Review Summary: While Too Close To Touch's attempt at a darker, more personal record does give us a few excellent gems, it doesn't make the album any better than it could've been.
Too Close To Touch’s 2015 debut was somewhat of a rare oddity among the huge crowd of modern alternative rock. Unlike most bands that were either too afraid to experiment (Hands Like Houses) or let themselves become full-blown generic pop-rock (Emarosa, Sleeping With Sirens), Nerve Endings
showcased a group that actually embraced their pop influences while building a solid post-hardcore foundation. The result was a near perfect blend of the two genres which in turn gave us one of the most enjoyable rock records of 2015. And keep in mind; this was a debut album, not something that the band had attempted before, not including the self-titled EP. They were able to find their sound the very first time, something that very few bands seem to be able to accomplish nowadays.
However, Haven’t Been Myself
is far from the poppier, more upbeat style than what was found in the debut. Instead, it’s almost the exact opposite, with more screams, more emotional and personal lyrical content, and of course that typical “darker sounding” style that more and more bands seem to be falling into lately. This gives us two major problems: first is that Too Close To Touch ultimately lose their uniqueness. Their blend of post-hardcore and pop rock was what made them stand out and memorable in the first place. Examples being songs like ‘Translate’ and ‘Modern Love Affair’ are bland and boring, feeling rehashed from other bands that have used the same tropes more successfully. The second problem is that we lose much of the catchy hooks that were found on Nerve Endings
. ‘Sympathy’ is a rather weak opener with mid-tempo pacing and a lack of energy for the first two-thirds of the song. Guitarists Mason Marble and Thomas Kidd also feel somewhat uninspired with repeated guitar melodies and riffs in songs like ‘Crooked Smile’ while Travis Moore’s bass guitar is constantly overshadowed by the rather overbearing guitar mixing throughout most of the album.
That’s not to say that this has nothing worth listening too. There are moments where the heavier elements actually work in the band’s favor on tracks like ‘What A Shame’ and lead single ‘What I Wish I Could Forget’. Even so, the album still contains some of that upbeat style in ‘Inside Voices’ and ‘Miss Your Face’, which helps give us the notion that the band haven’t entirely turned away from their roots. Production elements are also a big plus on spotlighting certain aspects, particularly on Keaton Pierce’s vocal performance who is an absolute powerhouse throughout most of the record. While his screaming could definitely use a little more work, he still manages to bring out a huge amount of emotion, especially on the slower-paced ‘The Art of Eye Contact’. Meanwhile drummer Kenneth Downey’s performance manages to keep up an energetic pace throughout most of the album and is by far the most improved member of the group as shown on ‘For Your Sake’. Then there’s the closer ‘Eiley’ in which the heavier, darker mood finally pays off, with everyone finally working together to create what is easily the best song off the record, possibly even the best song that they’ve made in general.
Haven’t Been Myself
is a standard example that going “darker” doesn’t always mean that your album is going to be better. If anything, it makes for a more predictable experience. While there are certainly notable improvements in terms of certain performances, there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking. That being said, there’s still a handful of great material to be found on this album and is sure to please most listeners regardless. Hopefully this is just a slight dip in quality into the huge potential that Too Close To Touch already set for themselves last year, and that they’ll continue on the right path for the next record.