What would you do if you’d spent the last three years in a world getting over a pandemic and lived the surreal experience of weeks trapped in quarantine? You might write an album like New Game +, an album dedicated to days gone past and the pain of nostalgia. It would seem to be an album formed from the harsh reality of facing yourself while in lockdown. Growing up is hard, Palette Knife’s new album New Game+ is a soundtrack to growing pains.
Last year, the band released singles from their forthcoming album, “Avatar The Last Cakebender” and “Jelly Boi”. The follow-up to their debut album, New Game+, sheds them of their fledgling beginnings and establishes Palette Knife’s place in pop punk. The Ohio-based band has it all, songwriting skills, cheesy references and catchy melodies. They’re a band from the Midwest and sound like it.
The album is a reminder that keepsakes of the past don’t have to be let go. It’s complete with video game sound effects that echo in intros and bridges throughout the album. Although many of the album’s titles are very silly and nod to popular video games and TV shows, the lyrics of these songs speak to the band’s underlying anxieties of relationship troubles, feelings of growing older, and regrets of the past.
Standout tracks are “Quotients”, “Letters from Mom Town”, “And That’s A Rock Fact” .
The opening track, “Death Screen” features a raw intro as if putting in and starting a video game, it’s reminiscent of childhood nostalgia with lyrics that hint to adulthood problems. While, death screens usually tell the end of the game for video gamers, this track is placed at the beginning of the album for Palette Knife. Which could either be dismal, or a hopeful reference to a chance at restarting. Either way, the solemn guitar and snare rhythm echoes life in Ohio. It’s a playful tune and yet is a carefully constructed introduction to the sad, complex, and conflicting emotions of the rest of the album.
The plucky fast-paced guitar riffs and heavy responsive drums of “Quotients” make it an easy favorite. It’s bright and energetic, yet tells the woes of still being attached to an ex. An ex who the singer sees again at their wedding, tough. The lyrics are gut-punching, “I wondered quietly to myself, why none of your friends showed up to watch your life change?” and “I never caught the name of your partner.” With its unique riffs and rhythm, it’s almost a rock waltz reminiscing on the end of a relationship.
The song leads into the chorus with lyrics,
Forging the narratives on your postcards
Dancing with skeletons in your bathtub
I’ve still got skin and muscle
It’s so good to see you
And tells of the relatable experience of losing those once close to you,
My life is a game show
called watching us atrophy into good friends
then old friends
and just acquaintances
to people we knew once.
It’s an honest open song, tinged with regret and missing old days. And yet, the lyrics hint at a break of maturity in response to a changing relationship.
“Letters From Mom Town” is a refreshing contrast from the album’s songs, it features light airy vocals of Ceci Clark from the band, Left Out. Her vocals flow into the album and blend with the lead singer Alec Licata, effortlessly, you don’t question why they’re there, it just works. It’s a welcome and unexpected intermission that propels the final parts of the album. A seeming ballad with lyrics about wasting time and worrying.
The best part about “Science is Spooky Sometimes” is the ending (in the best way possible). This song is not exempt from the band’s addicting riffs. The band clearly works well together with Alec Licata (vocals and guitar), Chris McGrath (bass) and Aaron Queener (drums), they’re a group that’s matchmade. Every member has a distinct part and yet they blend into the unique sound of Palette Knife without overriding each other.
The trio is completely in tune, and this song’s outro is one of the best examples of that.
“…And That’s A Rock Fact” is an ending track with another fantastic guitar riff and rhythm, a consistency in the album. It’s an almost thank you for listening track. The outro once again features video game synths, a perfect way to close the album, as if watching the end credits of a video game scroll by. Palette Knife’s music is a reminder to never let go of nostalgia and the essence of who you are as you grow older.
Palette Knife’s sophomore album will be out on platforms, January 20th . Visit their Bandcamp and Spotify to give it a listen.