Next stage of AJR


The Criterion (

Adam, Jack and Ryan of AJR pose for a photo to promote the tour of their third album. “Neotheater” is clever, insightful and fun, proving the growth of this up-and-coming band.

Sophia Bender, Staff Writer

Welcome to the “Neotheater,” where childhood enthusiasm meets emotional maturity. Grab some legos, learn what love is, and prepare for a bright future, brought to you by the AJR brothers.

On April 26, alternative-pop group AJR released their third studio album, “Neotheater,” another groovy and stylish collection of music from the beloved musical trio. Any listener can enjoy some part of this band’s newest album, whether it’s the personal lyrics, heavy beats or the utterly break-out-in-a-happy-dance moments.  

First formed in 2005, AJR is a multi-genre group composed of Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met. The brothers’ musical career began with performing covers around New York City but eventually shifted into a self-made trio which has become a staple of modern alternative pop.  

Since their conception, AJR has focused on creating a new type of music. The brothers experiment with a variety of different instruments and vocal combinations and synthesize it heavily to make something that no one has ever heard before. In their breakout song, AJR used Spongebob Squarepants’s iconic “I’m ready!” line and turned it into the base of an entire song.

The release of their newest album also means their first ever world tour to perform “Neotheater” and all the amazing songs on it. All twelve songs are thoughtful, personal and sure to bring AJR to superstardom.

Before the release of the official album, the band released three singles to show off the changes and new themes that the brothers were going for in “Neotheater.” “100 Bad Days,” “Birthday Party,” and finally “Dear Winter” showed fans what to expect from their next album: a beautiful blend of thoughtful lyrics and experimental music combinations. The whole album matches the overall feel of their past music, but also shows off the changes and improvements in their lives and music making.

[I]t’s clear that AJR has truly hit their stride, but hopefully not their peak.

— Staff Writer Sophia Bender

“Neotheater” is a work of showmanship. After “I’m Ready” and their first, admittedly lesser-known, album, there was a time in AJR’s career when the brothers may have feared they would be one-hit wonders. That time has passed. “The Click” and “Neotheater” are two of the best and strangest albums to grace the indie-pop scene, and it’s clear that AJR has truly hit their stride, but hopefully not their peak.

While all twelve songs are pure gold that deserve a listen, I’ve picked my three favorite of the brand new songs from “Neotheater” to discuss and recommend.  

“Next Up Forever”

As far as opening songs for an album goes, this one is excellent. It’s a song that’s certainly meant to pump up its listeners for the rest of the album with its wicked drum and string combination that builds up into the meat of the song. The lyrics that follow are a wonderful introduction to “Neotheater” that segue into a reflection on life in general.

Taken from the perspective of the musical trio, “Next Up Forever” is about the fear of reaching a peak in popularity and quality and never succeeding beyond it in the future. To remain next up forever would be to avoid the inevitable fall on the other side of your greatest hit. Of course, “Neotheater” in its entirety stands as a monument to resisting this fear and doing your best anyway.

The timid lyrics about uncertain times and the fear of being done contrast with the upbeat, confident instrumental that forms this track’s background music. It’s an excellent song that puts you into the mindset of the rest of the album and even drops the title of the album at the end to wrap up an amazing introduction.

“Don’t Throw Out My Legos”

This song was first performed by AJR on the second part of the tour for their previous album, “The Click,” and now all fans get to enjoy this absolute bop of a song. “Don’t Throw Out My Legos” follows a similar theme to “Next Up Forever,” striking a chord in those of us who know what it’s like to go through big changes in life. At the same time, however, it is also deeply nostalgic, harkening back to a time in many people’s’ childhood when everything was easy and fun.

The lyrics of “Don’t Throw Out My Legos” are straightforward, honest, and resonant with AJR’s audience. This song is about fearing the prospect of moving out and asking to keep some legos at home for when things get rough.  For an AJR track, this one is less of a dancing tune, but it’s still a whimsical ride that’s the perfect level of eccentric.


The last of the greatest hits on “Neotheater” is a song that resonates deeply with me. With the soaring rates of mental illness among young people in today’s world, it’s wonderful to be able to listen to an artist or a song and know that you aren’t the only one struggling. “Karma” is pretty catchy, but that’s not what makes it so awesome. The song is a monologue from a patient to his therapist, asking why things are still so difficult even when he’s been doing his best in life.

Lines such as “If only I could keep you in my pocket / To give me some diagnosis of why I’m so hollow” are sure to strike a chord in those who know what that’s like. “Karma” reflects the true freedom of expression that AJR has strived to capture in their work, with great success.

“Neotheater” is a magnificent follow-up to “The Click,” maintaining the music’s quality while expanding past the boundaries of what’s normal to find what’s great.  Listen to “Next Up Forever,” “Don’t Throw Out My Legos,” “Karma,” and the rest of “Neotheater” on iTunes or Spotify.