Review Summary: What’s within ourselves, trapped in uncracked shells
There’s a moment on All The Stories Left To Tell
when Domestic Terminal truly opens the emotional floodgates. As ‘Chalk Dust’ builds to its stirring pinnacle, everything about what Domestic Terminal was
– the dreamlike iridescence of I Could See Midnight Sky
– is momentarily tossed by the wayside. Jack Mancuso’s croons become shouts bordering on screams, and the entire band transforms into this cathartic vessel with Tim Hotchkiss ramping up the electric guitars and providing the ideal backdrop for Jack’s intense delivery of the line, “held hostage by my headspace / no way out!” It’s an incredibly moving moment on its own, but it’s made even more poignant by the preceding verses which round up years of frustration over being verbally taunted as a kid: “that constant judgment, that ringing bell / torn down by all of their vicious words / at what point are they all just confirmed?” When you realize the berating is so relentless that it’s actually causing the narrator to believe the toxic abuse being spewed his way – to the point of perceived inescapability – there’s a sinking feeling. It comes as an unexpected gut punch on the heels of the debut, which leaned into the heartache of past relationships with a warm nostalgic glow but never went for the jugular like this album does so regularly and unreservedly. It also speaks to the urgency which surrounds Stories
– a coming-of-age release that sees Domestic Terminal growing into bigger shoes, gathering steam, and unleashing torrents of creative energy all at once.
All The Stories Left To Tell
largely concerns itself with expunging the past and moving forward. There’s this sense of living on borrowed time, as if the present and future are unexpected gifts. To understand why, it’s prudent to examine the title track – a beautiful acoustic number both musically and lyrically that sees the narrator triumph over contemplated suicide: “the escape was an illusion, a darkness made deeper still / sought a cure for my confusion and my own depleted will.” As the song progresses, it ratchets up the tempo and transforms into a joyous outburst, where Jack Mancuso can be found singing perhaps Stories
’ most singularly defining passage: “it’s for the odds I’d ever be here, and all the stories left to tell / it’s for the ones who never left me / and finally, it’s for myself.” If one were to extract that sentiment and spread it across an entire album, it’d sound a lot like All The Stories Left To Tell
– an inherently motivated effort that aims to seize the moment thanks to a fresh perspective and a new lease on life.
We were blackbirds in flight, whistling songs of rebirth
Breathing in the crisp air of our inherited Earth
The past melts away and the roots yield growth
Scrape the skyline in pursuit of hope
Future undecided, moments yet unknown
As the record finds itself observing the passage of time, it’s able to feel both old and new – a product of the past but not shackled by it, ready and eager to pursue a future of limitless possibilities. The album begins like a blast from the past, with the placid, starlit ballad ‘Purple Envelope.’ Mancuso’s voice takes center stage, and the way he delivers lines like “we were hazy and sparkling” and “breathing in the crisp air of our inherited Earth” over glistening emogaze chords embodies everything that made the band’s debut such a stunning gem in the first place. Generally speaking, however, the song exists as an intentional farewell to the days of I Could See Midnight Sky
– a means of paying tribute to a bygone era that still clearly means a lot to the band as well as its listeners, all while clearing room for something new and arguably better to take its place. Themes of reformation and rebirth course throughout the veins of All The Stories Left To Tell
(the album ends and begins with the sound of the ocean’s waves), so as you wade deeper into this album’s shimmering waters, you should be anticipating at least a few surprises.
Right on the heels of ‘Purple Envelope’, Domestic Terminal deliver exactly that. From the moment that the rollicking drums kick in on ‘Blessings and Curses’, it’s apparent that the band is ready to take big chances. ‘Blessings and Curses’ displaces ‘Amped’ as their most energetic track, thanks in large part to Jack's deceptively complex drumming and Tim’s faster-paced riffs. Despite the uptempo pacing, the message is one of gloom as Mancuso laments repeated patterns of pain and suffering: “inherited myself from generations past, no admiration for this fortune I’ve amassed / an evil spell cast on each generation.” This plays right into the cyclical themes abound, only rather than existing as a tide to remake the shoreline and figuratively cleanse one’s soul of the past (‘To The Touch’ into ‘Melt Beneath The Sun’), this track essentially describes the opposite of that – hopelessness and an inability to change. The ensuing ‘Koi Pond’ exists in a similar emotional and aesthetic space, alternating tender acoustic picking with Hotchkiss’ reflective guitars and Matt Ackman's intricate percussion, while Kyle Waggoner contributes his best bass line and a gorgeous swell on keyboard. Meanwhile, the narrator looks inward for inspiration to change, only to find a lack of motivation: “I’ve caused my own agony / it’s my confused and ransacked heart, not worth living in week by week.” With these two tracks, Domestic Terminal already achieve sonic
transformation, but the lyrics paint a much bleaker emotional
picture of languishing desire to break free from self-imposed barriers.
Another way that Domestic Terminal establishes new ground on All The Stories Left To Tell
is the infusion of purely acoustic tracks. Their collective presence feels like a cool breeze, and the lyrics follow suit with moments of emotional respite. The title track – whose mantra for continued life has already been highlighted – is the most obvious example, but we also see it on ‘Seven Of Your Favorite Stars’ and ‘Shapeless’, each of which observe the intricacies of learning how to trust. ‘Shapeless’ – which the band affectionately coined as “The Tallest Man on Earth going to space” – features some of their most elaborate acoustic guitar work and compares approaching an uncertain future to floating off into space, all while acknowledging that such change is always easier with someone by your side: “ascend into deep space with nothing but hope / look backwards with longing at our shrinking home / don’t know why they chose to leave this cold world / but on both our shoulders, this burden stands firm.” It’s a touching moment, and it serves as a beautifully contrasting sentiment to the album's surrounding melancholy. ‘Seven Of Your Favorite Stars’ is a personal favorite, primarily because of the way the songwriting progresses. It’s a topsy-turvy affair, commencing as a sparkling instrumental piece before veering into choral chants that call back and forth to each other in harmonized unison. At the song’s apex, Hotchkiss’ sun-kissed guitar illuminates the room while Jack sings, both melodically and urgently, “scream into the starlit night!” That feels like it’s going to end up being the song’s most heartfelt moment until they wind the tempo down again, setting the stage for Jack to sing in a slightly lower register over bubbling acoustics: “you’ll be okay, just trust in me / you can run until your lungs turn black and blue / I’ll be right here, just turn your ear / for these stars might die, but I will never move.” Whether it’s the earnest pledge of loyalty or the band’s knack for dynamic shapeshifting, ‘Seven Of Your Favorite Stars’ exists as easily the most uplifting and entertaining song not only of this record, but also of Domestic Terminal’s catalog.
As All The Stories Left To Tell
winds towards a close, all of the album’s prevalent themes begin to crystallize. On ‘Capo 1 Song’ – which comes together in a surprisingly coherent fashion despite being, by the band’s own admission, “a bunch of different ideas we have lying around” – Mancuso sings of coming to the realization that breaking out of your shell is not meant to be a solo venture: “exhausted with this dance, leaving piles of bones / in need of assistance…despite miraculous saving, I continue choosing crisis / I can’t change on my own.” Right as Jack hits that last line, there’s a very noticeable key change that, if intentional, is absolutely genius. ‘Summit’ ensues and serves as the album’s overarching moment of resolution, with the narrator finally allowing someone – or maybe even just himself – into his heart atop the lustrous glaze of Tim’s dreamily plucked guitar: “you’re a shining blade, cutting at the threads / my heart is open, against my better judgment.” That last line is crucial in maintaining a realistic sense of doubt, because anyone who would have a reason to put up so many walls wouldn’t be totally unguarded in taking them down; it’s a sentiment that’s further expounded upon during the final verse, “trusting incompletely, every act second guessed.” The penultimate track, “When The Oceans Ran Dry” uses post-apocalyptic imagery of nuclear fallout to symbolize the despair at various junctures of this record (“aimless, we wander through scattered debris, swallowed by the night...a desert of black sand beneath our feet, a rainstorm of ashes is all that we breathe”) but is pulled into the light by an empathetic soul: “your tears made the water flow / the atmosphere breathes again / your touch, it was heaven sent.” By this point, it’s clear that the narrator has begun to overcome the afflictions of his past – from the bullying on ‘Chalkdust’ to the suicidal ideation present on ‘All The Stories Left To Tell’. Having finally freed himself of these chains, there’s a feeling of hesitant – but hopeful – arrival at the present.
All The Stories Left To Tell
ends with a slow-burning epic, ‘To The Touch’. The song was inspired by a painting that Tim’s grandmother made – one of storm clouds encircling a ravine, with a slender crevice of light peering through the black – and the imagery seems all too appropriate for Stories
’ overarching message. Darkness is everywhere, concealing truth and obscuring the path forward. The best way to survive is to truly learn yourself by chipping away at your own emotional barriers in order to reveal that evasive sliver of hope; or, to cite a rather appropriate quote from this record, "chisel your heart out of the stone it’s encased in." So much of All The Stories Left To Tell
revolves around internal conflicts and how they affect your perception not only of yourself, but also of what the future may hold. If you view yourself in a negative light, the future can be bleak or naught at all. As Mancuso winds through the track’s melodic build-up alongside Tim’s dark and despondent riffs, we’re eventually taken to a place of triumph and self-realization: “I wanna feel you, I wanna hear you, I wanna touch you / So tear me down.” There’s so many different ways that the passage could be interpreted, but the most fitting seems to be that the narrator is singing about himself. Sometimes you have to tear something down – fear, doubt, pain, distrust – in order for a better thing to be built in its place. If you find yourself depressed, rejected, or in any other way hopelessly cornered, remember that there is always a path forward to a more promising tomorrow – even if it's currently obscured by ominous storm clouds of uncertainty. All The Stories Left To Tell
is here to remind us that there’s more to your life than the bad things that happen to you, and that you have more power over that narrative than you might believe. It encourages you to take up the pen, even when you think your future has already been written. Do it for all the stories you still want to tell…and most importantly, do it for yourself.
If I just stop to breathe then I’ll see
What makes this worth it