ALBUM REVIEW: Trophy Eyes – ‘Suicide And Sunshine’

Artwork for Trophy Eyes’ ‘Suicide And Sunshine’ - a blurred photo of a woman’s face

Before going into Trophy Eyes’ new album properly, it’s worth looking back at everything that came in the five-year interim since their last. There was sin, frontman John Floreani’s solo album that brought his band’s emotional rigour into an even more insular, pop-informed context. There were also the four standalone tracks Trophy Eyes put out between 2020 and 2022, each feeling very independent from one another as they pencilled in new stylistic branches on what already felt pretty distinct among 21st Century pop-punk. That’s was Trophy Eyes’ original headline feature, after all—a blend of the 2010s’ hard stuff with even more emo and post-hardcore, and a real gut-wrencher of a frontman in Floreani to tie it all together.

But as the lead-up to Suicide And Sunshine might’ve implied, they’re continuing to move. Hell, that was made fairly clear by 2018’s The American Dream itself, in which Trophy Eyes were almost fully subsumed by the emo among their blend. But even then, Suicide And Sunshine is a departure. It’s cleaner and sharper, with far more of Floreani’s own pop emphasis carrying over to the main event. But also, it’s Trophy Eyes, one of, if not the most reliable presence that this scene has at its disposal. They’ve never given the impression that they’d drop everything to chase a more lucrative avenue, nor does that feel like what Suicide And Sunshine is at all. If anything, it’s practiced enough in the Trophy Eyes ideals to be just as great as everything that came before.

As it stands, it’s an extremely accurately titled album. In delving into both lights and darks, there’s no shying away from the heavy hits and deep cuts; lyrically, it’s as bone-deep as Trophy Eyes have often been known to go. Sean in particular takes it stage as the album’s centrepiece with that exact mindset, as Floreani’s bruised quiver of a voice ekes out “The first thing that I thought of / When I heard that you had killed yourself / Was how stupid I’m about to look / With my foot inside of my mouth / ‘Cause the last thing that I said / When you were still around / Was ‘You do this for attention / Or you’d have killed yourself by now’”. That’s a far cry from affirmations of togetherness and brotherhood that songs about a friend taking their own life typically cling to. Instead, it’s realistic and unclouded, human in its flaws that these kinds of tributes tend to omit. And that’s how Trophy Eyes remain so effective—even as Floreani rifles through his own mental ennui, there’s insularity that, when pierced by outside stories of loved ones succumbing to similar thoughts, feels real. It’s not glossed-up or airbrushed to feign a universality, and ultimately fall into the usual self-affirmative platitudes and doldrums. Trophy Eyes feel like real people airing real thoughts, and when that switches to more romantic sentiment on Sweet Soft Sound, or beginning to recognise self-worth on Epilogue, it means something.

It also helps that Suicide And Sunshine has Trophy Eyes go all in on musical diversity, and really settling in exquisitely to this current side of themselves. The complaints of ‘going pop’ will undoubtedly be levelled (they always are), but this is most definitely not a sellout, or a corner-cutting exercise. It’s not even really ‘pop’, as much as a sharpening of the pop-rock and emo palettes, and toying with some additional production slickness on the likes of Runaway Come Home and Stay Here. It also yields easily some of their catchiest moments to date in Blue Eyed Boy and What Hurts The Most, in the swirling light and contrasts that feel so ingrained and integral now.

There’s also something of a caveat there, mind, namely how some of Trophy Eyes’ rougher affectations still try to muscle their way through, and end up in an environment that’s far less accommodating. And that’s almost exclusively applied to Floreani’s vocals, where his yells and coarseness can struggle to click, especially on Runaway Come Home in a minimalist / maximalist compositional style that doesn’t pay nearly the dividends they want. But then again, this is also an album where that vocal technique is less present; it makes the instances of it a little more jarring, but it’s not a huge impact. And doing so highlights Floreani’s other strengths as a frontman, in how he’s probably the best in this scene at selling true vulnerability, and how there’s a great hardiness to his vocals that’s something of a rarity, honestly. And even if you are after something more ‘traditional’ of this band, there’s something more definitively punk about People Like You and OMW, and embracing of a nascent darkness that’s more explicit on Kill.

On the whole though, Suicide And Sunshine isn’t missing really any of the elements that make Trophy Eyes special. The rawness and passion mixed with something distinctly outside of the dime-a-dozen pop-punk stratum is all still here, in as great condition as ever and embracing avenues that widen and deepen it even further. Where musical pivots like this often leave themselves wide open for complaints, that’s not the vibe that Suicide And Sunshine gives off. Not too much, anyway—the purists who’ve been around since the earliest days might be a bit disheartened by how far Trophy Eyes are choosing to go—but even so, the core is as resoundingly mighty as ever. And that’s so great to see, how Trophy Eyes continue to thrive despite the rapidly diminishing scene they came up in. They’re so much bigger than ‘another 2010s pop-punk band’, and Suicide And Sunshine is a stellar bit of proof.

For fans of: Movements, Seaway, Hot Mulligan

‘Suicide And Sunshine’ by Trophy Eyes is released on 23rd June on Hopeless Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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