***1/2 (out of four)
Is there any band right now that so consistently delivers impassioned, moving rock records that make you wish the albums would come to life so you could get a beer with them?
Outside of the likewise stellar Japandroids, the Gaslight Anthem currently carries the torch for music fans who want to pump their fists and sing along with choruses and feel the blood of rock ‘n’ roll pulsing through their veins. Following 2010’s great “American Slang,” the New Jersey quartet teams up with producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, AC/DC) for its fourth full-length, perhaps to escalate its barroom tales to stadium-sized grandeur. Fortunately, “Handwritten” still boasts a constant stream of catchiness against singer/guitarist Brian Fallon’s sincere, gravelly vocals. From killer first single “45” to the stomping “Mulholland Drive,” these big songs bridge the gap between arena scale and intimacy, the sort of tunes that bond you to the thousands of other people rocking nearby. Moving closer “National Anthem,” however, may turn you all into weeping wrecks.