Hot Mulligan has been quite the up-and-coming band in the emo/pop punk scene since the release of their popular album “you’ll be fine” in 2020. Following the release of the successful single “Drink Milk And Run” in 2022, touring as a sub-headliner with The Wonder Years in 2022-2023 and securing a headlining tour in Europe this autumn — the boys just keep getting the attention they deserve. And now, with the release of their second album “Why Would I Watch,” released with Wax Bodega Records on May 12, they cement themselves as one of the most important bands in this new wave of Midwest emo music.

“Why Would I Watch” has garnered a few complaints for Ryan “Spicy” Malicsi’s well-beloved guitar riffs being too muddled in the mix, as well as for the song “Betty,” a slow lament about losing a beloved pet, seeming to be randomly thrown into the track list. Some listeners have even made playlists replacing “Betty” with “Drink Milk And Run,” feeling it suits the vibe of the album better. But what these complaints fail to acknowledge is exactly how cohesive this album is overall. Although amazing, “you’ll be fine” didn’t have the flow between tracks that “Why Would I Watch” features. Songs like “Shouldn’t Have A Leg Hole But I Do” blend seamlessly with the following song, “It’s A Family Movie She Hates Her Dad,” creating this feeling of emotional connection.

The album doesn’t shy away from heavier topics usually discussed in the band’s music, and Midwest emo, or post emo as the band prefers, as a genre. Themes of family disconnection are heard in “It’s A Family Movie She Hates Her Dad” and “Shhhh! Golf Is On.” Religious trauma features in “John ‘The Rock’ Cena, Can You Smell What The Undertaker.” Loss of a loved one to dementia is discussed in “Smahccked My Head Awf.” The natural distance between old friends is the theme of “C*ck Party 2 (Better Than The Original),” and good old feeling anxious and self-loathing stars in the rest of the songs. The titles are signature Hot Mulligan — ridiculously funny, and meanwhile, the contents of the song proceed to make you sob your eyes out.

The production and musicality of this album are another reason to enjoy it. Brandon Blakeley’s drums are punchy and sharp, with the snare being a particularly standout element. Tades Sanville’s almost strained vocals give the feeling of that voice in your head that’s always screaming at you when you worry. Chris Freeman’s backup vocals add a playful element to songs like “C*ck Party 2 (Better Than The First).” Tades’ breathing pattern on this album is also exceptional to the point of perfection, leaving no word unintelligible despite his strenuous vocal technique. Spicy and Freeman’s guitar riffs are quintessential Midwest emo twinkly while still carrying the tracks with their catchiness. With production, engineering and mixing done by Brett Romnes to top it off, they have one of the best, most auditorily engaging emo albums of the year.

Though some critiques of the album make sense, it cannot be denied that “Why Would I Watch” is a wonderful maturation of Hot Mulligan from an underground emo darling to a band with serious weight in the new wave of Midwest emo and emo in general. Poetic lyrics, incredible musicianship and stellar mixing make this a new classic for the scene and hopefully indicate a bright future for the #1 Hot New Band.

Verdict: “Why Would I Watch” is a contender for the top emo/pop-punk album of 2023, with stellar musicianship and lyricism wrapped up in a package of hilarious song titles. This is an album that is not to be missed by anyone who is a fan of the Midwest emo scene.