By Zach Hester

The sequel to AJR’s 2017 debut, The Click, had quite a bit to live up to. That record really made the band a name that people would recognize. The self-aware sequel, Neotheater, does live up to what its predecessor set up.

Neotheater is AJR’s (brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan Met) second album and chronicles a coming-of-age story through lots of vivid, pointed lyrics.

The album as a whole has a really light hearted sound but darker lyrics, a trend that seems to be developing more and more in pop music, and I don’t mind it. The opener “Next Up Forever”, for example, sounds like something out of a Disney movie at times, but discusses fear of “dropping this album / let’s push it back one more week.” It’s this blatant insecurity that sets the tone for the rest of the record.

Both lead single “100 Bad Days” and “Break My Face” roll over the concept of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you more interesting’ and the lone ballad on the record “Turning Out Pt. ii” is a sequel to a song from The Click.

“The Entertainment’s Here” follows that track with jackpot jazz and a lot of fun, but the main course for me personally are three very different songs: “Birthday Party”, “Don’t Throw Out My Legos”, and “Karma.” The first is written from the point of view of an innocent baby who doesn’t know the world yet, and the last is a narrative of Jack talking to his therapist on why “good karma isn’t coming back to him.” “Don’t Throw Out My Legos” is simply about holding on to youth, something that most of us in our mid-20s can relate to. It’s got a lot of choppy beats, but some really nice, engaging words to sing along  with.

As a whole, this record is about dancing and parading through the tragic and dull moments that come with growing up, especially when you feel like your best days could be behind you. Across these 12 songs, a story is told and each song executes that narrative fairly well. AJR will always be there to produce a catchy tune, but Neotheater really saw them step up their game.

Rating: ★★★½

Best Songs: Birthday Party, Don’t Throw Out My Legos, 100 Bad Days, Karma