Even for longtime fans of the band, many of us were taken back by surprise by just how good Wake Up, Sunshine is. All Time Low have crafted their quintessential mid-career masterpiece that picks all of the best elements of each of their previous studio album efforts and expands upon these landmark moments with glowing results. The songs never stray too far from what All Time Low have accomplished in the past; they do these moments bigger and better on this record. This is one of those albums that grabs you from the very first listen, doesn’t disappoint, and still leaves you with a feeling of warmth and comfort through each of your repeat spins. In an age where some bands are postponing their releases in favor of garnering more attention in the fall, All Time Low have graced us with an early-summer treat that will stay in our daily rotations for the foreseeable future.
Alex Gaskarth paints a self-loathing picture of himself on the opening track and first single, “Some Kind of Disaster,” as he sings, “I’m a liar, I’m a cynic / I’m a sinner, I’m a saint / I’m a loser, I’m a critic / I’m the ghost of my mistakes / And it’s all my fault that I’m still the one you want / So what are you after? / Some kind of disaster.” This type of self-doubt quickly fades away, though as Gaskarth and his band ooze with confidence and swagger as the rest of the record unfolds. For example, on “Sleeping In,” All Time Low crank up the guitars and coast through the song with newfound ease with shimmering pop verses and a speedy chorus. The improved song structures and approach to their songwriting truly shows all over the LP and All Time Low have very little left to be desired. Each song feels like it takes on its personality and still fits succinctly into the bigger puzzle that is Wake Up, Sunshine.
“Getaway Green” is easily one of the more confident songs that All Time Low have written, and with its excellent guitar attack courtesy of Jack Barakat and Gaskarth, it never loses its momentum. Drummer Rian Dawson has some underrated fills in the track and helps make the chorus hit its intended heights. The song displays a great bridge too, as Gaskarth sings, “Do you want to know how the story ends? / Hazy and spun out, just more than friends / Weekend wonderful, a dizzy dream / A colorful lie, we made a hell of a team.”
Other songs in the front half of the record, such as the cleverly titled “Melancholy Kaleidoscope,” remind fans of the Last Young Renegade and Don’t Panic eras with subtle nods to their past work. From the humming sirens that play in the background of the verses to the overall metaphors of taking the time to do your self-care, the one lyric that stuck with me is the repetitious one of, “You can’t be 100, if you’re only giving 95.” If we don’t aspire to be the best version of ourselves that we can be, then what’s the point? Even somewhat straight-forward All Time Low songs such as “Trouble Is” never feel out of place on a record that has more redeeming moments than any of the recent ATL albums I can think of.
The title track is pure guitar-pop bliss and solidifies everything that the album has going for it. From the great build-up verses to the summery-feeling chorus, the song demands to be blasted on your next care-free drive into the city. The first half of the record closes out with “Monsters” that features a unique collaboration with rapper Blackbear. The driving bass line from Zack Merrick makes the song stomp with the some of the swagger that we have grown accustomed to from pop-punk veterans Fall Out Boy, but now All Time Low are taking their own stab at this type of scene royalty. The rapped verse from their collaborator doesn’t seem as out of place as I was anticipating, and if anything, it actually provided a little more variety to the album.
The interlude sandwiched in the middle of the album provides the listener with a brief chance to reflect on the material from the first half and take a collective breath to prepare for the great songs that follow. “Favorite Place” features another collaboration, this time with The Band CAMINO, and showcases some cool guitar work in the opening moments that initially reminded me of early-Angels & Airwaves. It could have been the best moment on the album if not for the pure gem of a track in “Safe.” It’s on that song that All Time Low come to full terms with their maturation as brilliant songwriters, regardless of what genre you want to plug them into. As fucking massive as the chorus is on this one, the bridge really stuck with me too as Gaskarth sings, “Just put the car in drive / And chase the county lines / You never know how far you’ll go / Ride the coastal highs / For every long goodbye / There’ll be a future down the road /
Why don’t you take a little time to get away?” The vocal effects on the bridge don’t distract from the beauty of the lyrics.
The latter half of the album features two songs that reflect on the changing of time (“January Gloom, Seasons, Pt. 1” and “Summer Daze, Seasons, Pt. 2”), and both of them further balance out the feelings that come with each passing season. The other songs around it, such as the dance-hall ready “Clumsy” are some of the best work of All Time Low’s career and only further showcases a band that genuinely fired on all cylinders on Wake Up, Sunshine. By the time you reach the concluding track of “Basement Noise,” it becomes that much clearer that the direction that All Time Low took was the right choice in the right moment in time for both themselves as people, as well as artists.
Wake Up, Sunshine checks all the boxes on what longtime fans of All Time Low have grown to be drawn to from the four band members, yet they still manage to blow away all preconceived expectations on what their band is or could become. This is a record that is going to stick with me for quite some time, and I’m sure everyone will be able to come back to it whenever they need that pick-me-up moment to help them get through their day.