I think it’s safe to say that last year felt like a vacation in hell for all involved. We’re all crawling into the new year with stab wounds and emotional scarring, but the optimist in me says that it has to be for the better. The silver lining to that mushroom cloud a year is that it was saturated with non-stop waves of incredible music. It seemed like something new and exciting was coming out every other week and listeners could not catch a break. Given those circumstances, I’m willing to (maybe) forgive you for (probably) having slept on releases from McCafferty and Heart Attack Man.

Both artists put out some of the best and most captivating music to come from the scene in 2017 (McCafferty’s Thanks. Sorry. Sure made honorable mention in my year-end list and Heart Attack Man’s The Manson Family joined Rozwell Kid in the “I can’t believe I didn’t mention that” awards held in my head the next day), and have since decided to join forces and challenge The New Day for the coveted Tag Team Champions title with a split release coming out February 2nd on both Take This To Heart and Triple Crown Records.

I’d like to think that a little bit of McCafferty lives in all of us. I’d also like to think that you can forgive me for that cornball of a sentence, but I understand if you can’t. McCafferty exists in extremes; the music and lyrics feel saccharine and full of unbridled emotion. The grand romantic that lives inside all of us is often buried beneath layers of social normalizing and not wanting to share that kind of vulnerability with everyone, but that’s never been the case for this band. If they feel it, they’re bound to tell you about it — and it’s not always pretty. Life’s highs and lows are constantly put on full display throughout the McCafferty catalog, and the collection of songs that makes up their half of this split is no exception.

The vocals that open “What Cannot Be Said, Must Be Wept” are the perfect introduction to McCafferty. Nick’s voice is often mawkish and guttural and their pointed delivery allows listeners to feel the intent behind every word, giving us an open invitation into their headspace. If you don’t find yourself lovingly mocking the way they sing “It was an open casket funeral and my body had the nerve to say it was bored” then you’ll probably find yourself screaming and pounding your chest to “I bet that he cared for you/the way that I wanted to/Know that your kids are kind/realized I ruined my life.

“Fountain” is the record’s acoustic song– and one that will bear a comparison that McCafferty has been trying to shake since their inception. I won’t name any names, you can just google the band’s earlier work if there’s any hint of curiosity. I will say that this sickeningly sweet love-song is bound to bury itself in your head and your heart, and I can guarantee that you’ll find yourself dancing in place and singing “I remember last November/sounds the way you move/the way you howl up at the moon/when I’m with you/’cause you love me/and I love you.” (Valentine’s day is next month and this is bound to be a surefire hit with EVERYBODY this year.)

Heart Attack Man wastes no time ripping into their half of this release. The brand of apathetic slacker punk that was present on last year’s triumphant The Manson Family has been reigned in and refined– and we’ve got the two best songs to come from this band as a result.

“99% (Comfortable)” is a song that sees the narrator feeling uncharacteristically comfortable with their current place in life. The verses talk about everything that’s kept them anchored in the negative headspace that they call home, from anxiety creeping in to try and convince them that all of their friends actually hate them, to the scarily relatable notion that things can only be going well if you’re deep in the trenches of a dream. This gives way to a chorus that feels just as good to hear as it does to scream along too– a blistering, heartfelt, and dizzying delivery of the lyrics, “I don’t deserve to feel this comfortable in my own skin/I’m 99% sure that this isn’t real/is this even real?

“100mg (millennial)” is hands down the track that best represents what Heart Attack Man brings to the table. The entire song feels baked in the kind of scathing nihilism that exists at the heart of punk-rock as Heart Attack Man does a half-hearted and sardonic read through a list of stereotypes that have become associated with their generation that carries over into the sarcastic and infectious chorus of “I’m living in a hollow shell/is it possible to die when you’re already in hell?/my uncertainty is ever-lasting and perennial/because I’m a millennial.” 

You can stream the split in full below. I hope you’re on a break or something, because ripping yourself away from this one is near impossible.

McCafferty/Heart Attack Man split is due out February 2nd on Take This To Heart and Triple Crown Records. Snag your copy here.