t save our brothers)
Drowning out, drowning out…

You can’t have my friends,
You can’t have my brothers.
You can’t have my friends,
You can’t have my brothers.
You can’t have my friends,
You can’t have my brothers.
You can’t have me
No, you can’t have me.
” 

~Cigarettes and Saints
The Wonder  Years, No Closer To Heaven