Biting and acerbic, Bayside's seventh effort Vacancy is a walloping break-up album. Inspired by frontman Anthony Raneri's divorce and the subsequent fallout, Vacancy represents both the void left in the wake of his split as well as the literal signage on the Nashville hotel he called home after the separation. For the quartet -- rounded out by guitarist Jack O'Shea, bassist Nick Ghanbarian, and drummer Chris Guglielmo -- it's a continuation of a sound they've hinted at since 2008's Shudder. They're no longer strictly emo or pop-punk, sounding less like Jimmy Eat World or Alkaline Trio and more like Death Cab for Cutie or Weezer. That punk-influenced power pop is put at the fore on Vacancy, also employing some theatrical show tune flourish courtesy of producer -- and Tony Award-nominated Hedwig and the Angry Inch sound designer -- Tim O'Heir (Say Anything, Hot Rod Circuit, All-American Rejects). Those bells and whistles lend a Dear Hunter-meets-Queen vibe to Vacancy, especially on "Enemy Lines" and "I've Been Dead All Day." The dramatics are appropriate for the emotional content, adding heft to the fearlessly honest and unabashed lyrics. Those verbal burns singe throughout, as Raneri growls and snarls, at times calling out his former partner ("I don't know what I should call you now" on "Two Letters") or helplessly throwing his hands up in surrender ("I can't believe this is my life" on "Pretty Vacant"). The vitriol hits a peak on the highlight "Rumspringa (Heartbreak Road)," the most pop-punk-sounding throwback on the album. Raneri let's it all out here, as the band matches his intensity with punchy riffs and one of many soaring guitar solos on Vacancy. The album ends with "It's Not as Depressing as It Sounds" -- which could have also been an apt album title -- a slow-burner that starts off as a dirge and ends with a gang chorus that offers just a little bit of hope after an album of seething emotions and inner confusion. Vacancy charts a tumultuous journey through Raneri's relatable struggles, providing a kindred spirit and mouthpiece for anyone who has ever been burned by love.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung