Review Summary: Take me down to the Somewhere CityOrigami Angel
are a bit of an oddball band. A scattered discography, including an EP based on the 3rd generation of Pokemon games and a debut EP that was more soft-acoustic-emo than the explosive energy of their recent output, makes them a hard band to *place*. Somewhere between the snotty, heartfelt emo-punk of Remo Drive
and the hyper-mathy, clean pop punk of outfits like Tiny Moving Parts
, the band's sound is familiar, but not instantly analogous to any of the big dogs in the pop-rock/pop-punk scene. They're relatively unknown too, with Somewhere City
being their first full length release, following their eclectic (to say the least) collection of EPs and splits. They'd seem unlikely candidates then, to offer up a genuinely brilliant and creative effort to a blend of subgenres that, in all honesty, are fading from the heydays of the 2000s and early 2010s.
But with Somewhere City
, that's exactly what they've done.
To manage the expectations of more discerning listeners, much like Remo Drive
's 2017 debut, this record isn't the Ok Computer
of emo punk. It's not treading any totally unfamiliar territory, and it's likely not the most polished collection of songs to ever grace your eardrums. What Origami Angel do on this record, however, is take a genre that has largely stagnated, and approached it with such blind optimism, enthusiasm and genuinely interesting songwriting flourishes that new life is found from nowhere. The willingness to take fairly conventional ideas and play with them, making something unexpected is possibly the band's biggest strength. From 'Doctor Whomst's almost easycore-ish fight riff close, to the danceable boppyness of '24 Hour Drive-Thru' and the blast beats that rip through the end of '666 Flags', no song is without some kind of twist or turn that is a complete departure from what you might expect.
There's some genuinely strong songwriting here too - 'Say Less' has an utterly infections earworm of a chorus, whilst the hyper-peppy of optimism of 'Find Your Throne', whilst not the most creatively written track on the record, is undeniably catchy. The closing track is an absolute class act in this regard - nothing that special until the halfway mark, at which the band reincorporate pretty much every hook of the rest of the record into a soaring, multilayered polyphony that ties the whole of Somewhere City
into incredibly satisfying harmony. The rhythmic variety on this record really can't be emphasised enough, either. 'The Title Track' is almost borders on some kind of jazz-emo-punk fusion with it's commitment to seemingly relentless syncopation, and the intricacies of the band's TMP-style tapped noodling are well placed and impressive, although some may find the recurrence of these flourishes a little excessive. Perhaps the best example of this working is on the opener, 'Welcome to...', where a distinctly midwest emo flavoured ostinato gives way to an affirming, steadily building crescendo to kick the record off to an anthemic start.
The instrumental performances are fantastic; the drums are tight, the guitar is snappy and has a great crunch to its tone. Ryland Heagy's vocal performance is sassy, emotional and vibrant in equal measure, thankfully without the return of the half-rapped style that cramped the style of the closer to their Gen 3
EP. With these positives said, the mix feels just a little thin on the bottom end, and a couple of tracks like 'Escape Rope' sometimes feel a bit scooped out in their verse passages, but this issue isn't big enough to have much of an impact on the overall listening experience. Lyrically, the record indulges some pretty well trodden themes of loneliness, losing and finding sense of self and belonging, but with a general trend to positivity and optimism - a breath of fresh air in a genre with slightly more self-pitying lyrical trends. Whilst the uncompromising youthfulness of the lyrics could be a little tiring for those already exhausted by the sensibilities of pop-punk, they're by no means bad enough to mar an altogether surprisingly polished and coherent take on the genre.
Again, it has to be emphasised that for all this record's brilliant use of rhythm, variety, fantastic songwriting and entertaining twists on well-trodden concepts, this isn't anything entirely new. If you come in to Origami Angel expecting an avant-garde take on pop-punk you might leave disappointed. But if you suspend your cynicism for just half an hour, and let Ryland Heagy and Pat Doherty's frenetic, bright, surprisingly fresh, self-branded 'emo-pop' in to your eardrums, you might just come out the other end thinking Origami Angel
have dropped the best record the genre has seen this year.