Hopesfall
Magnetic North


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
May 14th, 2007 | 79 replies | 18,501 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Hopesfall evolves again, led by strong songwriting and a godly vocal performance, but unfortunately there are faultlines too massive to hide under Hopesfall's immaculate mix of pop-punk, post-hardcore, and hard rock.

In an interview with Hopesfall's producer for their new album Magnetic North, Mike Watts, the producer in question, mentioned that "they seem a lot more focused" and that "the difference between this record and the last record is the band themselves, in my opinion, have arrived again on what sound they want to have. Where A Types was a transitional record, now, they're pretty set in what they want to be." Looking at Hopesfall's discography, that story may hold true. Their earliest work in The Frailty of Words featured little of the spaciness and reverb that defined The Satellite Years, and that same spaciness took a back seat in favor of singing and taut songwriting on A Types, an album that while considered transitional by the producer, was thematically conceived to be as forward thinking and polished as possible, as indicated by the lyrical content, titling of the album, and comments make by the band prior to its release. With that said, Magnetic North could be called B Types. Each Hopesfall release prior to this featured massive leaps from album to album but Magnetic North feels like a logical answer to the pop punk, post-hardcore, and hard rock found on A Types.

The centerpiece of A Types was the songwriting and that emphasis and strength returns on Magnetic North to great success. Hopesfall treads very carefully between verse-chorus-verse structure and a more ambitious through-composed style. Also, even when engaging in verse-chorus-verse structure, they'll use special effects, differences in production, and varying orchestrations to make sure that each verse sounds different, sometimes down to the level as microscopic as an individual measure or guitar squeal. A perfect example of this comes on the opener, "Rx Contender the Pretender," one of the better written songs on the album. At around 1:08, after moving through a bunch of phrase-length non-repeating sections, instead of just moving back to section A and repeating that, Hopesfall includes a section with just a solo distorted guitar in the left speaker and super distorted vocals in the right speaker. Hopesfall isn't content with just repeating content for its own sake, but treat each repeat as an opportunity to respark the energy of the song and propel it to even more compelling territory. Another cool example is on the intro of the next song "Swamp Kittens" (don't worry I'll criticize stuff like song titling and lyrics later). The intro of the song is a solo guitar chord riff that is quickly hocketed against a guitar that enters in a counter rhythm to the original guitar. Then, when the rest of the band comes in, the listener realizes that the original rhythm was in fact the off-time rhythm and the echo effect put on the guitar was what made it feel like it was not in syncopation to the other guitar. Hopesfall includes tons of nuggets like this at a level of really careful detail that makes this album feel like a gold mine of fun musical quirks and tricks. When combined with the tastefully unexpected song structures, the result is an album that can continue to surprise and satisfy, listen after listen.

The most unstable part of A Types was definitely Jay's singing, but I mean that comment as a compliment. On previous albums, Jay had primarily screamed and only broke from that trend to include dull, reverb-laden singing between the dissonance. On A Types though, he sang nearly the whole album, and it really made the album and their new sound. His singing would have huge leaps and jumps like that of Daryl Palumbo, but instead of Palumbo's melodrama and insanity, Forrest's tone and articulation was more like the steady and powerful singing of Dustin Kensrue. His melodies were shockingly original and poignant too. While A Types may have been the discovery of this talent and style, Magnetic North is definitely the perfection. Forrest further develops his voice to be more dynamic on this album. His melodic and tonal choices are complemented by his new ability to embrace a more Palumbo-like approach to articulation. Take the example of the wonderful "I Can Do This on an Island." The song features only Forrest singing and a solo, repeated guitar progression that doesn't really act up or change throughout the song. As a result Forrest's voice is the sole focus. His voice quavers, rasps, sighs, cracks, whispers, and does any other special effect needed to elevate the emotion and intensity of the song. His vocal performance alone makes that short 1:17 the best song on the album, hands down. And while no other song can trump that performance, his vocals are still strong throughout the rest of the album elevating songs like "Swamp Kittens" and "Secondhand Surgery," which otherwise may have been forgettable among the awesome songs like "I Can Do This on an Island" and "Bird Flu."

Unfortunately, some of these songs are forgettable. Hopesfall tends to write albums that are more memorable for individual songs than the album as a whole. "Cubic Zirconias Are Forever" is an unfortunate slow jam played by a group of talented musicians, who render its molasses tendencies fairly interesting. The last three tracks are surprisingly unengaging, "Devil's Concubine" feeling like a rehashing of the worst moments from A Types, "Head General Hospital" sounding like it could have been on the new Matchbook Romance album if it weren't for the nasty nasty bass line undulating throughout the verses, and "Paisley" having a cheesy chorus to make the last song on the album "hella emotional." Long gone is the amazing emotional weight of a song like "The Bending" as an album closer. Moving past these duller moments though produces some of the better songs I've heard in the past year. "Rx Contender the Pretender" is amazingly taut and well-conceived. "I Can Do This on an Island" is fraught with beautiful singing and emotional weight. "East of 1989; Battle of the Bay" is perfectly midtempo, with wonderful echo and sliding guitar sounds. Lastly, "Bird Flu" is the perfect extension of the successes of A Types, mixing older style palm-muted arpeggiations with cool bass harmonizations and Jay's alluring singing. These songs alone make sure the album floats, holding up the weight of the aforementioned mediocre songs. The remaining songs, while not perfect, are definitely cool and merit repeated listens.

The album also fails on a few other nitpicking levels. First of all, there are 3-4 really awkward forays into nu-metal riffing and breakdowns. It's as if Hopesfall decided to waste 30 seconds on a few of the songs on this album with chugging drop D power chords. These sections never last long enough to ruin the song, but invariably will piss me off for being poorly chosen and out of place. Secondly, the song titling and lyrics fail to impress once again. Hopesfall has never really written good lyrics and this album is no exception. And, while Jay may make the vocals memorable and some of the lyrics catchy as a result, their quality still can't be called "good" (for a great example of bad lyrics turned cool see "Swamp Kittens" at 1:28, "At night I'm a madman / By day I'm a sad man"). As a final complaint, the music as a whole is sort of cheesy. We're in the realm of pop punk and post-hardcore, which translates to catchiness and screaming to the naive. By now, in 2007, this style is incredibly played out. Hopesfall succumbs to some of the trite tendencies of other bands, like when they use a chorus on "Paisley" or get angular on "Head General Hospital" but honestly, other than that, I think they've created their own original niche within the genre. Among bands still pursuing this style (notice Thrice, Thursday and a lot of other heavy hitters have changed their styles over time to exclude pop punk and screaming versus including it like Hopesfall have), Hopesfall are doing it the best, writing intelligent, poignant, and fun songs. If you can get over that initial pitfall, you're listening the best in the business.

Ultimately, this album is off balanced. There are savagely good songs, unfortunately boring songs, and pretty good midrange songs. It is pop punk and post-hardcore, but it's probably the best possible iteration of that combination. The songwriting is amazing, but for some reason there are weird nu-metal spatterings throughout the album. The vocal performance is godly but the lyrics are sinful. At the end of the day, I feel like the good moments on the album skew it to be a pretty good album. If for the amazing songs alone this album succeeds, but when expanding to include every success and blemish of the album, the result averages out to somewhere above the 50th percentile but certainly below the level set by previous releases, The Satellite Years and A Types. Of course, this doesn't change the fact that I've been spinning this album nonstop for three weeks now, and that I'll always love what Hopesfall brings to the table, but I'm sorry to say that from a more objective view of Magnetic North: Hopesfall didn't bring their A game. Thankfully though, their B game is better than 95% of their peers' A game.

Recommended Tracks: I Can Do This on an Island, East of 1989; Battle of the Bay, Bird Flu, Rx Contender the Pretender



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Comments:Add a Comment 
ToWhatEnd
May 14th 2007



3172 Comments


And I thought you weren't going to review again until Thrice came out :D Nice work here.

Upsidedown_and_Sideways
May 14th 2007



246 Comments


Well written review. This CD should have been called B-Types! Good call.

Abaddon2005
May 14th 2007



684 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Nice review man. I only heard The Satellite Years, and though I'm not a hug fan, I'd still like to see how they progressed. I might check it out.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
May 14th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Upsidedown, admittedly I adapted that from a comment I read with regard to Radiohead's Amnesiac as being Kid B.

GleamInRanks
May 14th 2007



298 Comments


You are a great reviewer! As for Hopesfall, the songs I heard from The Satelitte Years didn't appeal to me very much, so if this is worse than TSY, I might want to stay away from it. I'll try again though.This Message Edited On 05.14.07

Intransit
May 14th 2007



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

69 REVIEWS LOL

Good work though. I doubt I would really like this since Thursday-esque stuff is pretty unappealing to me.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
May 14th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

It's not like Thursday though. I just couldn't think of a third album to recommend and I thought that maybe I should have 3.

jrowa001
May 14th 2007



8749 Comments


i had no idea they had a new one. i liked their previous albums so im definitely going to get this. awesome review by the way

Unhappy_Dean
May 14th 2007



107 Comments


It's nice to see another DFelon review. And its a great one. I think ill pick this album up.


Intransit
May 15th 2007



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, if it's not like Thursday, I might want to check this out then. I haven't heard anything from them or In Pieces. Any other bands that sound similar? For some reason, your description makes them sort of sound like Boysetsfire.

Damrod
Moderator
May 15th 2007



1093 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well written review Nick, pretty much hits the nail on the head. Though I really like the album, it leaves a bad after-taste as it does not feel as strong as it could have been.

Still, there are great songs present, like the ones mentioned (RX Contender, I can do this on an island...).

The_shotgun_message
May 16th 2007



29 Comments


good review, wierd i heard this was a lot better than A types

DFelon204409
Emeritus
May 16th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Well then listen and decide for yourself man.

cbmartinez
May 16th 2007



2525 Comments


Psyched to hear this. Picking it up soon.

samthebassman
May 17th 2007



2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I will check this out.

Playahater
May 17th 2007



24 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Loving this album

moac
May 17th 2007



1 Comments


Much better than A Types. Impressed with Jay's singing. Glad someone agrees that I Can Do This On An Island is the best song.

CushMG15
May 17th 2007



1802 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I remember that the thing that turned me off of A Types was Jay's singing, as it just didn't strike me as strong enough to carry through a whole album. After reading the review and listening to the posted track...I'm thinking I should look further into this.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
May 18th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Oh man, I really liked his singing on A Types so I dunno. Listen to the songs I recommended, then decide.

LiZeR
May 19th 2007



49 Comments


Nice review DFelon, I picked this up the other day and listened to it a few times and I agree with you. There are just some songs that aren't very memorable, but nothing I'd skip. I really enjoyed the vocal performance on "Secondhand Surgery" and "I can do this on an island."; "Bird Flu" is just amazing.

The album feels like a bit of a let down since it doesn't feel as strong as A-types and I was hoping they'd top A-types and Satellite Years, but this is still a good album.



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