With their debut album Pilot, Michigan’s Hot Mulligan proved that they had got fast, bouncy, energetic pop-punk down. Now, two years later, on their sophomore release you’ll be fine, the band is expanding their style and exploring new sounds.

you’ll be fine is more dynamic, diverse and polished than Pilot. “SPS” is the most experimental track –  it’s soft, vulnerable and has pop-leaning percussion — while the airy and atmospheric “Green Squirrel in Pretty Bad Shape” and explosive “We’re Gonna Make It to Kilby!” show the band at their most dynamic. This set of songs demonstrates a more sophisticated handle on rhythm and melody. For example, the track “Dirty Office Bongos,” plays with rhythm in fun ways. The melodies are more complex this time around, as illustrated by the surprising flow of powerful and emotional “Digging In.”

The biggest development between records is how well the band uses the space within a song on this album. These tracks are more layered and the songs are filled in with intricate guitar playing, often resulting in an interesting back-and-forth between vocals and instruments. The contrasts between the smooth guitar and the rough shouted vocals work well on one of the album’s strongest tracks “*Equip Sunglasses*”. Even silence and empty space are used well across this release, but especially on opener “OG Bule Sky.”

While the members of Hot Mulligan give solid performances all around – notably Tades Sanville’s gripping and impassioned vocals complimented by Chris Freeman’s equally emotional performances — the album’s most impressive efforts come from guitarist Ryan Malicsi. In several songs, the guitar provides most of the melody and texture. The riffs are fun, compelling and surprising in each and every song.

Although you’ll be fine is more diverse than Pilot, there isn’t a wide enough range of styles on this album. The songs on you’ll be fine can be split into two groups: soft and loud. Unfortunately, there’s not much variation within each camp and by the time the album gets to “BCKYRD,” the rising melodies feel well-worn.

The struggle for any up-and-coming pop-punk band is to distinguish themselves from others in the now-crowded genre. The question is whether Hot Mulligan have done that with this album. On you’ll be fine, it feels like they still need to develop their sound and find a way to set their band apart. Other than the few standout tracks, the album doesn’t make much of a lasting impression nor does it offer anything substantially different from Hot Mulligan’s peers. There are songs that sound derivative (“The Song Formerly Known as Intro”) and predictable (“Feal Like Crab”), while “BCKYARD” tackles typical pop-punk subject matter, but not in a novel or entirely exciting way.

you’ll be fine demonstrates that Hot Mulligan have definitely evolved as a band. They just have further to go.

Purchase the album here.

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