Second albums are a tricky beast to tame with the weight of expectation from fans of the first record and label pressure to be more successful and gain more fans. Decade had two paths to follow: more of the same, high energy, bouncy pop-punk or to grow and explore new musical horizons.
2014’s Good Luck was a punchy, pop-punk riot of a record with many tropes associated with the bands that have come before them, but there was always something a little bit different about them. Thoughtful lyrics, interesting melodies, unusual chord voicings and well structured songs set them apart from their peers and that something different has carried over to Pleasantries.
The risk of taking a different direction is expectation.
When you hear a mind blowing, 10-track debut album all you want, as a fan, is more. It would be easy to write more of the same, but Decade don’t want easy, they want to keep developing their craft and that’s evident right from lead singles “Daisy May” and “Peach Milk”. Both strong singles and stand above the rest of the album as the songs I go back to.
Decade’s focus on catchy melodies remain at the forefront of Pleasantries , but everything is slowed down a notch.
Although the sound is more sophisticated, it does lack a certain power when that big riff or big chorus kicks in. The guitars lack a bit of aggression and emotion that could really make a song like “Peach Milk” that little bit better and harder hitting when it counts. This criticism is a small one, but it’s those small margins that can make a big difference. As many modern records are, everything is just a bit too perfect and compressed. It comes across as a bit robotic and doesn’t match the emotion being conveyed by Alex Sears’ vocals.
Sears’ voice is one of the strongest parts of this band. He has range and a tonal quality you don’t hear too much in rock music. It helps the more intimate “Capsules” draw you in before the big rock crescendo. It also helps give them a broader appeal, which is important part of being successful in music (like it or not).
Overall, Pleasantries is a confident release from a band that is not resting on their laurels.
Moving away from a straightforward pop-punk sound into something bigger and more ambitious takes courage. It triumphs in places with undeniable sing-a-longable choruses and is a bit flat in others. They’re a young band and they are growing. This is a steady progression with a record that won’t set the world on fire, but it will be an important step in the right direction. Keep an eye on Decade.