Review Summary: Emotionally raw pop-punk that masters the basics.
Pop punk is essentially expected to have three things: Heavy emotions, catchy hooks, and some passable instrumentations/vocals. Anyone that can get those things onto an album is going to have a pretty decent pop punk record. It’s a genre that doesn’t expect variation, although a variation on these themes can lead to absolute classics (The Hotelier and The Wonder Years are prime examples of this). However, with this lack of variation, it can be difficult to make anything more than a pretty decent pop punk record. If you’re not going to experiment, the quality of the music needs to be incredibly high to be a standout record. On Steady Glow
, In Her Own Words don’t entirely break free of what is expected, but they take the basics and do them damn well.
From the opening seconds, it’s safe to say that the band heavily relies on the vocal performance of Joey Fleming to make them rise above their contemporaries. His voice has just the right amount of grit while still being, for lack of a better term, incredibly pretty. Standout track “Right Now” sees the full emotional range of his voice, with a mix of clean tones being interspersed with harsher deliveries. “Right Now” also sees the band itself make its most impressive efforts, with drummer Omar Sultani putting in a particularly impressive shift and dueling guitar tones winding in and out of the song.
Again, none of this description sounds like anything that couldn’t be applied to any other pop punk band in the scene right now. However, the mastery of these ideas on Steady Glow
places In Her Own Words above many of their contemporaries. There isn’t an unmemorable chorus, which is an accomplishment seeing as there are a variety of tempos represented on the album. Opener “Out of Focus” has a particularly memorable pre-chorus leading into a chorus complete with echoing “whoa-ohs”. “Serotonin” is the best pure pop punk song on the album, mixing the lighter stylings of Mayday Parade with a heavier variety seen more among The Wonder Years. This combination of pop punk styles gives In Her Own Words a unique sound, as opposed to one that sounds like imitation. The emotional delivery each song has also puts it a step above generic pop punk albums, as every word, note, and beat seems incredibly genuine and raw, making the album at times feel as though it would be as comfortable in the emo genre as it would pop punk.
Where the album most succeeds, perhaps surprisingly, are its mid-tempo rockers. The title track is one of the best mid-tempo pop punk track I’ve heard in years, with the melody being as catchy as the chorus itself and Fleming giving his best vocal performance on the album, which is quite an accomplishment. It also has incredibly raw lyrical moments, as the song, as does much of the album, deals with the sudden passing of Fleming’s father. The chorus is particularly powerful, with Fleming singing out “I've been seeing your face in the steady glow/Of the torch I hold/As your flame just burned out so/So suddenly.” Paired with two other mid-tempo songs, “Wonder” and acoustic closer “Sleep It Off”, this trio leaves the greatest emotional impact of any songs on the album.
isn’t a perfect pop punk album, but it takes the expected aspects of pop punk and executes them almost perfectly. There are a few issues, such as the mixing sounding somewhat muddy, which can make songs blend together. Additionally, there are a few more typical songs, such as “Delicate”, that don’t add much to the album as a whole. However, with pure raw emotion, heavier than typical stylings, hooks for days, and varied approaches, all perfectly topped with stellar vocals, In Her Own Words have made something any lover of the genre can greatly appreciate.