Review Summary: Athletics take the beautiful production sheen and brooding storytelling of post rock and combine it with the punchy drums and soaring vocals of post hardcore, creating a dreamy atmosphere that also boasts incredible immediacy.
It's interesting how the meshing of two separate genres can yield such strong results. It reinvigorates the music and allows for the listener to hear elements not normally put together, placing the familiar alongside the unexpected. Athletics take the beautiful production sheen and brooding storytelling of post rock and combine it with the punchy drums and soaring vocals of post hardcore, creating a dreamy atmosphere that also boasts incredible immediacy. Why Aren't I Home?
is an interesting animal in that respect, taking elements that should clash and combining them in a startlingly natural way. Lush cinematic instrumentals segue into ethereal choruses that always retain the grandiosity that post rock build-ups hint at, and it's a wonder that Athletics are able to twist genre conventions so easily since this is their first full length endeavor.
Title track "Why Aren't I Home?" quickly acclimates the listener with all of the elements that the band incorporates, as a mini-crescendo builds to vocalist/guitarist Garrett Yaeger showing the full extent of his voice. The beauty of Athletics' formula is that while they adhere to the same peak-to-valley soundscape rulebook that most post rock bands do, they are also able to use the inclusion of vocals and more aggressive influences to create a new identity within each song. "See You On the Other Side" shows the post hardcore side of them, employing hypnotizing guitarwork and an almost constant vocal presence. This differs greatly from "Fairview" in that the band adopts a much more somber approach, and the exclusion of Yaeger's powerful singing gives the listener the respite needed to keep this record a very personal listen. The strength here is that from one track to the next, Athletics allows the listener to experience different facets of their style without there being a disconnect in the continuity of Why Aren't I Home?
. The constant internal sadness that the lyrics and instruments both adeptly illustrate allow for the smooth transitions and keep the concept intact.
With all of the praise heaped on the album at this point, Athletics do make a few missteps here. Some of the songs don't possess the identity necessary to command the listener's attention, and end up making the album seem more monotonous than it actually is. "I Am Withdrawal" suffers from a slow progression to the overwrought concluding shouting of "fall into the sea/bring me to my knees" that borrows a little too
much from Thrice vocalist Dustin Kensrue. "It's Night, It's Enough" transitions jarringly from warm, simplistic guitar and pandering vocals to a darker musical passage and gang vocals that may have worked better on two separate songs. As it stands, Athletics hit much more than they miss, and end up creating an album that provides a spark of ingenuity and a fresh take on a genre that was seemingly tapped dry. The beautiful melancholy and fragile human emotions that come to light on Why Aren't I Home?
displays the penchant that Athletics has for storytelling, and point to them creating incredible albums for years to come.