The Brave Little Abacus
Just Got Back from the Discomfort...


5.0
classic

Review

by Trebor. STAFF
August 27th, 2017 | 134 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist


The Most Underrated Band on The Planet: A Retrospective
Part 4 - In the morning I’ll be fine

It’s hard to properly talk about a classic album without dipping into hyperbole. Even the act of writing “classic album” is loaded. But it must be done because Just Got Back From the Discomfort-We’re Alright is the most underrated, underappreciated classic in all of emo. And so it becomes dicey trying to argue that an album that almost no one has heard is a classic. The Brave Little Abacus never spread out of their New Hampshire based scene, it’s just one of those things - a band that flies under the radar, doing great things and experimenting to an empty room. Please bear with me as I write many typically hyperbolic statements because these statements are undoubtedly accurate in this case.

Just Got Back From the Discomfort is a life changing record. Wow, so I guess I’m starting with the most hyperbolic statement possible. I wouldn't be the same human being if I had never heard this record. OK, that’s even more hyperbolic. It’s hard to explain why an album is important to me personally. No matter what words I choose, the way I structure my sentences, the metaphors, the flowery adjectives I use, all that can really be said is that I love this album, it’s pleasing to my ears, it’s soothing to my soul, and I have a very strong attachment to it. I can make claims that it’s important for its genre, but I know for anyone that doesn’t like emo, it’s going to be a challenging listen, and it’s perfectly fair for anyone to not like the way it sounds. Just Got Back is most certainly a challenging record - it’s a big part of why I’m so drawn to it. The first couple dozen listens were difficult, I liked it, but I didn’t love it, I skipped tracks, it lost my attention, but I kept coming back. It kept exciting me in new ways, like how it subtly repeats and references ideas, themes, lyrics, and melodies. The “Way before now” refrain in the closer hits that much harder because of its appearance in the opener. “When I say I’m sad I mean it” imprinted on my brain, the shaky vocals, the droning interludes, the Malcolm in The Middle samples, there was always something that felt fresh and new, even after 100 listens. And after 100 listens it became my favorite album, it forever glued itself to my consciousness.

Just Got Back is the culmination of everything The Brave Little Abacus accomplished throughout their career. Having experimented so much with eclectic instrumentation, TBLA knows exactly when to implement a trumpet, or a keyboard, or a guitar, or a sample, or even the jump sound from Sonic The Hedgehog. From the boisterous horns in the opener to the shaky, bendy guitar in song two, to the rapid fire vocals in the 10th track, to the bumpy percussion, gloomy keyboard, and soaring vocals in the closer, every song has its own flavor. JGB defies genre every chance it has. The toy piano, the accordion, the 15+ different synth tones, the “Pet Sounds of emo” is a melancholy grab-bag of sounds and tones that all mesh together into the same mood. JGB is musically diverse in a way that was unparalleled by the band, unique for the genre and exciting for music as a whole.

The sloppy, lo-fi production adds to the challenging nature of the record. The kick drum is inaudible, the snare sounds like trash, and the mixing is all over the place. It’s difficult to sink into the music because of the distracting production, but Just Got Back is that special kind of grower where you start to get past its flaws until you eventually love the unconventional sound of the record. The poorly produced rhythm section does allow the vocals and eclectic instrumentation to come into the limelight. It becomes hard to say whether the album would be better, or perhaps worse with better production - it would certainly be less unique.

There are samples from the early 2000s single camera dramedy Malcolm in The Middle at the end of the first and last tracks and during the bridge of the penultimate track. I loved Malcolm as a kid, so I connected with the samples immediately, they, along with the show have a very similar vibe - emotional, yet playful. Not taking itself too seriously, sad, but with moments of levity. The first, spoken by Hal, “So, now a relationship that was totally meaningless and trivial is over. It’s hard to get too upset,” followed by Dewey’s musing, “Is your brain big enough to get your feelings hurt. Me neither,” then a speech given by Cynthia to Malcolm “You hate everyone. To you everyone is either a moron, or a creep, or a poser. Why do you suddenly care about their opinion of you?” followed by Malcolm’s retort “Because I’m shallow OK...I want people to like me,” and finally, Malcolm’s response to his own question, “You want to know the best part about childhood? At some point it stops.” Much of the lyrics reflect the sentiments found in these samples, the awkwardness of growing up, figuring out who you are, figuring out you don’t like who you are, coming to terms with insecurities. “This is my resignation from the s-c-e-n-e, I said ‘no’ once, got stabbed in the back, while they said ‘relax’.” Critiquing one’s self to the point of self loathing and rumination, “I hate the way I talk,” and, “You're not listening, I said ‘stop,’ because it's come to be too much I can't just pile aesthetic-perceptive dilemma, over-analytic demeanors, feelings of lonely worthlessness and unproductivity atop the other, allowing each to bleed through their fabricated boundaries, and become one more thing to.” At first, the samples might seem like cheap ways to insert emotion into an album, like setting your dull student film to post-rock. But the samples only serve to reflect back the emotions already found all over the album. They’re supplemental, the album could stand without them, but they fit well with the lyrics, and their presence adds another layer to an already deep album.

Adam’s vocals are a big part of the appeal of the album, but they also pose the greatest challenge. They're nasally, Adam has a lisp, they’re rough around the edges - they take some getting used to. I’ve heard his voice described as “Spongebob meets Isaac Brock,” and I don’t think that’s far off. After many listens it becomes obvious that Adam’s voice fits the music perfectly. The appeal of his strong confident, atypical voice grows and grows when the listener discovers how essential they are - the lyrics hit harder because of the way they’re delivered, and the music is that much sweeter with Adam’s voice layered over it. I’m not even going to pretend like I understand the meaning behind most of the lyrics, but they’re so evocative and flow so well it’s easy to decipher how they’re supposed to make you feel. Adam’s lyrics and vocals ask a lot out of the listener, but digging to their stunning core is well worth the effort.

Just Got Back From the Discomfort-We’re Alright is the most exciting and challenging album of the millennium. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow, but I feel like the fact that a one paragraph specialist such as myself was able to cobble together seven paragraphs justifies my statement. The Brave Little Abacus put their everything into JGB; the stellar execution matches the grand ideas. It’s a perfect album by a near perfect band, and it breaks my heart that TBLA broke up a year after its release. It saddens me that there’s only one more part to this story, but at some point it stops.




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user ratings (252)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
helloiamcarter (5)
A rough, poetic, and deeply beautiful burst of eclectic emo brilliance...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2017


57275 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Wow this is my longest review in quite a while



Here's a link to their discog again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLk-eJ3uhQs&t=1061s

BMDrummer
August 27th 2017


14650 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

fuuuuuuuuuuck yes



listened to this on a train ride home from boston the other day, such a perfect album

Green Baron
August 27th 2017


25042 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

well you know I gotta listen to this now!

zakalwe
August 27th 2017


31166 Comments


Fuck right off with your bollocks abacus

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2017


57275 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The bollocks little abacus

ianblxdsoe
August 27th 2017


1916 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

listening rn let's see how this goes; phenomenal review(s) man

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2017


57275 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The brave little thrussy



Thanks my dude, I'm really hoping to hear people's reactions to the music

ianblxdsoe
August 27th 2017


1916 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

been meaning to check this out, just never got around to it since it's not on bandcamp or spotify; but you know me #emorevivalkingofsput so i kinda gotta check it eventually

luci
August 27th 2017


12418 Comments


very thorough review here, you justify the classic rating well. band probably isn't my thing since i turn them off ten minutes into every album. might try again

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2017


57275 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

All of their music is available for free download which is nice



Ali I would recommend powering through and following along with the lyrics

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
August 28th 2017


25748 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

well done my friend, great series, this is prob my fav of the reviews

Ryus
August 28th 2017


18816 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

awesome album

SandwichBubble
August 28th 2017


11988 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

recommended by reviewer

beach boys pet sounds



whoa there pardner

Ryus
August 28th 2017


18816 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it is a good album. i would recommend it too

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
August 28th 2017


57275 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

They're very similar in instrument choice and execution

SandwichBubble
August 28th 2017


11988 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

he needs to move closer to the mic is what needs to happen

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
August 28th 2017


57275 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

He sounds fine to me

IronGiant
August 28th 2017


1703 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

'the blah blah blahs' is in my top 10 favorite songs ever. the "IT'S THESE IDEAS THAT WASTE ALL MY TIME" refrain segueing into the video game keyboard sequence makes me feel all warm and tingly and happy inside each and every time I listen to it.



great review, thanks for putting so much time and effort into the series

ianblxdsoe
August 28th 2017


1916 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah this record is fucking phenomenal

sportsboy
August 28th 2017


702 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

one of the great records of our time, thanks



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