We're not even half way through 2013 and we've already been blessed with dozens of incredible releases. It seems like bands worldwide said, "Hey, since the world didn't end, let's work our butts off and put out an amazing release to award our fans for surviving the apocalypse!" at the start of this year, and then went to work on new material. The most recent band that has seemed to have done this is The Sheds, a five-piece punk/ska band from Agoura Hills, Calif.
Nearly two years ago, I listened to The Sheds' Self/Doubt EP and was fairly impressed with it. It had some excellent parts on it, but overall, it was missing something that could have the ability to captivate me. This time around, however, on their full length entitled I'll Be Fine, I truly was captivated.
The record gets off to a quick start with the short and fast title track. "I'll Be Fine" immediately made me notice that The Sheds have really found their sound on their debut full length for Mediaskare. Up next are "Everything I Love" and "The Rock & the Wring," respectively. On these tracks, the band mixes together punk and ska sounds well during the verses then brings more of a pop punk feel to the table during the catchy choruses.
The fourth track, which was initially released as an acoustic track a few months ago in a Stripped Down Session for Punks in Vegas, is "Writer's Block." This is one of the fastest songs on the record and it features some spectacular guitar parts, especially during the chorus. After the second chorus, you're hit with an aggressive breakdown-ish part that serves as a nice bridge to the culminating chorus. The next track, "Almost Famous," starts off very slowly – the one weak part of I'll Be Fine. When the track reaches its midway point, though, there's a nice little acoustic guitar part that flows into a strong verse that repeats itself a few times over.
"Bad Things Are Bad" is another very fast song, and it also features the most aggressive part of I'll Be Fine. After a few excellent ska-influenced verses and catchy choruses, Chadwick Johnson (Hundredth) comes in when the guitars shift over to a metal style. Following "Bad Things Are Bad" is "Wrathbone," a track that was also on ...and Now for Something Completely Different. This song is very strong as a whole, but the chorus is particularly impressive, especially on this version.
The final three tracks, "Ignorance is Bliss," "Tunnel Vision" and "You'll Be Fine," are the strongest tracks on the record. "Ignorance is Bliss" makes use of some more fast drumming and riffing and features my personal favourite chorus ("If ignorance is bliss, I'd rather stay miserable"). "Tunnel Vision" is another very impressive track with riffs that reminded me of Misser and vocals that reminded me of Heart to Heart and Last Call. "You'll Be Fine" closes out the record on a strong note with emotion – heard not only in the vocals/lyrics, but also the instruments – that eventually builds up into a huge finish that always sends chills up and down my spine.
I'll Be Fine has it all: aggressive verses, catchy choruses, upbeat drumming, some fast punk solos and well-executed ska-influenced parts. Lyrically, the record also delivers a very strong message, whether it be through the protest for equal rights ("Ignorance is Bliss") or tugging at your heartstrings with songs of daily struggles and heartbreak.
Last year, it was Heart to Heart's self-titled LP that really took my breath away and eventually became my most played release of 2012. After listening to I'll Be Fine on repeat since receiving it (I didn't even sleep last night because I couldn't stop listening to it), I feel a similar way towards The Sheds as I did towards Heart to Heart last year. I'll Be Fine has almost too many redeeming qualities to list and just one very minor miscue (the first half of "Almost Famous"), making it an obvious contender for my favourite punk record of 2013.
For Fans Of: Heart to Heart, Less Than Jake, Last Call