If you spent any amount of time on Tumblr in 2013, you're probably pretty familiar with the band Neck Deep. From the constant music reblogs, to the terrible fan edits (seriously, overlaying lyrics on top of a picture of a mountain isn't creative) Neck Deep is a name that has been everywhere. Despite having only formed less than two years ago and having only played two shows on American soil thus far, they are already signed to one of the largest labels in the scene today. Just a little over a year after their first release, we now have one of the most anticipated debut albums of 2014.
So does Wishful Thinking live up to the hype? The answer is fairly straight forward. If you enjoyed their previous EPs Rain In July and A History of Bad Decisions, you know what to expect. While the album is a tried formula, it welcomes you in with its sincerity. Plain and simple, this is a Pop Punk album for those who love the genre.
The lyrics, while stereotypical girls/friends/heartbreak fare, are delivered with Ben Barlow's English snarl, and he's never sounded better. The instrumentation is nothing too extraordinary, but you have to give them some credit for the riffs on songs such as “Crushing Grief (No Remedy)”, breaking away from the often overused power-chord oriented format. The real gem that really shines through is how catchy these songs are; you'll have a particularly hard time getting the chorus on “Growing Pains” out of your head. The album closes on a particularly strong note with the track “Candour”, which is one of the finest songs the band has released to date. Featuring vocals from Laura Whiteside (who previously contributed to Neck Deep's breakout song “A Part of Me”) and a beautiful melancholy tone that builds into a fantastic crescendo, this is easily one of the best album closers on a Pop Punk release since “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral”.
Wishful Thinking does have it's issues however. The re-recorded “What Did You Expect?” is rather tame and weak in comparison to the original. The extra bite and angst in Ben's voice is not anywhere to be found on this version. As well, the centerpiece track “Zoltar Speaks” is a bit of a tonal shift, switching to a more hardcore sound. It just doesn't flow very well and it is definitely one of the weakest tracks on the album.
After the amazing releases in the genre last year (Particularly The Greatest Generation, Before It Caves and The Finer Things), Wishful Thinking just doesn't really compare. But while it is bringing nothing entirely new to the table, this is one album that will be talked about for quite awhile in the Pop Punk community. Maybe on the next release Neck Deep will change it up just a little bit and find their own unique voice in this over-crowded genre.