The Gaslight Anthem, HANDWRITTEN

The Gaslight Anthem are back -- and on their fourth album Handwritten the rockers utilize a stripped-down sound that is a terrific blend of classic rock and near-punk sensibility.

As with their previous albums, the Gaslight Anthem sing primarily about loves lost, youth lost, and on "Keepsake" lost family. There's a sense of nostalgia for the old days of music as well: The album opens with "45" comparing an old relationship to a '45 record, and the title track proclaims "and to ease the loss of youth/ and how many years I've missed you/ pages plead forgiveness/ every word handwritten." The band only jumps to the present on the mournful album closer "National Anthem," where the band says, "And everybody lately is living up in space/ flying through airwaves on invisible transmissions/ with everything discovered just waiting to be known/ What's left for God to teach from His throne? And who will forgive us when He's gone?"

Fortunately, the band's looks back at old loves and losses is matched by some pretty powerful music. Brian Fallon's vocals are as strong as ever, as packed with emotion and power as Eddie Vedder at his prime. The rest of the band backs him with a punk-sounding sound filled with catchy guitar hooks and exciting drums. Handwritten isn't as deep as some of the Gaslight Anthem's previous albums, but it is as exciting to listen to as any album you're likely to hear this year.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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