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Used To Be Valentines' New Album 'The Good Years' Is Pure Pop-Punk

Kayla MorenoOct 7, 2023

Every few years, bands emerge into the scene that have, evidently, spent a lifetime in the middle of it before putting their own efforts on display. Used To Be Valentines is a Bay Area band that achieves this very phenomenon, curating a sound that is familiarly pulling from clear points of reference without refraining from experimentation. Frontman Niels Sorensen has made the album The Good Years a group effort, yet he sticks to his vision unwaveringly. It is an impressive combination of skills – one could argue that this breakthrough album appeared in perfect timing, with a pop-punk renaissance of sorts lingering on everyone's mind.

The Good Years has some standout tracks (namely "Beverly," "Drawing Blanks," and "Things Will Never Change") but it is best appreciated as a whole body of work. This is not a singles album, though the standout tracks could certainly live together as singles too. Starting out slow and melodic with "Tryna Remember," the album paces itself nicely, allowing stories to flow with music and lyrics combined. However, Sorensen & co. stray from some pop-punk stereotypes – he actually hails our shared hometown, for example. And this album sounds like Walnut Creek too. It isn't a replica of something by The Story So Far, thankfully pulling from their own original ideas, but the Bay Area tends to curate an unmistakable pop-punk sound, generally speaking.

That said, The Good Years lives in the same vein as bands like Midtown and Motion City Soundtrack, with Sorensen directly referring to the latter in "Still Into You" (which is not a Paramore cover, by the way). His vocals do tend to steer more in the Justin Pierre category, but the bass throughout the album is an amazing nod to Gabe Saporta's distinct signature style. As people my age – and I mean exactly my age because we were in the same elementary school class – emerge onto the scene, you can tell that there is a desire to pay homage to our chosen heroes while simultaneously leaving one's own marks on the scene. It's a great symbiotic relationship that I hope to see more of my peers achieve, and Used To Be Valentines does this amazingly well.

It's always fascinating to see bassists as frontmen of pop-punk bands because their influence is potent in each record. Mike Dukto of Groundlift and Ross Miller of Dirty Nil co-opted the bass playing on most of the record, but it's evident that they considered how these songs would be played in a live setting, considering Sorensen would be taking the lead. Though it's true pop-punk, the bass track in each song offers a lot of movement, and it honestly captured much of my attention throughout the whole album. I found myself focusing on it more than what I normally would, like guitars or lyrics.

As a debut album, The Good Years offers tremendous promise for Used To Be Valentines' future. The record is great to listen to with some headphones at home but it's definitely made for live performances. I'm interested to see what the band has planned for the future, but this is a great starting point. This cohesive and vulnerable body of work proves that each generation of pop-punk has something valuable to offer the scene.

Keep up with Used To Be Valentines here.