Review Summary: In the present, looking back, and feeling just fine.
A nostalgic veneer surrounds the Peanuts cartoons, helped in no small part by the fact that they look so damn cute
and innocent. Whenever they appear on the television, it’s all smiles and rainbows, like reuniting with an old friend:
“Man, this really takes me back! This animation is so adorable.”
Perhaps with the unfortunate intrusion of age, experience, and the inherent cynicism associated with both—having grown up in the world, probably being burnt once or twice somewhere along the lines—those rose-colored glasses are gradually wiped clean to reveal true colors. Thus, the next time the Christmas special rolls around, it’s more like running into the guy that tried to stuff you into the lockers in elementary.
“These kids are dicks
Now imagine that sentimental ambiance that comes season after season, leaving reminders of times past—the uplifting, the dreary, the in between—and those similar sensations of regret and lingering depression. It’s as if after a long year, the feeling that everything will be okay finally sets in
was written after Charlie Brown found a miniscule Christmas tree, hung an ornament on it, watched the poor thing collapse into a heap, then wrote a math-tinged, emo-influenced indie rock record about the experience. It's an overdramatic description to an extent, but its core holds true; Chronophobe have delicately crafted an EP that possesses a familiar sound inside its occasionally twinkling guitars and dreamy, summer-esque atmosphere, yet it is silently venturing upon an understated journey through introspection. Nick Arseneau’s carefree, pleasant singing seems to float on air as it glides through “Tree Song,” cascading string chords coloring the scenery as a groovy bass quietly supports the gentle instrumentation. This eventually transitions into an excerpt of a Walt Whitman poem wherein Arseneau is suddenly brought to shouting, his voice hidden behind a hazy curtain, graceful glockenspiel strikes contrasting with the emerging lyrical motif of being unable to take root somewhere without some sort of comfort close by. It’s the traditional Trojan Horse of the genre: Establishing a sonic environment that harkens to memories of autumn nights or the early flowers of spring, then covertly inserting that nagging sense that something got messed up along the way.
Where Chronophobe excel when compared to peers is not necessarily in their ability to construct a mood, although they deserve credit for building such a lovely soundscape that matches the earnest nature of emo and the intrinsic playfulness of mathy escapades. Rather, the real success to be uncovered inside the brief release is that the Toronto quartet have their priorities set on songwriting first and foremost. The gents comprising this collective are evidently skilled at their chosen art, but only on rare occasions do they embark upon passages centered around demonstrating technicality as opposed to cohesion. The middle of “Sumer Moon” features a brief explosion in percussion followed by intertwined melodic riffs and trade-offs with the bass, the four contributing variables eventually coming to a head before being promptly halted to make room for the light-hearted chorus. Even then, this interlude feels as if it is a natural bridge to connect each part of the song together, which acts as an ode to shedding the darkness of winter, figuratively (or literally?) burning old clothes to make way for the comfort of the warmer months. As the tune bounces along its vocal harmonies and polished instrumentation, it seems to dress up the listener in a T-shirt and shorts, discarding that old sweater in favor of something bearing a more positive connotation. The change in wardrobe is reflective of the fact that after a long year…
relies on restraint and finds its greatest strength in doing so.
It's within “Super Mario Lemieux” that this vision is fully realized. Despite its runtime matching fellow entries by clocking in below four minutes, its post-rock structuring seems to elongate the duration, allowing for the audience to sink into its soothing arrangements. After an introduction sparked by light strumming, subtle horn compositions blossom alongside the returning glockenspiel. True to the EP’s spirit, included phrases regard the passing of time and the inability to stay in it; Arseneau admits, “I'll never see you again, but I don't mind / I sure hope you don't read my intentions wrong / But unpacking everything I say would take too long.” Chronophobe allows this message to recede bit by bit as the horns return in the background, the song swelling to an enjoyably straightforward crescendo before drifting away as well, bleeding into the horizon like those nostalgic reminisces late at night. When the television set goes dark, the Peanuts are gone, as well as any thoughts focused upon them. It’s a reawakening to reality while reclining on a tired bed frame, wondering why you didn’t go to sleep some hours ago, yet secretly glad you visited the past for a bit. There are some gripes to be had, sure; why do I still dwell on this stuff? Why are those damned kids so rude? Why were people rude to me in the past? Why is the rhythm guitar so quiet
? However, much like emo albums as a whole, after a long year…
is charming in part because of it being rough around the edges. While flawed, it is brimming with youthful energy, an enticing atmosphere, and commendable compositional abilities. Consider this a confident step forward (or root forward, I suppose) by a small sapling, eager to add on more ornaments.