5 Seconds of Summer began work on their fifth album without even realizing it. After its predecessor, 2020’s CALM, came out just after the pandemic shut the world’s borders, the four-piece found themselves with an empty calendar for the first time since their 2014 debut LP catapulted them to global stardom. In November 2020 they decamped to Joshua Tree in Southern California for 10 days, simply to explore new song ideas, with guitarist Michael Clifford producing the sessions at Rancho V recording studio. It was there that album opener “COMPLETE MESS”—which meditates on the worthwhile chaos of a relationship—came to fruition, the band emboldened by the absence of pressure and outside voices. Those sessions inadvertently marked the beginning of what would become 5SOS5, an album that draws more on radio-friendly pop (“Flatline”) and the mature songwriting of Coldplay (“Bleach”) than the pop-punk with which the band first made their name. Co-produced by Clifford (a first for the band) with songwriting contributions from Michael Pollack and longtime collaborator John Feldmann, 5SOS5 finds the quartet in a reflective mood: “Take My Hand” is about embracing change and the fear that comes with it; “Me Myself & I” reflects on pushing away good things in your life because you think you can do everything yourself. The uptempo “Best Friends” celebrates friendship with a fittingly sugarcoated earworm melody, while “Older” is a tender piano-based ballad featuring a duet between vocalist Luke Hemmings and his fiancée, Sierra Deaton. Equal parts widescreen, anthemic, introverted, and atmospheric, 5SOS5 is the sound of a band feeling increasingly comfortable in their own skin.

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