Review Summary: You feel better, man? Yes, but grief never really goes away. All you can do is learn to live with it.
Not everybody feels the need to explore deep feelings. Some are content with keeping them hidden in their very own secret garden. On the other hand, there are people - and artists - that want you to know how they feel. They want you to know because they desperately need to say it. Touché Amoré are like that. They always found some reason to scream.
Touché Amoré's singer Jeremy Bolm first screamed about adolescents' feelings, angst and frustration constituting the majority of the first album's lyrical content. This sadboi aesthetic slightly changed with Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
, where relentless touring and homesickness added another emotional charge to the band's music. After that, they moved from their aggressive and straightforward hardcore punk template to a more melodic and refined post-hardcore sound, allowing themselves to include clean or spoken-word vocal sections. Deeper considerations arrived with the third album Is Survived By
, the band exploring how its musical legacy would eventually be remembered. Bolm wondered whether good art can only come from personal pain. This question found its answer in the band's most acclaimed album, Stage Four
Indeed, Stage Four
was a whole other monster.
Not musically though: the album's core sound did not stray much from what the preceding LP had instilled. Lyrically, however, Touché Amoré attained a level they had only approached beforehand. Talking about his mother's terminal stage, Bolm poured out his grief with honesty so brutal that listeners had
to witness it, and rejoice in an intense catharsis. While not my personal favorite TA album, it resonated much more widely than the teenage considerations of the first two records. It felt like a fitting conclusion to the band's first era. The era of sadness.
In 2020, Touché Amoré want to spread more posi vibes.
They have not become Four Year Strong though, this new album representing more of a shift towards optimism rather than a clear pivot. The lyrics are ultimately heavy although they show newfound humor and kindness. Opener “Come Heroine” sees Bolm delve into this dichotomy by expressing appreciation for his long-time partner while jabbing himself out of self-deprecation. That struggle is the lyrical core of the record. The singer wants to be happy, but defeatism has eaten out his heart for far too long for him to fully let himself get better. At least, no song here tackles the same matters as Stage Four
, and that alone shows how much he wants to move on.
The same altercation between happiness and sadness can be found in the band’s compositions. There still are minor chords to be found here and there, but they are hidden by happy tunings, a la Suis La Lune, Heir
-era. It results in a sound that tries - and achieves - to remain triumphant despite all difficulties. This is particularly evident on tracks like “Reminders”, where the major-key chord progression is nothing but an anomaly in the Touché Amoré discography. Likewise, “A Broadcast” is the theatre of ‘whoa-oh’ vocals rising together with country-tinged pedal steels in a way that feels new, yet evident for the band. This twangy guitar sound is not stealing the rest of the band’s thunder: producer Ross Robinson made sure the rhythmic section would be compact enough to avoid a drained sound. The bass alternates between crunchy hardcore lines and eerie post-punk ones, and the drumming is hitting with such tight violence that it reminds of the band’s earlier sound.
The last key elements regarding the album’s duality are the vocals. Jeremy Bolm has always been known as a shouter that you can understand. His clarity has allowed his lines to become fan favorites in concerts, and Lament
is no exception to this tradition. "Deflector" already proved to be a concert winner during the last European tour, and that might be because it resembles the band's past work. Its anthemic chorus "I'll test the water, I will dive right in" is catchy and repeated enough for the fans to scream their lungs out. "I'll Be Your Host" works on the same grounds, its simple yet effective chorus being the perfect shout-along line you call for during a hardcore show. This well-known capacity is counterbalanced by the two featured artists, Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra) and Julien Baker (already present on TA’s precedent album). The latter brings a PUP vibe on “Reminders”, anxiety fighting lightheadedness in an oh-so-typical pop punk gang chorus, while Hull brings his craft of creating catchy anthems by joining Bolm in mid-album banger “Limelight”. These features allow the album to, for once, show some restraint. Among the blast beats, piercing guitars, and shouted vocals, there is some relief to be found.
This underlying struggle is what grants this album a special place among Touché Amoré's discography. It is true Lament
is not as angsty as the band’s first two albums. It’s not as reflective as Is Survived By
. And it’s not as cathartic as Stage Four
, thus losing some emotional power compared to what many consider the band's magnum opus. But you cannot ask an artist to feel bad. The hardest thing to do when grieving is thinking about yourself. Jeremy Bolm and Touché Amoré are on the right path.
I hope you too, dear reader, are feeling better than before.