Beach Slang’s ‘The Things We Do To Find People Like Us’ leaves listeners wanting more

Beach Slang’s debut album suckered me in with all the alt­rock things I gravitate toward. From Nirvana references, to a story about a misfit finding his way through life to even their record label, Polyvinyl Records (known for producing indie acts like Japandroids and American Football), drew me.
     That said, this album didn’t “wow” me the way I expected from my natural bias.
It left a bitter­sweet taste. It was so close to being an excellent album, hadn’t it been for the lack of deviation in sound and some weird production choices.
     The album starts off fast and heavy with James Alex’s gritty, rough-­around­-the-­edges vocals. At first, his voice pulled me out of the song because of how buried it was behind the instrumentation and effects.
     After listening a second time, the vocals became more coherent, and I could fit them back into the song. Doing that bothers me, though, because it requires a little mental gymnastics that could’ve been avoided had this production oversight been dealt with. And it doesn’t just happen in one track either, as most of the mid-­to-­fast paced songs are like this.
     Bringing out James’s voice would have made the album more compelling and straightforward, pushing that in­-your­-face punk sound. After discerning the lyrics, the track introduces the plot of the album, by putting us in the shoes of a young, restless misfit who is tired of these “gutless streets.”
     The second track, “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas,” starts out with a couple twangy, beach guitar chords before unloading the explosive instrumentation. This is my favorite song on the album, because it makes adept usage of groovy guitars riffs and pop­-rock melodies. “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”  delves into the mental state of the misfit, showing us his confusion and anxiety. As the album progresses, we see the misfit grow and heal using unconventional remedies like drugs, alcohol, and rock & roll.
     As corny and sometimes preposterous the story is, the way it is written into the songs shows the care and hard work that went into writing the album. For example, the line “The gutter’s too tough, the stars are too safe” from the second track on the album, turns into the line “Got a foot in the gutter, the other in the light” in the second to last song on the album. This change winds down the plot showing our misfit was right where he needed to be all along. He just needed to embrace himself and discover hope in his broken road ahead.
     Another example of the diligence in their lyrics can be found in the snippets of Nirvana dotted throughout the track “Hard Luck Kid.” Some of these allusions are obvious in places while others are well hidden as they seamlessly meld into the chorus and verses. These references aren’t attempting to evoke petty nostalgia, but rather they pay homage to the band that molded Beach Slang musically and personally.
     Though this was a good album, it didn’t have anything new to bring to the table. It just explored some already established sound without changing pace or instrumentation enough. As disappointing as that may be, the LP held my attention with its well-­written plot and uppity punk sound.
     Overall, this was an above­ average rock album that gets me really excited for what this band has planned for the future. I rated “The Things We Do To Find People Like Us” as a B­ album.

Published in The Stallion on January 26, 2016.

Rosenstock’s ‘We Cool?’ an emotional vortex

This album was the most fun I’ve ever had listening to sad music. “We Cool?” has an overarching sound of pop rock and upbeat rhythms that are very misleading to the overall dark tone of the lyrics in the album. This odd coupling of blood­-pumping, fast-paced music and wistfully, dismal lyrics creates a weird feeling of excitement and fun, mixed with disheartening angst.

This is Jeff Rosenstock’s newest LP, and he sticks to his sound of punk/indie rock. The album is heavily influenced by Jeff’s musical history with bands like Bomb The Music Industry and Andrew Jackson Jihad, both of which I enjoy for the most part. After his most recent band, Bomb The Music Industry, disbanded in 2014, he went into solo work and made this LP.

“We Cool?” is not for everyone. The pop ­rock sound this album brings to the table isn’t anything new or innovative and may sound stale to some people. Songs like “Novelty Sweater” are  reminiscent of Weezer and can sound cheap and unoriginal at times.

At the same time he brings so many positive elements from pop rock, folk music, and alternative country to the album that I can’t help but like some of what I’m hearing. This wide use of sounds is evident in songs like “Beers Again Alone” and “Nausea.”

Jeff’s vocals throughout the album are very active and grab the emotions of the wounding lyrics. His voice amplifies the layers of epic instrumentation found throughout the album, creating depth to the music that really pulls the listener in. If you like catchy, fast­-paced, pop ­rock sound, you’ll love this album.

The lyrics are very dark. They sound like they’re written by a young person about to take on life but is filled with uncertainty, discouragement, apathy and grief. The lyrics also address death and regrets, making it sound like Jeff is going through a midlife crisis. He talks about death, like in the song “Polar Bear or Africa,” as being a purge of your existence.

I’ve found more songs to love on this album than to hate. An example of this are the two songs, “Polar Bear or Africa” and “Hall of Fame,” which mesh together so well, musically and lyrically, that it’s hard to distinguish them as two different tracks.

Jeff’s unbridled singing makes these lyrics tear at emotions. I find myself wanting to sing along to the hooks in tracks like “Nausea” and “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry.”

There is one song that seems very out of place in the album, however.“All Blissed Out” is drenched in reverb, which really covers up the music and the vocals with a echo­y film. It is also very slow and dreary unlike the rest of the album.

The song does explode towards the end, releasing the music that should’ve been brought out throughout the song in a very epic fashion. Still, for the album’s worst song, it’s not bad in its own right.

I rated “We Cool?” with a B+ in general but based on my own enjoyment I would rate it as an A. The upbeat tone makes the songs fun, catchy, and exciting. The lyrics are wounding and emotional. Unrestricted vocals and added instruments create depth to the overused formula of pop rock. It flows well and keeps to its overall theme of detached loathing.

It’s not perfect, however. It’s pretty much the same sound from his past albums, just done very well this time around. The singing is not pitch­ perfect, but still sounds great. And the theme of the album is a bit negative, which some people do not enjoy hearing. Overall it’s a noteworthy album worth listening to.

This article was published in The Stallion on October 13, 2015.

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