Review Summary: You now have my undivided attention Valencia.
When a genre is as overcrowded as pop punk it is very easy for the cream of the crop to rocket to the top. After signing to the minuscule East Coast Indie label I-Surrender Records and releasing their debut This Could Be A Possibility, Valencia shared the stage with some of pop punks largest names. For these tours, sadly, the Philly based quintet merely nipped at the heels of their peers. Since their debut, the group has certainly gone through some changes. The first came through a personal tragedy for frontman Shane Henderson as his girlfriend was killed unexpectedly in 2006. The group, more recently, stealthily upgraded from I-Surrender into the big leagues at Columbia Records. After about ten minutes of their sophomore release it becomes obvious that Valencia signing to a major label was no coincidence. They now boast a huge, powerful and inspired sound which has the potential to launch them from the pop punk underground to the mainstream charts.
It’s really commendable that We All Need A Reason To Believe
is able to achieve these feats without abandoning the group’s previous fans. Obviously with a bigger sound and a major label support team and fund backing them, the group had all of the necessary ingredients to stir up a sell out record. The fellows, thankfully, stay true to themselves and use the new resources to their advantage. They do this in a fashion which compliments their previous sound, not defines a new one. Songwriting, in general, is stronger and more consistent than ever. The record begins with three of the group’s strongest tracks to date. The opener “Better Be Prepared” features a pleasant guitar groove and plenty of vocal hooks. Its follower “Holiday” introduces an oddly intriguing piano section in its bouncy intro and contains a solid half time chorus. While the sound is more polished than anything off of the group’s previous record, it never comes close to sucking away Valencia’s original soul and personality.
While the initial two tracks might make some wonder how long the group can hang at the new level they set for themselves, “Where Did You Go?” should silence the skeptics and bring a smile to the face of anyone with a heart. It is the first song where Shane really wears his heart of his sleeve. He does so in a fashion which expresses pain, love, loss, and hope without ever getting to cliché, depressing or joyful. Not the easiest task. The group brings things together with a wonderful bass and drum driven verse building up to an enormous chorus. Their production team links everything together with a soft violin and female guest vocalist spot in the bridge. When the final chorus hits with the violin melody persisting atop of it all, a simple fact becomes evident: Valencia has arrived.
Despite such a strong opening, the record never suffers from an overly dull section. The record’s obvious ballad comes fairly early with “Carry On.” With such a real and touching story to tell it’s a gimmey that the song soars with tender lyrics, inspired vocal melodies, beautiful string sections, bright piano parts and acoustic timbre. Its follow up “All At Once” does everything it should in bringing the energy up but also shining light on the tragedy. Lines like “You have faith in me / And this is all for you.”
and “I’ve been wishing on every star that’s hanging up in the sky / Just hoping that I can find a little bit of time”
bring a new sense of acceptance and optimism to the lyrical portion of the record. “I Can’t See Myself” continues to show the record’s consistency by bringing more immense hooks and choruses to the table, this time having its chorus flow into a half time pace for its second half. They balance it all out with continued lyrical sincerity, shaping a solid pop punk anthem with little to grumble about in the process.
The same can be said about the record itself. Despite many potential issues, there is little to fuss about. Its major label production enhances more songs than it setbacks as “Safe to Say” and “Listen Up” are the only noticeably weaker tunes. The sustained choral hooks become irritating in aforementioned track while the latter suffers from popwerpop snyth driven sections, playing like the group snatched up anything they could get their hands on in the studio similar to a child walking into a candy shop for the first time. Lyrically tracks might be too depressing or personal for some to stomach; but the well balanced variety of all of the feelings associated with lost love certainly merit minimal complaints. The closer “Free” greatly helps this as it diminishes any previous tension built throughout the record, releasing feelings of relief and hope in the process. Valencia’s strongest and most consistently pleasing record to date is topped off in a grand fashion. Their sophomore record and its massive sound, groovy riffs and progressions, driving rhythm sections and soaring vocal melodies and hooks establishes them as a band deserving of much attention and praise. We All Need A Reason To Believe
is a touching, brilliant and memorable ride that rightfully should launch Valencia to new heights.
-Where Did You Go?
-All At Once
Final Rating: 3.5/5