Review Summary: Despite some poor vocal performances and subpar lyrics, Transit creates another great soundtrack for summer memories.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Transit gave us these words on their last LP, 2011’s acclaimed “Listen and Forgive.” The album was a step in a new direction for the band, drawing less from their older, straightforward pop punk and incorporating elements from emo bands such as American Football and Sunny Day Real Estate. “Listen and Forgive” was a joy to listen to; filled with the sort of heartfelt lyrics and melodies that worked to create a memorable album of summer tunes and anthems. The lead vocals of Joe Boynton blended smoothly with the sweet guitar lines from guitarist and backup vocalist Tim Landers and added emotional depth to the music. Transit proved on “Listen and Forgive” that they were more than capable of producing an album that was not only fresh, but enjoyable. It comes as no surprise that Transit’s 2013 offering “Young New England” is also a pleasant album filled with many of the elements that made their previous effort such a success.
While not necessarily an improvement over “Listen and Forgive,” “Young New England” shows Transit settling into their niche of emo-pop punk. The clean melodies from their last album are as present as ever, the songwriting is above par, and the songs have their place, for the most part at least. Songs like opener “Nothing Lasts Forever” and “Weathered Souls” see the band acknowledging their newfound sense of direction while simultaneously nodding to Transit’s past. The former, “Nothing Lasts Forever,” weaves in and out of its calm verses and upbeat choruses effortlessly, displaying a sense of dynamics that the rest of the album builds on. The song works quite well as an opener; the vocals never attempt to overpower the music nor the other way around despite being a fast-paced song. The chorus will stick in your head just like 2011’s “You Can’t Miss It (It’s Everywhere)” did, showing that Transit have not lost their way. “Weathered Souls” is a different sort of tale. Although the first half of the song is more of the same clean, upbeat, emo-infused pop punk we’ve come to expect from the band. The second half of the song settles into a blend of a ballad and an anthem. “Grow up, go on, but don’t be forgotten,” Boynton sings over a gentle rhythm section, yet the song resonates more and more with each repetition of the lyric. Moments like these remind the listener that Transit knows what works, and more importantly, what works really well.
While songs like “Second to Right” and “Summer Me” deliver the positive vibes and melodies that are expected from Transit, the title track and closer “Lake Q” see the band perfecting their definitive, emo-pop punk sound. An ode to their home in Boston, MA, “Young New England” is a fantastic song. Opening with what sounds at first like out of place gang vocals, the song quickly turns into a wonderful anthem of reminiscence. With lyrics like, “We traded in our small towns for those big city dreams,” Transit display what it takes to move on from your origins while maintaining an identity. The backup chants of “oh, young New England” keep the song moving along while complementing the music nicely. “”Young New England” also parallels “Listen and Forgive” in the way that the closer is a strong track. “Lake Q” is every bit as touching and memorable as “Over Your Head,” featuring some great guitar work and solid snare drum rolls. The song is a proper send off, closing the album on a slow-paced and emotional note.
While Transit is able to succeed with instrumentation and dynamics, they falter this time around in lyrical depth and vocals. While songs on “Listen and Forgive” told stories of estranged relationships and summer memories with poetic insight, some of the songs on “Young New England” don’t seem to really go anywhere lyrically. Sure, there are relatable lines, but many lack a sense of creativity and come off as vague. The lyrics on songs such as “Lake Q” fail to live up to the standard Transit established on “Listen and Forgive”. For a band that has written an entire album filled with insightful lyrics that anyone could relate with, repetitive songs like “Don’t Go Don’t Stray” really can’t cut it. It doesn’t help that Boynton’s vocals are a little shaky this time around. His performance on “Young New England” is inconsistent. “Hang It Up” is a pretty weak song, with his vocals coming off as awkward and uninspired. There are some odd, “woah oh ohs” in “Hazy,” creating a choppy song. These vocal weaknesses are worsened by the fact that they are obviously the weak point of the music. The musicianship is on par with “Listen and Forgive,” expect soft strumming and clean picking in addition to creative beats from drummer Daniel Frazier. With the band set on perfecting their blend of emo and pop punk, it’s a shame the vocals don’t carry their weight.
“Young New England” isn’t a crowning achievement for Transit like “Listen and Forgive” was, but it is one hell of a fun, memorable, and relatable album. The stomping rhythms and chants of “Boston never drinks alone” from the title track and the infectious chorus from “So Long, So Long” will resonate with you after the last snare rolls in “Lake Q.” With “Young New England” Transit have affirmed that they possess the creative ability necessary to follow-up an album as excellent as “Listen and Forgive.” “Although the lyrics and their delivery need some fine-tuning, this doesn’t detract too much from the music and the album is definitely worth a listen. “Young New England” is the nostalgic soundtrack to a set of summer nights, and the ups and downs associated with them.