Taking Back Sunday - 152 (Cover Artwork)

Taking Back Sunday

152 (2023)

Fantasy records

Long Island, New York's Taking Back Sunday has graced listeners with another collection of emotive storytelling in 152.

The eighth studio album from the veterans tilts open with the ambient and organic slow-build "Amphetamine Smiles," anchoring vocalist Adam Lazzara's signature crackles to a horizon of layered strings, harmonious singing, and acoustic guitar. The ballad crashes to shore with single "S'old," showcasing the band's edgier delivery in a charming return to form. A naked guitar and Lazzara intro follows with "The One," the anthem, while structurally aligned with 2002's fan favorite "You're So Last Summer," peels the production and sneering angst away, revealing a timeless song that will age as well as the (now) four-piece has successfully done themselves.

"Keep Going" eases in with some catchy vocal hooks before upping the tempo to the highest level thus far, and as usual the drum and bass combo of Mark O'Connell and Shaun Cooper speak for themselves. Their collective tight-knit performances seal the energy level in place at the foreground, while the guitars have been thinned out of the mix for keys, background vocals, and more unique post production. Very smart song. The speed squashes into ballad "I Am The Only One Who Knows You," a calculated slow-jam complete with builds, clever moments, and a total arsenal of Lazzara's range and limits. "Quit Trying" cranks the piano and production even deeper, which is a huge take-away from the entire LP. The ten songs of 152 could easily fit anywhere in the Taking Back Sunday discography, of course, this would require the engineer replacing all of the instrumentals with maxed out drums and loud, distorted guitars. I prefer the 2023 mix and master, as it is indicative of the staying-power of the band after over twenty years of tours and releases.

"Lightbringer" opens with soft synths and perhaps the biggest sing-along melody of the album, "New Music Friday" takes the choir of vocals up an extra notch, drifting along reverb, delay, and some great, honest lyrics. "Just 2 Me" has an excellent intro, compliments of the double-duty guitar and keys from John Nolan, who really shines throughout the entire tracklisting. Nolan has always had such a keen sense of taste with guitar effects, tones, and delays that stand apart from comparable artists, and 152 is even more proof.

The record spirals to an end with the eerie sonic ride "The Stranger," a thoughtfully written epic, and my personal favorite of the ten. The production, as well as Lazzara's vocals, complete a full three-hundred and sixty degrees of moods and styles, as well as some classic Lazzara/Nolan duel vocals, and in under three minutes. Awesome moment, and a great choice in album closer.

Taking Back Sunday has proven time after time that they can shed expectation and legacy as a "2000's pop-punk titan" and write from the heart, and for themselves; a family of human beings that are as aware as their listeners how lucky they are to have one-other to write music with. 152 is a very solid release, much recommend.