Wonder Years Credit: MEGAN THOMPSON

As Wonder Years front man Dan “Soupy” Campbell spoke to the press while his band prepared to drop their sixth album, April’s Sister Cities (Hopeless), he avidly described the new material as a means to seek out and create connectivity. The six-piece group have always wanted to touch people with their music—their catalog emanates empathy, even unto the suburbs they hoped to escape as young men. And hell, their sweet sound is primed for accessibility, though the pop-punk scene they emerged from is divisive among punk and rock fans—remaining one American product that many actively ignore because it’s so sugary. Unfortunately for them, those who turn their noses up at pop-punk have missed one of the brightest acts in contemporary music—but on Sister Cities the Wonder Years actively bridge the gap between their existing audiences and those who have yet to pay attention. These songs find inspiration in far-flung locales (most obviously Kyoto, Japan, which appears in the title of the first song), and draw from musical influences far beyond the typical pop-punk palette; you could easily pass off the country-tinged ballad “It Must Get Lonely” as a sweeping indie-rock song to a discerning friend, though Campbell’s impassioned howl at the end of the song might give it away. As with any great Wonder Years album (which includes most of them), the tunes on Sister Cities feel bigger than the moments the band zeroes in on in their lyrics—equipped with savvy songwriting chops, they find nuance in very human feelings through their craft and land hard with tremendous accuracy. And sugary or not, isn’t that the kind of music you want to share with everyone?   v