So Many Dynamos' debut When I Explode was a potent, but very mixed bag of pop punk music that satisfied in small bursts, but didn't have enough variety for staying power. The group toured their butts off with the release, playing 95 shows in the lower 48 states and then took some time off to work on recording a follow-up.
Flashlights is the result, and while it's still a smidgen inconsistent (mainly the second half), it's a huge step up in songwriting, with eleven tracks rushing by in under forty minutes and an expanded instrumental (and vocal) palette, the album contains some of the best pop-punk anthems I've heard lately (other than The Thermals). "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" opens the album and in under two minutes blasts with rumbling builds and huge blowout choruses that include a 20-piece choir. The track flows right into "Search Party," and the track is just as solid, with insane rhythm sections that burst into dance-punk sections while lead singer Aaron Stovall spits out his bests lines on the release in dramatic fashion.
In addition to the fairly standard lineup of two guitars / bass and drums, there are little bursts of synth, some horns, backing-choirs, and even some moments where they take things down a notch with precision. Comparisons could easily be drawn to the Dismemberment Plan or even Q And Not U, as the band keeps things adventurous in terms of direction changes in songs and odd timing signatures (that are still largely hummable). "Progress" might be one of the most poppy things that the group has ever done, alternately between more airy sections and heavy layers of crunchy guitars.
Although it's definitely clean and sharp, the production of the album seems to carry over the raucous live feel of the band as the vocals of Stovall cut through the mix and just about everything has a slight bit of open-room reverb on it. It's more apparent on slower tracks like "How High The Moon," but the super-fun "In Every Direction" breathes with some of the same open-air feel (especially when the huge choral ending hits). As mentioned before, the album seems to lose just a step during the second half (especially on tracks like the somewhat ambling "We Vibrate, We Do" and the overly jumpy "Inventing Gears"), but there's still a whole lot here to like. Oh, and if they come through your town, check out their great live show.