Review Summary: Cheers, State Lines.
Any avid music listener knows how it feels to fall in love with an album. Of course, the progression from listening to an album for the very first time to becoming completely enamored with it is something that takes time. However, for an album to merit multiple listens, there usually has to be some aspect that stands out. State Lines’ Hoffman Manor
was recommended to me as a blend of indie and pop punk in the vein of early Brand New (a very accurate description), and what was immediately noticeable upon the first listen was the variety in songwriting. The album ranges from moderately-paced, to upbeat (albeit never too fast), to slow and emotional, as it is broken up in several places by acoustic tracks. While I could explain several more reasons as to why the album immediately grabbed my attention, there is one particular lyric from the song, Probably In a Notebook
, that slapped me on the face and forced me to listen to the album over and over (and over and over and over…):
”I always seem to find some obscure beauty in my life on days that I feel less alive.”
A week prior to listening to Hoffman Manor
, I had been explaining this exact phenomenon to a friend, saying that whenever I begin to slip into depression over the monotony of life, something will happen that reinstates my happiness and desire to live. Melodrama aside, because of this lyric, I became fully enthralled by the album, and over a month later, I still am.
The record itself is a loose concept album about an assisted living home called Hoffman Manor, described by singer Jonathon Dimitri (who may or may not be referred to as JD, I don’t know) as a shi
t hole that costs way too much money for a place that you are just going to die in. Tracks four, five, and ten, Cancer
, and the title track, respectively, are the ones most closely related to the album’s theme, and all deal with the idea of death and its acceptance in one way or another. For a band comprised of 18 and 19-year-olds, this is heavy stuff – none of that trite, “I’m sad because this girl dumped me,” pop punk can be found on Hoffman Manor
. Instead, the album’s lyrical content is nostalgic and introspective. For example, the track, My Friends
, which drops the band’s name more than a few times in its lyrics, is about growing up with dreams of living a life on the road, and is done in such a way that it does not come off as cliché.
The musicianship of the album is not incredibly complex, but there is no reason for it to be. The band plays in some wacky quarter-step down tuning that I couldn’t quite figure out myself, which alone is enough to attest that State Lines are very capable musicians. The guitar parts can typically be described as warm-sounding, and they perfectly suit the type of music being played. Simple, yet effective lead lines are thrown in from time to time to add some melody to the songs, nicely complimenting Dimitiri’s vocals. The creativity of the drumming does shine through at some parts of the album, as displayed in the intro of My Friends
. The bass is nicely audible, and the vocals, in addition to being lyrically strong, are catchy and anthemic, and have a way of sounding much more impressive than they really are; they are the type of vocals that I sing along to in my car at the top of my lungs and get a false sense of accomplishment from because I can actually hit every note without hurting my voice. Guitarist Tom Werring also helps out Dimitri on the vocals, providing some pretty harmonies as well as call-and-response vocals at times.
The combination of the maturity, catchiness, and relatable-ness of Hoffman Manor
is what keeps me coming back for repeated listens. Each of the ten tracks on the album is as meaningful as the next, and because they range from two to four minutes each, no particular track drags on or ends prematurely. Judging by the crowd responses at shows and the amount of positive feedback they have received on the internet, State Lines are doing something right. They have achieved almost a cult-like following for such a new and generally undiscovered band, and rightfully so. Hoffman Manor
was undoubtedly the biggest surprise of 2011 for myself and many others; it is the album that crept to the top of my “Albums of the Year” list at the last minute, and will remain as one of the most memorable albums I have discovered to this date.