Vinnie Caruana – “Aging Frontman” (Know Hope Records)

With the sullen lines ‘unlock your tired heart, we won’t have this pain forever, just let your demons free, let the warmth wash over you,’ The Movielife frontman Vinnie Caruana embarks on perhaps his most emotional and introspective journey yet of his tenured solo career with his latest EP Aging Frontman. ‘Do I make you better?’ he stridently asks on opener “Better,” just the first of a handful of reflective tracks to come. From there, “Dying in the Living Room” delivers immersive textures awash in hazy screams, the brooding “I Love You, Please Watch Over Us” offers a brief respite from the rest of Aging Frontman via fuzzed out guitar strums, “Providence” is a slice of folksy, front porch Americana, and “Tex ‘The Rock’ Johnson” closes out Aging Frontman with some serious country western vibes. Aging Frontman finds Caruana pouring his heart onto wax for all the world to hear, which was clearly the most difficult part of the process, and all we have to do is listen, which is the easy part.

Go Download: “Better”

The Contortionist – “Our Bones” (eOne)

Bands should never be faulted for taking risks. For thinking outside the box. For forging a new sonic path. Enter The Contortionist and their adventurous new EP, Our Bones. Combining elements of post-rock, dream-pop, shoegaze, metal and more, Our Bones drops listeners down a subversive rabbit hole, right from the start. Opener “Follow” is about as tempered a pacesetter as you’ll find, thanks to immersive soundscapes complete with fuzzy riffs and atmospheric screams, “Empty Grave” is a truly expansive work brimming with a wide-ranging array of sounds, including dissonant shrieks, resonating cymbal crashes and engulfing harmonies. ‘And I know it feels like you’re drowning these days, and I know you question if it’s too late, and my only hope is that you choose to stay, ’cause you’re more than, you’re more than an early grave,’ frontman Michael Lessard sings during the track’s chorus. The all-too-brief “All Grey” pivots Our Bones down an entirely new emotional path, thanks to the minimalist lines, ‘you’d say, “I wonder how death found me?, and how I might not be the worst, but I’d always be your first,” these days only grey surrounds me, as I watch all you were slowly fall into the earth, all greys.’ The Contortionist save some of their best work for last on Our Bones with a brilliant, dreamy take on the Smashing Pumpkins’ hit “1979,” knocking it literally out of the park with the shot-for-shot remake. The entirety of Our Bones plays like a dream; a passionate four-song lullaby that flexes both the innate talent and sheer songwriting chops of The Contortionist.

Go Download: “Empty Grave”

Various Artists – “Punk Goes Acoustic Volume 3 (Fearless Records)

As the vaunted Punk Goes… series turns old enough to legally buy a beer in Canada (yes, folks, it’s 19 this year, feel old yet?), it bucked tradition and got us a gift instead in the form of Punk Goes Acoustic Volume 3, a record 12 years in the making (Vol. 2 was released in 2007).

After a bombastic start (well, as bombastic as an acoustic song can be) with Dance Gavin Dance’s “Story of My Bros,” plucked from their 2018 release Artificial Selection, Punk Goes Acoustic Volume 3 bombs down memory line with a run of tracks dripping in tear-jerking nostalgia, beginning with Circa Survive’s folksy, dusty road version of their classic “Act Appalled,” the lead single off 2005’s debut album Juturna, aka the track that made us all fall in love with those dudes back in the day. Taking Back Sunday’s “A Decade Under the Influence” continues the run of wistfulness with memorable lines and timeless hooks, before Dashboard Confessional (DC on an acoustic record seems redundant, just saying) will send you reaching for the nearest box of Kleenex with the iconic “Screaming Infidelities.” The second song off 2001’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most immediately transports me personally back to a different time – hanging with good friends, listening to music, journaling and writing poetry at a local diner without a care or responsibility in the world. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Mayday Parade continues the incredible run with a brilliant version of their A Lesson in Romantics standout “Take This To Heart.”

Movements deliver an album highlight with “Colorblind” midway through Punk Goes Acoustic Volume 3, which keeps firing off bullets until the very end. The record doesn’t slow (acoustic record…slow…fun with puns!) during its latter half. Set If Off makes sure of that with a killer take on their 2014 tune “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing,” as does the duo of As It Is (“Okay”) and Grayscale (“Atlantic”), whose back-to-back delicate strummers truly steal the show. And serving as a cherry on top of the sundae that is Punk Goes Acoustic Volume 3, The Almost’s “Hand Grenade,” already an acoustic track, is reimagined into a smoky, lounge tome.

Punk Goes Acoustic Volume 3 is a perfect blend of old school mixtape favorites and their contemporaries, providing a heaping helping of nostalgia to go along with unique takes on some modern tracks. It’s pretty fucking great, to put it plainly.

Go Download: “A Decade Under the Influence” – Taking Back Sunday