Review Summary: See the light.
Often, it's tough for fans of more abrasive sounds to accept a more accessible band of the given style; it's so easy to pass off such artists as insipid. At some point, however, we grow up and recognize when a band takes the best parts of our favourite genre(s) to make something universally pleasing, it isn't inherently diluted. Maybe. Bloom and Breathe
, the debut full-length from New Jersey post-rock/tumblr-emo outfit Gates, sees the group pull off cathartic builds and soaring melodies that outshine their contemporaries. The glossy sheen might be disconcerting to some, but it's hard not to grow accustomed - like trading in a car. Sure, your old beater had character, but that fresh new scent is ever so inviting, and the handling is so smooth, you'll wonder how you went without it all these years.
I'm not sure when I first got into emo music... possibly ten years ago with the discovery of Texas Is The Reason and Sunny Day Real Estate, or whoever. This reminiscing would be pointless if not for the fact that, like many fans of this style, I gravitated towards more abrasive bands over time. It was addicting. Gradually, I developed somewhat of an elitism towards bands I considered too soft, like I just... you know, couldn't connect, man
. Were I to maintain this outlook, I surely would've hated Bloom and Breathe
without reservation. Not only is it seemingly a drop in the ocean of of post-rock hybrids, but it's undeniably polished. The vocalist sounds like John Rzeznik at one moment - particularly during "Not My Blood" - then belts out full, resonating choruses the next. The instrumentals are crisp, though a bit overproduced, and the lyrics are pretty standard fare with no apparent all-encompassing depression fuelling them, or gritty, gargling angst. Lines like "We all live clamouring to survive/and we all die longing to feel alive"
feel inconsequential with the smooth, stripped down vocals serving as the medium. My 16-year-old younger self indignantly tells me I should
I don't. The songs are soothing, and it's easy to appreciate the care of craft. Guitar lines are deliberately executed throughout, but not robotically so - they are fluid, and intrinsic to the emotional buildup of the longer tracks - "At Last the Loneliest of Them" is exceptionally fervent, and sees the vocalist scream "But I won’t repent for what I’ve done/and I can’t forget what I’ve become"
as the song apexes. Timing is on point, and "Light the First Page" incorporates math elements for good measure. Pop melodies carry most of the songs forward, and they rarely lull, but rather contribute to a twofold listening experience. On one hand, you could dwell in the sincerity of the instrumentation, or opt to revel in the anthemic lyrical delivery. No doubt, heartache and moments of regret are to blame on some level, but the specifics don't matter (with no intention to devalue them). Bloom and Breathe
isn't merely the outpour of some profound, esoteric event. It is a broad, easily relatable spectrum of simple musings of love and hardship. Gates have delivered an album personal enough to draw your gaze, but just
vague enough to put the ball in your court, allowing an understanding that is all your own. There are no constraints - bloom and breathe.