At first listen, it seems Set Your Goals has gone soft with their latest record, Burning At Both Ends. Their most recent release strays from the usual hard-hitting and heavier punk sound more prominent on This Will Be the Death Of Us. Overall, they have toned down the heavy guitars, the strong chant worthy gang vocals, and the two-step reeling breakdowns. In its place is a record that seems to put more “pop” into “pop punk,” with an abundance of softer melodies. But upon second listen, and third and fourth (and the many other listens this incredibly catchy album will induce), fans will find that beneath all the heavy changes, they haven’t really changed much at all.
Properly titled, Burning at Both Ends lyrical content is based heavily around the toughest year in vocalist Matt Wilson’s life, experiencing both his mother’s death and his less-than-supportive family. Although, sonically, the album sounds poppy and upbeat, lyrically, it’s fueled by anger and hopelessness. With songs like “Happy New Year,” Wilson reveals his loneliness and his seemingly irreversible melancholy. The noteworthy “Start the Reactor” is the best example of the band’s new pop sound. Set against the backdrop of guitarists Dan Coddaire and Audelio Flores Jr.’s powerful catchy riffs, it’s a justification for their unorthodox lifestyle, as well as an ode to the freedom of youth – a common theme on many pop punk albums. “Exit Summer” is the most reminiscent of their previous rough and fast skate punk sound. Mike Ambrose feeds speedy drum hits behind the band’s signature dueling vocals, with Jordan Brown and Wilson taking turns singing about the journey from musical underdogs to their life touring the world.
So yes, at first the album sounds like the softer, more sensitive little brother of This Will Be The Death Of Us, but deep beneath the happier upbeat sound and devastating lyrics, Burning At Both Ends has the same bite, honesty and intensity that is Set Your Goals. (Epitaph, epitaph.com) Janet Adamana