Review Summary: A refreshing piece of sorrow
Making sad punk music can be a very difficult thing. Music of this hue is often too poppy, melodramatic, and insincere to leave a lasting impression on the listener, but Michigan four piece Somewhere South of Here have found the right balance and struck a chord with their very sad, but very heartfelt debut EP With Her Came The Birds.
In the form of a concept album about a fight between the protagonist and his girlfriend, her death in an automobile accident, and the protagonist struggling with the aftermath, Somewhere South of Here pummel the listener with sorrow and gloom in the form of catchy punk tunes.
Comparisons of With Her Came The Birds
to The Hotelier’s Home Like NoPlace Is There
are obvious. Both deal with the death of a loved one and the aftermath, but Somewhere South of Here’s approach is a tad less dramatic, and doesn’t hit nearly as hard as NoPlace. I’ll chalk that up to With Her Came The Birds
being only a short EP and not having ample time to develop the same kind of narrative, and also there aren’t many albums in general that come close to hitting as hard as NoPlace.
Sonically however, With Her
is solid - little things like melodies and lyrics that are repeated in multiple songs are rousing and help build a cohesive concept album. The lyrics deftly paint a picture of grief and regret, and as the album ends at its darkest point narratively, the listener isn’t left with any hope. The hopelessness displayed in the lyrics ends up being the biggest detriment as it paints the lyrics as an exercise in misery bereft of meaning.
Somewhere South of Here’s strongest suit is the loud/quiet/loud song structure they employ in their music. “3 P.M. Three Days From Now” opens with soft arpeggios that are broken by a scream “I can’t feel my face” as thunderous guitar chords flood the mix, then it all drops out and is replaced with softer clean tone melodies. The song continues to ebb and flow in this way as does the rest of the album, resulting in a dynamic sound. The guitar playing, made up of unusual chord shapes, riffs, and arpeggios drives the music in a way very reminiscent of Captain, We’re Sinking. Vocalist Jordan Wagel doesn’t have the strongest singing voice. His vocals don’t exactly soar, which results in his voice being slightly buried in the mix. This ends up being a positive as it helps foster an atmospheric sound, and it allows the intricate guitar playing to shine. Wagel’s shout however is very strong, and Somewhere South of Here are at their best when Wagel is screaming his guts out, such as on the choruses of “3 P.M. Three Days From Now” and “Hypothesis.”
With Her Came The Birds
is not too saccharine or melodramatic which is quite refreshing. The lyrics are dark, but the music itself is often punchy and hard hitting. Somewhere South of Here’s influences are fairly apparent, but their sound doesn’t lean too heavily towards any specific genre, mixing elements of pop-punk, emo, post-rock, and post-hardcore, hell there’s even a blast beat in “Wish You Were More Receptive.” Crafting an album that flows remarkably well and packs an emotional punch, Somewhere South of Here pull off a concept album with their first release, and prove to the world they can pull off anything.