Review Summary: So expose what hurts you the worst, the exchange deals a handsome return. Are you in?
I was once told by my roommate, a lover of all music that is sludgy and glitchy, that the reason he didn't like "my" music was simple -- "It's just overwrought." And I had to think about this for a bit. Was it true? Did I only like music that was over-the-top, melodramatic? Could I not appreciate the more subtle things in music? Had I missed the boat somewhere?
But I arrived at one conclusion. What is music -- what is art, really -- if it doesn't make you feel
And here we arrive at Is Survived By
. This album is nothing if not emotionally stirring, from beginning to end. Oh, sure, if I look for flaws, I can find them. It's a little homogenous, the middle of the album drags, it's short, (but then again, short songs has always been Touche Amore's schtick), and I can see people seeing this as a little bit contrived. But I can't think about these things when Jeremy Bolm yelps "It's hard to write content!" with the most genuine passion, or during the chorus of "Steps," which is bursting with a triumph few people may ever know, or...the list goes on.
Because, see, this type of music doesn't have the widest emotional palette. Heartbreak, despair, anger, maybe a little bit of resolve to actually get through it -- a lot of bands who fall somewhere near the vicinity of post-hardcore don't cover much more than this. But Is Survived By
not only offers rays of hope, it makes that hope even more tangible by detailing the depths of Bolm's frustration. "To Write Content" precedes its pained declarations with defiance ("I won't fake what is expected to succeed with album three!"); "Just Exist" finds Bolm wrestling with what his legacy means and readily admitting the difficulty of answering the question. "Kerosene"'s desperate plea for understanding follows "Harbor"'s somber realization that knowing what to do and doing it are not the same. It's this juxtaposition that makes the display of emotion all the more powerful; I grow tired of albums that seem stuck in one mental state instead of growing and evolving over time like, you know, real people.
I can't discredit the effort Bolm's bandmates put forth, though. Bolm is truly all over the place, but the band does a fantastic job of keeping up with him and giving context to his heartfelt rants. The band never stays on one riff or groove for too long, but everything flows naturally and coherently. Brad Wood's production lets every member shine, and the relatively lengthy instrumental introduction to "Non Fiction" shows the instrumentalists are quite capable of creating an atmosphere on their own.
Pointing out that music criticism is inherently subjective is redundant at this point, but it must be noted simply because I have to rely on the lazy writer's trick and say that this album is more than the sum of my words. I can't remember the last time I stumbled on an album at 2 in the morning and then stayed up to finish it, dropping everything else I was doing and staring at the lyrics like they were holy scriptures. And it still has that effect a dozen listens later. Is Survived By
is a moving album, an album by a band that knows how to pull heartstrings, and even if some songs don't achieve that quite as well as some others, the overall listening experience is not to be missed.