Key Tracks: “Life As A Petting Zoo,” “Diet Coke Saint”
2023 has already seen the debuts from genre-defying groups like Mandy, Indiana and Model/Actriz, and the debut album from new group daycare is no different. The Minnesota band bills itself as being pop-punk flair, and as “College as Daycare / Daycare as Heaven or Hell” kicks off, it seems like an apt indicator. But the album never finds comfortable territory, charging through a few other influences and ideas, in a delightful way.
The opener “Failed Disney Plot” is really only about 30 seconds long, an acoustic sensitive emo track that sounds closer to a Front Bottoms cut than anything. “Secs ‘n Babes” follows, showcasing the band’s spunky energy that they’ve prided themselves on. It’s the most characteristically pop-punk track on the album; energetic, ripe with tempo changes, and tongue-in-cheek references amidst more reflective lyrics. While I’m personally not big into pop-punk, these two songs prove themselves catchy as hell, and show the band can hang.
Daycare never intended to be a group – they only “formed” last year, as an excuse to put a few lingering songs to tape. Although a new group, the members – Andy Evren (vocals/guitar), Michael Kuhn (bass), and Eli Phillips (drums) – are seasoned songwriters, and those years show across the flowing nature of the album.
What I find interesting about this album is how it feels structured like a natural progression. The third track, “Life As A Petting Zoo,” exists well-within the confines of pop-punk, but has a more balanced rhythm and less referential lyrics. It feels like a Dirty Nil song more than anything – high praise in my eyes. From there, the band moves into more indie-inspired tunes. “funny” and “Xtian Boy” both feel like straight indie songs, especially with lyrics centered in religion. “DAYCARE” and “Rideout” are the same way – two great ballads on the album’s back half that stray far from the limits of pop-punk. “New Year’s Dissolution” is a great mid-album banger, with some strong energy, great guitar work and cool tempo changes. It’s also a song that can really only fall under “punk.” Late-album track “i.d.k.t.b.o.m.h.” is really the only time the band embraces pop-punk/emo again, fully, and it’s a much more-toned down track. And, as progressions logically go, the final track feels the furthest from the first. “Diet Coke Saint” is a straight indie ballad, complimented by haunting guest vocals and twangy guitar. It’s also maybe the best track on the album, and it comes as a real surprise given what came before it.
While some of the songs on this album won’t sound like the most exciting songwriting of the year, there’s a lot of interesting ideas. A lot of these songs rely on tempo changes, which feels like a nice symbol of how the band eschews any specific genre labels. It’s a very fun album, even through the more honest songs, which can be a difficult balance to capture on a debut. Also impressive for a debut is the production – the vocals sound crisp, and the band is all mixed well. All in all, there are some songs that sound a step above others, but this is a very solid punk debut. Daycare may not have intended to stick around after this, but they’ve begun booking shows – so check them out if you’re in Minneapolis!
“College As Daycare / Daycare As Heaven Or Hell” releases this Friday, June 9th. You can pre-order the album and stream the single “Life As A Petting Zoo” on their bandcamp page.