Review Summary: Breathe in and keep yourself warm, because nobody will do it for you
Even the most unruly acts in City of Ifa’s particular breed of math-inspired post-hardcore have been taking a turn these days, crawling towards this weird concept of “maturity”. This music was born in the hearts of Thomas Erak fanboys and distilled through said fanboys’ bands through a couple key ingredients-- crazy guitar licks, frenetic time signatures and jarring screams to accompany the chaos. And yet lately, this kind of music has become remarkably tamer in the minds of many of the scene’s frontrunners. While math-rock group Tera Melos isn’t exactly in this category, their influence sure is-- the jazz-tinged guitar leads of groups like City of Ifa show all kinds of influence from the group’s earlier days. And yet even Tera Melos are past such complicated music, instead focusing on beachy tunes with vocal melodies the listener would be hard-pressed to forget. So accordingly, City of Ifa have found themselves controlled in 2013-- similar to their influences, and in stark contrast to their earlier records.
This band used to stand out because of how much it loved
The Fall of Troy, but something’s different now. Their self-titled album branches out-- it isn’t difficult to hear recent This Town Needs Guns in the melodic stability of this record, and Crash of Rhinos comes to mind because of the joyful aesthetic this album pushes. Furthermore, the inclusion of Henrietta’s Manuel Urdaneta as lead vocalist contributes to the record’s keenly melodic edge. So while this album has an array of influences, it cherry-picks the worthwhile qualities of each to make an album that’s more mature than anything else in City of Ifa’s discography.
The thing about maturity is that it can just as easily come across as sterility. Self Titled
is as coherently written as it is homogeneous, an album that’s mostly based upon the same root notes and chord structures. It’s a musical journey written with logic in mind, and as a result, it sticks to what works best. Anyone expecting anything like those killer moments found on the band’s earlier efforts will be disappointed. The best moments are still rewarding, though-- lead single “The Last of the Starmakers” is a highlight the instant its melody kicks in, because it displays the greatest things about this record-- coherency and memorability. Late bloomer “Full Swing” has multiple impressive moments as well: one is a rap from the band's friend Chris Rall that’d make Dance Gavin Dance’s Will Swan swoon, and the other is just the catchiest
riff. It’s simple enough, toying with a chord structure we’ve all heard plenty of times-- and yet in this context, it sounds brand new.
In the end Self Titled
does experiment, just in subtle ways. The biggest surprise about the record is that it actually contains an instrumental song that pivots around a Lil B sample-- a song that was released several months ago, but wasn’t really taken seriously (at least by me.) It’s the centerpiece of the album here, sitting in the exact middle of its half-hour runtime. It isn’t the song’s existence that’s frustrating-- rather, it’s that the tune is drawn out into five-plus minutes of meandering post-rock that builds, builds and builds… only to sizzle out. But if this is the way City of Ifa is going to hone its sound, at least the band is still making music that fits its overall aesthetic. While “In Your Footsteps” is a curious inclusion to Self Titled
, it still shows the emotional virility of the record as what it is-- controlled sentiment, angled in a very particular direction.