The Gaslight Anthem’s music has often been likened to Bruce Springsteen’s, and the comparison is not entirely unfounded. The band hails from New Jersey, and specializes in epic songs about hard lives, shattered dreams & lost souls. But the group has other influences as well; over the course of their first three albums, the band has told their stories with a combination of sounds: a mixture of rock, punk, soul & even a dash of country. Front man & chief songwriter Brian Fallon makes these songs feel real; these are tales about people you’ve known, or feel like you’ve encountered in your own life.

On their fourth album, the recently released Handwritten, the group takes it to the next level; they’ve moved to a major label (Mercury Records) and enlisted super-producer Brendan O’Brien (who's worked with Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Paul Westerberg & Matthew Sweet, among others) to helm the record. It’s a strong effort, and may be their best release yet. These are tales of heartache & pain that nevertheless give you a sense that redemption is just around the corner. It’s no surprise that the first track is called “45.”  It’s a song that celebrates records, cars and lost innocence in equal measure; how can you not love a classic rock style tune about the love of girls, cars & vinyl? :) And it only gets better as it goes on : there isn't a bad song on this fantastic album.

Other highlights include the powerful “Biloxi Parish,” the beautiful “National Anthem,” the catchy, daring you to sing-along “Here Comes My Man,” and the soulful, anthemic “Desire.” The lyrics are imbued with a sense of yearning, and you can feel the joy & sorrow, and the sense of love & loss in Fallon’s intense, emotional vocals. He’s backed by the rocking lead guitar of Alex Rosamilia, the hard driving drums & percussion from Benny Horowitz, and the fine bass work of Alex Levine. By the time the band gets to their cool cover of “You Got Lucky” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers you’ll be wanting to spin the disc again and again. The iTunes deluxe version of the album features several bonus tracks, including a cover of Nirvana's "Sliver," as well as an additional original song called "Teenage Rebellion."

Fallon & his band mates are telling stories about everyday people. You connect with the emotions in these songs because you’ve felt them; you can relate to theses experiences because you’ve had them. The lovers, fighters, and dreamers in these musical paintings aren’t just like you & me; they ARE you & me. The Gaslight Anthem tap into that deep well of emotion, and do what all the best music should; it excites you, it enthralls you, inspires you and most of all it makes you want to rock. Handwritten is a great record, and one of the best rock albums of the year thus far. I encourage you to give it a listen, and while you’re at it, check out the other three albums (2007’s Sink or Swim, 2008’s The ’59 Sound, and 2010’s American Slang) by this talented, excellent band.

Here are links to the video for “45” and a live performance of “Here Comes My Man”