Review Summary: Treading the line between emo and pop punk, as well as the line between misery and grit.
“Valediction”, the closing track of You Swear It’s Getting Better Every Day
, is the emotional release of the album, with vocalist Tyler Zhumov bidding farewell to something or someone, although it’s not made clear who. It could be his own well-being, it could be his depression, it could be his past - The interpretation is left open, with the vocals being echoed by screams in the end as Zhumov sings “I can feel the cliffs calling me/Standing still in the Rain/I loved you dearly”. No matter who the album’s farewell is addressed to, You Swear It’s Getting Better Every Day
is a grand welcome to Kayak Jones to the pop punk/midwestern emo scene.
Taking seemingly as much inspiration from The Wonder Years as they do from American Football, Kayak Jones’s debut album is one that is equal parts painful and cathartic. Creating a sound that is entirely unique but incredibly accessible, the band have proven themselves as a force to be reckoned with across a concise 31 minute run time.
One of the most noticeable things about Kayak Jones is their ability to seamlessly intertwine the intricate stylings of midwestern Emo and harder stylings of pop punk into one cohesive sound. Vocalist Tyler Zumhov is never entirely free of the forceful grit of his voice but is able to transition it between flawlessly between styles, while never breaching the territory into overdramatic. Opening track “Good Quality Work” immediately begins with Zumhov singing, introducing a catch to his voice that makes the listener believe that he could either break out screaming or break down crying at any point in the album, neither of which would necessarily be surprising. The track begins in an introspective space until the track builds with the whole band joining in, before de-crescendoing to Zhumov singing “I hope your well my dearest friend, maybe one day we can meet up again I can . . . hope”. This unconventional opener shows that Kayak Jones are not afraid to break free of the conventions of their trade.
All ten tracks on You Swear It’s Getting Better Every Day
soar, both emotionally and instrumentally. “Nose Blunt” is a more traditional pop punk track, with a heavier emphasis on the punk portion, but with a chorus that is extremely accessible, alongside a noticeably stellar percussion performance from Brandon Blakeley and intricate guitars absolutely wailing non-stop. This track leads directly into single “Lonely Codependent”, featuring a guitar solo that would be more in keeping with a math rock track, while “Foolish” ends with a shoegaze inspired minute of haze. Even though they prove that they could stick to typical pop punk conventions and make a record that went toe-to-toe with its contemporaries, Kayak Jones never rests on those laurels and instead push the boundaries of the scene that they are relatively newcomers to.
Of course, something that is always expected on both the best pop punk and emo records is emotional intensity and honesty, which is something that Kayak Jones have in abundance. Hailing from Dubuque, Iowa, the record constantly has you questioning “How horrible of a place is Dubuque, Iowa?” It is clear that this is music that comes from experiencing hurt
. Many of the songs discuss a feeling of not belonging and have both subtle and not-so-subtle descriptions of anxiety. Again though, they manage to pull this off without ever becoming an overbearing parody of themselves. The chorus of “Nose Blunt” has Zhumov crying out “Where did I even *** up?”, without it sounding like a cliche of the genre.
The closing trio of tracks showcases everything that the band does well. “Rusted” is the most experimental the band gets, while also showcasing their heaviest aspects. Starting out with vocal effects and a level of reverb, the effects are stripped away for Zhumov to yell out “It’s ok that they treat you this way, trapped inside my head until I cave”, before retreating back into the shadows for the following verse. The song shows the skills of the band along with highlighting the walls of emotion they can impact the listener with.
Closing tracks “The Mess I’ve Made” and “Valediction” serve as a cathartic release in the album, showcasing a sense of optimism along with featuring Zhumov in his most vulnerable state on the album. “The Mess I’ve Made” serves as the most straightforward pop-punk song on the album, with the impassioned chorus having Zhumov repeating the album title, seemingly trying to convince himself as much as the listener, before letting out an impassioned scream at the end. As mentioned before, closer “Valediction” leaves on an ambiguous farewell, an almost cliffhanger that leads the listener back into fulfilling relistens. What is made clear by the end of You Swear It’s Getting Better Every Day
, however, is that Kayak Jones have the promise to become one of the best in genre.