Review Summary: Where a story ends.
A lot has happened for the pop-rock act Marianas Trench since the release of their last LP, the cinematic pop-opera Ever After
. Lead singer Josh Ramsay created a superstar in Carly Rae Jepsen through his production in the inescapable “Call Me Maybe”. The song went #1 in 19 countries, and shed a great deal of light onto the band. Unfortunately, not everything was destined to go well for the band. Josh’s mother ended up into the hospital, his fiancée ended their engagement, and Josh ended up there himself when he developed gallstones. What luck.
All of these changes make Astoria
the most personal work the band has released since their debut album, Fix Me
. Despite the admittedly goofy concept (Josh wanted the concept to be a coming of age story, picking the Goonies of all things), this album is a little more organic in sound when compared to the synth-laden Ever After
. This album broadens out and expands on its influences, combining elements of disco, funk, and progressive pop. The Motown dance floor vibe of “Shut Up and Kiss Me” or the electric guitar that fuels “Burning Up”, this album certainly has the energy and the fun vibe that prevents the band from seeming too pretentious. There are still noticeably Queen-like harmonies utilized here as well, used to the greatest effect on “Who Do You Love” and “This Means War”.
The two singles currently out probably hurt the flow of the album the most, sounding more contemporary and synth-driven than the rest of the album. First single “One Love” is mostly uninteresting from an instrumental standpoint with its synths and violins, but is carried by Josh’s incredible vocal presence, demonstrated towards the end of the song where the song quiets down for a bit until it resurges into a powerful climax. “Wildfire” is noticeably the most definitely “Marianas Trench” as the obligatory power ballad, and is probably the most generic out of any of the tracks on here.
So while Masterpiece Theatre
had its three title tracks, and Ever After
had its Toyland concept, Astoria
utilizes interludes to move along the narrative via the inclusion of interludes. These interludes utilizes an orchestra to provide a more cinematic mood in the journey between tracks. However, the most surprising part of this record comes when the band decides to simplify, such on mid-album highlight “Dearly Departed”. This song possesses nothing more than a ukulele and some accompanying strings in the background, allowing the sheer emotion of Josh’s delivery to hit the listener.
The most innovative and interesting parts of this record are of course the title track and the closer, both of which have always been the band’s trademark playground for self-indulgence. “Astoria” borrows perhaps a bit too liberally from The Who, but is never ashamed nor uninspired with how it displays its influences. “End of An Era”, however, acts as a reprise for not just the album, but also sums up and reprises themes and elements from the previous two albums, hinting that this might indeed be a change in direction, or even a place to finish their rapid ascent to the top of Canada’s pop charts.
So yes, this is a blatant nostalgia trip that often reuses more than it truly invents. However, if you’re content with hooks galore, energetic vocals, and inventive lyrics, then take solace that at least this treasure is in the hands of these good-hearted rogues.
Recommended: Who Do You Love, Dearly Departed, End of An Era