You Blew It!’s second album could hardly be more aptly titled. ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel for contemporary emo, nor does it have to: You Blew It! execute their own jangly, softly-shouted style of noughties emo adroitly. The Floridians marry indie, pop-punk and Kinsella-esque Midwestern emo with admirable fluidity while musically framing lyrical phrases destined for tumblr posts and sweaty, smiling sing-a-longs. Additionally, ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ exudes the positivity its title hints at. Collectively, the upbeat, major-key songs that comprise the album combine to form a 35-minute serotonin rush. Lyrically, Tanner Jones gleans positivity from interpersonal cynicism and derisive bitterness, culminating in the purgative repetition of “Maybe this time it couldn’t hurt to be happy/Maybe things aren’t quite as bad as I let myself believe”.
The progression from their 2012 effort, ‘Grow Up, Dude’ is easily traceable, as are the similarities to modern bands such as Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader. You Blew It! glide between more introspective, meditative sections and irrepressible flurries of action. Dazzling, battling guitar leads still find a home here – see ‘Regional Dialect’
and ‘You & Me & Me’
– but this feels more grounded, chord-focussed (whisper it, more mature). They clearly still have one foot in the more intimate environments they have been playing for years – on ‘House Address’
, Jones sings, “I always felt fine singing in your basement”. Still, You Blew It! are at a critical juncture in their career where more people are starting to take notice and they are being opened up to a larger audience – ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ was even streamed on Pitchfork advance. They are well prepared, however: tellingly, this simply sounds bigger than anything they have done before. Chalk it up to greater production values (the razor-sharp guitar leads and the beefed-up sound) or their apparent greater ambition and clarity of vision (album closer ‘Better to Best’
s wide-scope, masterfully-paced structure and mature conceptualisation stemming from its aforementioned conflict resolution), but this just sounds like prior releases only with one eye on bigger leagues.
The ambition displayed on ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ ties in nicely with the brightness and buoyancy that pervade the album. Despite the scatter-brained vitriol that intermittently surfaces – “You can always consider me a friend/ Just strictly in the past tense”, from the moodily swaggering ‘Award of the Year Award’
– there is a very tangible sense of cathartic optimism on ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’. Opener ‘Match & Tinder’
may not explode with the force its name suggests, but it does burn with an electric energy and effusive joie de vivre. You Blew It! largely keep up the positivity from here on out as their fresh-of-breath-air chord progressions combined with the starry-eyed leads form a bright sonic pallet that is difficult to resist.
All this is not to say the album is without its faults though. The ill-fitting, cringingly awkward solo vocals that usher in ‘A Different Kind of Kindling’
feel superfluous. The faintly hushed, understated ‘Strong Island’
simply doesn’t hit as hard as you might like it to. It could also be argued that the homophonic nature of tracks is a weakness (a tendency for tracks to blur, a slight lack of differentiation) rather than a strength. Still, that You Blew It! get it wrong is commendable for at least they have the courage to risk failure. And besides, if they’re persistent enough their next record might be flawless.