With a band name taken from a Jawbreaker lyric and guest vocals by Rival Schools’ Walter Schreifels, it’s easy to mistake Nightmares For A Week’s Don’t Die as an emo throwback. Granted, that would only be half a mistake. The New York trio packs its debut album with chiseled, sinewy pop-punk that’s unafraid to rip out its guts and fly them up the flagpole. Singer-guitarist Bill Manley uses maudlin-yet-anthemic songs like “Baby” and “Bear Mountain”—catchy, imagistic confessionals unabashedly in thrall to Jawbreaker’s Dear You—to anchor occasional tracks full of acoustic guitar, organ, and accordion, such as the twangy “Lightning Rod.” There are other inspirations at play—most notably Lucero’s hardscrabble roots-rock, which lately has become the default setting for post-hardcore groups trying to sound grown-up and sensitive—and Manley and crew aren’t afraid to cozy up to the blue-collar grit of The Gaslight Anthem. In spite of an overt derivativeness, though, Don’t Die’s impeccable songcraft and messy catharsis bleed through. If that kind of emotive, unguarded approach sounds quaint at this point in punk history, that’s punk’s fault, not this band’s.

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