Produced by Kyle Taylor and Joe Shugan
Mastered by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel
The title of Death Party Playground’s latest EP, The Good Years, could be interpreted any number of ways given the current state of the world, but for the band’s leader, singer/songwriter/guitarist Kyle Taylor, it’s actually a fair reflection of his recent creativity.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based power pop trio released its previous album, Little Joy, at the start of 2020, and despite outlets such as Spill Magazine comparing it to classic work by The Replacements and Husker Du, the ensuing lockdown prevented Death Party Playground from getting out on the road to back up those words.
Instead, Taylor took advantage of his isolation time to focus on finishing a new batch of tunes he’d started writing in 2019. By summer 2020, he’d recruited a new rhythm section, bassist/vocalist Jesse Alarcon and drummer Matty Sawyer, and by winter the band was ready to record safely in their practice space with regular producer Joe Shugan.
The end product shows Death Party Playground truly evolving as a band, with greater emphasis on guitars, melody, and Taylor’s vocals, which he feels may have got stronger as a result of singing through a mask during rehearsals.
“Just having a new line-up has changed the approach to my songwriting completely,” Taylor says. “This new EP definitely has a heavier groove, and the songs sound more efficient than on the last record. Considering the circumstances we were working under, I think the entire record was made pretty efficiently overall.”
The opening blast of The Good Years’ title track easily sets a new standard for DPP, with Taylor’s crunching guitar work building to a harmonized climax while Alarcon and Sawyer push the envelope behind him. The pace doesn’t let up with “Make It Home,” a clear choice for a first single due to its pop savviness. In fact, power pop aficionados will likely hear in it the approach Matthew Sweet perfected on his timeless albums Girlfriend and 100% Fun.
The majestic, mid-tempo “Upside Down” follows and confirms that Taylor can go toe-to-toe with the best alt-rock songwriters out there. Combined with his unmistakable vocal delivery, The Good Years makes a strong case that few other bands—perhaps other than Foo Fighters and Dinosaur Jr—are creating rock and roll with such power, confidence, and style.
It says a lot that Taylor’s primary influences are, in fact, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and John Prine, artists to whom the craft is paramount. “Each of these songs was written at a different time and place, but together I feel they capture a sense of hope that went missing when everything shut down. My partner and I really only had each other, and so much of my life was uncertain at the time, but we learned more than ever before how much we get along. I think ‘Upside Down’ came out of an appreciation for that.”
Indeed, Death Party Playground’s The Good Years has the capacity to rekindle an appreciation of rock and roll’s ability to unite us during the darkest of times, while reinforcing the fact that DPP is one of the most exciting Canadian bands on the scene today.