“Never Going Back” by Stick and Poke

The latest release from the Vancouver-based folk punk duo Stick and Poke, Never Going Back, is one of the most heartfelt albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Much like their 2014 release Lost Kids, the tracks on Never Going Back seem to center around the themes of alienation, abuse, anxiety, and the people who make life worth living in spite of those things.

Like most folk releases, Never Going Back doesn’t rely much on musical complexity. Instead, the simplicity of the instrumentation allows the vocal harmonies and phenomenal lyrics to shine through, creating a feeling of authenticity throughout the entire album. Who needs complex time signatures and chord progressions when you’ve got lyrics perfectly describing the anxiety triggered by running into an ex at a show, like those in I Don’t Even Smoke, sung in perfect harmony by Al and Lauren?

A lot of songs seem like they’re coping mechanisms for dealing with less than wholesome relationships. Giving Up On You is an anthem celebrating the independence found when you’re able to think, “screw you, I don’t need your bullshit anymore,” about an ex that didn’t treat you right. Remember Me When You Sing, possibly a follow-up to the tracks Poison and Teeth on a String from Lost Kids, details the struggle of healing after an abusive relationship and finding the power in yourself to live a fulfilling life, burning those memories to the ground.

Yet, there’s more to this album than reflections on past relationships. Weary Traveller is a celebration of modern nomadism, the freedom of movement, and the notion that you’ll always meet up with those you love later on down the road. Community isn’t so much a lament on the state of alienation in society, but a call to create new spaces where that alienation no longer has to exist. Counting is described on their bandcamp as “A Big Gay Love Song.” There’s a lot of hope here, no matter how tough the struggle is.

Never Going Back is one of those extremely rare albums where I’m not able to pick out a favorite song, or even a handful of favorites: every track is a thing of beauty. When I first heard Lost Kids, I never thought that Stick and Poke would be able to surpass that release. I’m so glad that they proved me wrong.

Go support the artist by getting the album here. While you’re there, make sure to check out their previous releases.