Review Summary: The extremely poppy hooks remain, but Every Avenue often embraces a more aggressive sound on Bad Habits, varying enough from the band's previous works to remain fresh while sticking to their pop-rock roots.
Consistency is a trait that is sought after by bands, yet it can ultimately doom them. If a band sticks to their same classic sound, they know they won't alienate their fanbase. But even while the fans are asking for a familiar sound, they're still looking for something new. While Every Avenue is still very much the same band as they were when they released their excellent Fearless Records debut Shh...Just Go With It, they've expanded their sound just enough to refrain from boring listeners. The extremely poppy hooks remain, but the band often embraces a more aggressive sound on Bad Habits, varying enough from the band's previous works to remain fresh while sticking to their pop-rock roots.
While the commercial success of "Tell Me I'm A Wreck" could have easily pushed the band to attempt to force themselves up the charts, it's immediately apparent that the members of Every Avenue prefer to remain true to their art. While the spoken word album intro seems detached from the rest of the album, it establishes both the more aggressive mood of Bad Habits as well as adding something "weird" in order to instantly remove all assumptions of mainstream intentions.
If any doubts remained about the band's more aggressive style, the powerful opening riffs of opener "Tie Me Down" will shatter those misbeliefs. The band also takes a darker lyrical mood, as lead singer David Ryan Strauchman sings "tie me down and *** me up, baby, rip my heart out", quite a departure from chorus opening lines such as "where were you when I needed you most, why did you leave me alone?" "Whatever Happened To You" showcases Strauchman's range in vocal abilities as shout-sings prevale throughout the verses, while the chorus contains his usual, powerful singing style, on par with some of the best in the genre.
The album's closest song to the accessibility and mainstream potential of "Tell Me I'm A Wreck" is first single "Fall Apart". The band's hook making skills are on full display as the chorus is impossible not to sing along with, and fits perfectly into any setlist as a energy booster. "Fall Apart" seems even catchier when placed next to "No One But You", a heavy rocker devoid of one of the band's customary hooks in exchange for some shouts, pounding drums, and impressive shredding in the guitars. However, it comes off as an attempt to make a modern rock song, which is clearly not the band's forte, as the song is one of the weakest on the record.
Every Avenue always constructs strong ballads, and Bad Habits contains two of them. The first, "Only Place I Call Home" combines catchiness and musicianship to bring the album's highlight. Soft piano clinks are the backbone of the song, while southern sounding riffs and sophisticated snare rolls create a musical standout. The slower and more conventional ballad "I Can't Not Love You" is the biggest reason why changing producers to Aaron Sprinkle may have been the best decision in the creation of the record. The slow piano melody, subtle harmonies, and backing strings are mixed in perfectly behind Strauchman's fuller-than-ever vocals, as Sprinkle brings the full, large sounds from He Is We's My Forever, Anberlin's Cities, and Acceptance's Phantoms to Every Avenue's discography. Throughout the album, everything from the vocals to the instrumentation seems slicker, and Every Avenue is better off because of it.
Bad Habits is excellent for what it is. Unless Every Avenue decided to reinvent their entire sound, they won't create a critically acclaimed album that dominates end of year lists. But the band knows what kind of music they play. They are three records into their career, and still haven't put out a poor effort while keeping the same basic sound. As long as they continue honing that sound and are sure not to create an album that blends together, they'll continue their spree of making extremely solid records. Bad Habits is the record that proves that Every Avenue won't fall into any bad habits any time soon.