Review Summary: "All that is, is what is now."
Something about the sky just hits me in all the right ways. Images of it at any time of day or night conjure up thoughts of all sorts of beautiful things. Due to this fascination of mine, it's safe to say that "Tonight and Forever" instantly caught my eye at a local music shop. Splashes of red, orange, blue, and royal purple on a white background captured my imagination the moment I saw it. It made me think of those times where my mother would call me in from playing outside before dinner. The sun would set behind the majestic peaks of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, but it still singed the edges of clouds overhead. As if to perfectly match the thoughts that the album cover put in my mind, "Tonight and Forever" is very much about blissful youth. The album cover really ties the music's themes together. Sense Field shows with the songs on this album that they can describe the highs and lows of being young in extraordinary ways.
The heavy-hitting, riff-centric "Fun Never Ends" ignites the album with a great sense of adolescent passion. Jon Bunch's breathy vocal deliver reveals so much emotion and really lifts the song to a new level. It becomes apparent here that his vocal range is nothing impressive, yet he can still run a song easily with the powerful nuances in his voice. This continues throughout the album, and drives the music to new heights. The sparklingly clean guitars of Chris Evenson (the album's producer) and Rodney Sellars often play continuously along with one another in a classic pop-punk fashion, and create some memorable tunes from it. The album's biggest hit is the soft-spoken acoustic ballad "Save Yourself," which is about choosing to remain abstinent until marriage. Though the topic may not be agreeable to everyone, the song presents very heavy emotions in its moving lyrics. Breezy pop tunes like "Emergency Exit" and "Here Right Here" exhibit Bunch pouring his soul out with his poetic, yet simple, lyrics and continuing to exude a gleefully child-like glow. Drummer Rob Pfieffer and bassist John Stockberger can tend to take a backseat throughout the songs, and this can hold back the ability for the songs to become the power-pop anthems they so obviously aim to be. "Beatles Song" is a good example of how the collective sound the band presents can falter at times. This track is aiming to be a straightforward alternative song, and it does exactly that, but because of its focus on the somewhat boring guitar riffs in the song, the other members are minimized. Other songs can tend to sacrifice talent for catchiness and a cheap attempt at radio success. However, the songs run a wide gamut of sounds while still having enough continuity to be enjoyed. A few tracks offer a softer, acoustic side, and these skillfully break up the rest of the powerful rock songs throughout. The closing track "Love Song" adds a quick shot of energy and ends on a nice note with its high-flying and grungy guitar riffs and fast drums.
Some of the songs towards the album's mid-section can be a bit tiresome to listen to due to their weak verses that sometimes only exist to build up to a sing along chorus. Also, drum machines pop up throughout the album, with mixed results. It's hit and miss, but still makes some songs work. In "Waiting for Something," the opening kicks off with a bouncy and bass-heavy beat that starts the song off well, though the energy gets lost towards the middle of the song. The introduction of strings on tracks like "Am I a Fool" add more emotion to the songs, but can sometimes subtract from the meaning of the song and exist only to add some cheesiness into the mix.
Sense Field proves to be a well-controlled band with this musical offering. They have dumped their humble emo-punk beginnings for mainstream success, and somehow still remain enjoyable. This is a great example of a pop-rock album that can exist well without great success. Also, Sense Field make their influences clear without making fools of themselves. The emo-ish songs play out like high-quality tributes to "Clarity"-era Jimmy Eat World, while the more alternative songs give a swift nod to late-90s Smashing Pumpkins. The band still has an excellent hold on their identity. The album can feel a bit rushed at times, clocking in at under 39 minutes in its entirety, but the songs often say all that they need to. "Tonight and Forever" presents a positive and fun-loving release that will appeal greatly to younger listeners, but holds enough emotional weight to be enjoyed by anyone of any age. It's about friendship, sunny days, but also about the things we'd rather forget. This is a well-rounded, criminally overlooked album.