After four years since their last full-length studio album, GRAMMY®-nominated Relient K returned with their seventh LP project, Collapsible Lung, in 2013 (Mono Vs. Stereo).
Relient K is a band that writes from personal experiences and this has paid off with over two million records sold, three RIAA Gold-certified albums and a highly dedicated fanbase. As a prolific songwriter, Relient K's frontman, Matt Thiessen, has paved a road with pop hits over the last four years including co-writing Owl City's 2012 summer hit "Good Time," Kelly Clarkson's "Long Shot" and the award-winning "When Can I See You Again" from the animated film Wreck-It Ralph.
Like previous efforts, Collapsible Lung also stems from the band's personal experiences; however, this time around they chose to mix-it up and co-write for the first time ever on a Relient K album. Co-writers include Fernando Garibay (Lady Gaga), Ari Levine (Cee Lo Green, Bruno Mars), Evan Bogart (Beyonce, Rihanna) and Tim Pagnotta (lead singer/writer for Sugarcult). Keeping up with the fresh approach, the band turned to producers Paul Moak (Mat Kearney, Lovedrug, Seabird) and Aaron Sprinkle (OneRepublic, Anberlin, The Almost).
"This time around, we wanted to have a collection of songs that surprised even us," states frontman Matt Thiessen. "To do that, we teamed up with several other writers in LA, Nashville, and New York City. This ensured that the new LP would be unpredictable. Each song includes a different combination of authors, yet there is an underlying thread that ties the tunes together thematically. We took an experimental approach creating the album, and we couldn't be more pleased with the result."
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A New Direction Musically and Thematically| Posted June 14, 2013
It's been a lengthy dry spell for Relient K fans. After the success of their popular Forget and Not Slow Down project back in 2009, new music had been few and far between for the Ohio-based rockers, fronted by fearless leader Matt Thiessen.
Two karaoke-style EPs were welcomed two years ago, but only left the mouths of fans watering for more of the group's signature quirky alternative rock delicacies. Approaching five years with no sign of any new music, fans began to wonder if their beloved band had met their proverbial deathbed.
Truth be told, Relient K was never gone—just out of the spotlight for a while. They toured frequently, gaining an abundance of mainstream exposure by appearing on the Warped Tour, as well as opening for high-profile Paramore tours both in the U.S. and overseas. Thiessen also found some success on his own, co-writing songs like "Long Shot" by Kelly Clarkson and "Good Time," by friend and fellow crossover artist, Owl City.
Between songwriting and traveling the world over the last three years, quietly, the band managed to sneak into the studio to write and record a long awaited follow-up. On the heels of several personnel changes, including the surprising departure of longtime drummer Ethan Luck, the announcement of the band's newest digitally exclusive LP, Collapsible Lung, was finally made in early 2013.
"This time around, we wanted to have a collection of songs that surprised even us," Matt Thiessen says about the new album, which is the first time in their history the band has chosen to co-write with different producers. "Each song includes a different combination of authors, yet there is an underlying thread that ties the tunes together thematically. We took an experimental approach creating the album, and we couldn't be more pleased with the result."
The question on everyone's mind: Has the music been well worth the wait?
The pristinely produced and anthemic "Don't Blink" gives the listener their first taste of a more mature sounding Relient K, yet still possesses the fun musical oomph fans fell in love with in their youth.
"Boomerang" is a glossy modern rock powerhouse detailing the chronicles of a twisted romance. Think Switchfoot gone slick. Thiessen's vocals are spot on, and the song has, in my option, enormous crossover potential. One of the album's earliest singles, "Lost Boy," continues the prevailing sheen the project boasts so well.
"If I Could Take You Home" crosses into synth pop territory and continues the theme of relational struggle, presented with their unapologetic way of crafting a lyric: "The trail of broken hearts you've left behind should send me running girl, but I don't mind, it's not up to me where you sleep / You're so good at making casualties, inflicting pain by the casualty, it's easy to see you'll do it to me."
The free-spirited and bubbly "Can't Complain" can almost be taken as follow-up to the band's hit "High of 75," sounding the most lyrically reminiscent of some of their earlier work: "I know some days I'm gonna stumble, and I know the cookie's gonna crumble, and I know life is gonna suck some days, but I can't complain."
The tongue-in-cheek Brit rocker "Gloria" is directed to the female character in the title being accused of being an overprotective girlfriend, while "PTL," unexpectedly addresses the apathy following a one-night stand. Honestly, it comes as a major turnoff.
Zany and theatrical, "Disaster" tells the tale of a sour relationship headed south, while "When You Were My Baby" turns the tables and address the painful sting of lost love: "They say it's better to have loved and lost, but maybe if I stayed away from you, I'd be better off now."
"Sweeter" aids the advice that love just isn't worth the time, reminiscing the betrayal of a former lover. While I applaud Matt and the band for brutal honestly, ethically, this song just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Closing the venture, the album's mellow namesake "Collapsible Lung" serves as both the first and last uplifting tune on the record, even making a brief yet profound mention of the band's personal beliefs. I only wish we could have heard more of them throughout the album.
Longtime Relient K fans have reason to rejoice. With Collapsible Lung, their beloved band is back, and musically, better than ever. Working with multiple producers has conceived a sound unlike any of their prior albums, varying from synth-pop, modern rock, acoustic folk and everything in the middle. If we're rating on sonic merit alone, this project takes the cake.
Music aside, I do think some listeners will take issue with a majority of the lyrics found on this album. While I certainly appreciate the band for diving into issues that are rarely to ever sung about in the market, I felt some songs were addressed far too drearily, and at times, lacked an appropriate level of morality. It's a noticeable departure.
That said, Relient K has never been a band to wear a "Christian" moniker. They've always sung about the ups and downs of life, and have normally done so in a fashion that both believers and nonbelievers alike could relate to and enjoy. I felt as if this album missed the mark on that level. Here's to hoping that some of the brighter musings of young Relient K make their way back in the future.
Then There Was Light| Posted September 03, 2013 I am by no means one to be considered “qualified" for the writing of any sort of review; I am just a normal person—a kid between high school and college. However, I have been listening to Relient K faithfully since the very beginning, when the only title they could think of for their first full-length album was simply their own band’s moniker. So the fact that I have been listening to Matt and Matt’s music since I began to learn to write my name is enough to allow me to merely explain my thoughts behind their newly-released album Collapsible Lung. Also, before I begin, I would like to make clear that to call any music other than that which you create yourself “bad," “awful," or any other term of the sort is extremely bigoted; music is an art, and if one accomplishes what he or she has envisioned in their music—no matter what others may think—they have achieved success and have created something good. Others are allowed, of course, not to like it, but that does not make it bad. With this in mind, whether or not I, you, or others like Relient K’s newest album, if the band members themselves like it and have accomplished with it what they sought to accomplish, it is a good and complete work of art.
I had looked forward expectantly to a new original album from Relient K ever since their incredibly beautiful, heartfelt Forget and Not Slow Down, which was released in 2009. When I saw a Facebook post from Matthew Hoopes one day in 2013 speaking of a new album entitled Collapsible Lung, I was overly excited; I was excpecting another incredibly beautiful, heartfelt album—a Forget and Not Slow Down: Part II of sorts.
After listening to the new album yesterday, I was sorely disappointed and quite distraught. This isn’t Relient K, I thought. I thought this and even said it aloud not because of the dramatic change in musical style from punk and alternative to pop—for Relient K has always been known to change their musical sound between albums, within albums, and even within individual songs—but because of the lyrics. It is true that they seem watered down and hardly creative compared with the usual Thiessen standard, but this also is not what left me distraught (though, truth be told, slightly disappointed). What bothered me greatly, upset me, even angered me was the worldliness, the lack of eternal value, the lack of a focus on Christ which had been in all the rest of their songwriting for over a decade. Not only did the creativity and poetic quality of the lyrics seem watered down, but the meaning and underlying message seemed utterly drowned. Instead of songs like Wake Up Call, Those Words Are Not Enough, For the Moments I Feel Faint, What Have You Been Doing Lately?, My Way or the Highway…, Failure to Excommunicate, Less Is More, I Am Understood?, Getting Into You, Be My Escape, I So Hate Consequences, More than Useless, Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been, Life After Death & Taxes (Failure II), When I Go Down, I Need You, Forgiven, Give Until There’s Nothing Left, Deathbed, and their Christmas songs, Collapsible Lung boasts such shallow themes as sex, one-night-stands, habitual drinking, meeting girls in bars, and more. In fact, I had never before had to worry about those around me hearing the lyrics of my music when listening to Relient K, but yesterday, while mopping the gymnasium floor at work and blasting the new album over the large speakers mounted to the ceiling, Thiessen sang the line, “Baby, you look so sexy" and caused a group of children to begin laughing heartily and their respective parents to begin glaring at me scarily. I was, in all honesty, extremely hurt and felt terribly betrayed; I had looked up to Matt Thiessen my whole life as the ideal man I wanted to be and, in fact, had even posted a photo of him as my Mancrush Monday on Instagram just a week prior. In my hurt, disappointed, and distraught state, I posted to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and had many people show that they shared my very opinion and also felt just as betrayed.
Out of a sense of denial and a stubborn desperation, I kept Collapsible Lung playing on repeat for eight straight hours. Over and over again it would play, jumping from track to track like a seemingly drunken train with no true final destination. As said by Cortney Warner of Jesus Freak Hideout, the album felt “almost too inconsistent, and at times it [could] feel more like a B-side album rather than a collective LP." The tracks seemed to have no flow and were broken and disjointed. The album was not the Forget and Not Slow Down: Part II I had been wishing for. Then, on the final track, after hearing the album play over and over again for hours without end, something clicked and everything came together for me as if I had been trying in vain to put together a puzzle without sorting the pieces into piles based upon the similar colors printed on their front. I began to sort the songs on Relient K’s new album in the same manner, and all but one track were together in the same metaphorical pile—the final track. Suddenly, everything made sense. The album was entitled Collapsible Lung for a very important reason—the very same reason the final track was in a different pile than all the previous tracks and was given the very same title as the album itself. All the songs before Collapsible Lung were actually meant to sound empty, shallow, watered down, broken, and disjointed, and that is what, ironically, makes them all flow together and lead into the final track—the true underlying message of the entire album. Four years ago, Forget and Not Slow Down was released; it was a concept album entirely about the terrible experience Matt Thiessen had when his fiancé left him. He poured his heart into the album and it was and is a beautiful, heartfelt masterpiece. Somewhere in those four years after its release, “between the miles of open road," Matt sings on the final track of Collapsible Lung that he “lost sight of what might matter the most" and “stumbled into the great unknown." The first ten tracks on the album display where he began to look for comfort and satisfaction after his engagement had been terribly brought to an end and also show the emptiness and brokenness in looking to such things rather than to the loving Father he had looked to for many years before. Track eleven, Collapsible Lung, is Matt’s confession—his plea to the Holy Ghost, from whom he “hope[s] [he] ha[s]n’t heard the last words." In the end, I had gone from being utterly ashamed of Relient K’s new album to being absolutely astounded by its blatant, brutal honesty and sincere beauty. In fact, it may quite honestly rank with its predecessor as my favorite of all Relient K albums. Collapsible Lung truly is the Forget and Not Slow Down: Part II I had been longing for—not only musically, but lyrically and in meaning and purpose.
Different but I can't stop listening!!!| Posted July 31, 2013
Wow, something completly different and new. Not what I expected from one of my favorite bands. The lyrics and themes of the music have greatly matured and I can't take the album off repeat. Love it!
What a disappointment| Posted July 03, 2013
I don't mind bands changing styles if its for the better, but this album as well as the last one were not good albums at all.musically and lyrically this album is weak and quite frankly questionable at times. Everyone talks about the mmmh album and the other albums that rk were famous for, great sounds and great lyrics and I for one wish they would go back to that format. OObviously the band has their reasons for changing direction but personally it's been a big mistake in my opinion as I have loved rk for years, but sadly if this is going to be what they produce in future, I will no longer be a fan. Punk rock is what made them great and that is what they should stick to
Before anything-it blows my mind this review has no mention to readers that Relient K really shifted lyrically. Songs mention one night stands, going to bars, and no could be taken to say a new couple comes home from church-starts fooling around-and decides to have sex.
This is a far cry from any previous album.
So-anyone not on board with these kinds of lyrics-know this is what you are getting.
I am actually fine with the music. The band just did a bunch of pop covers to prepare us. Most of the songs are fun and catchy. Not much depth. But not as shallow as Brittney or anything.
Ironically-PTL-the song mentioning a one night stand is my favorite song. It is very fun and I could see it being a Top 40 hit.
Basically-if you want a punk album-you will not find it. If you want the heart and wit and faith of their other albums-you will not find it. If you can handle the change in attitude and lyrics and that does not offend you or will not affect your walk with God-and can handle a pop fun pop album mostly-then give it a try-or go song by song and skip what you don't like-as it is in no way a complete album with a theme connecting songs together in some grand idea.
An Eclectic Brand of Pop Rock| Posted July 01, 2013
After bringing us one of the band's most personal, and best, albums to date, Relient K has returned 4 years later to a more upbeat and fun style that might be seen by some long-time fans as a sell-out move. While I am one of those long-time fans, I don't think this album is all that bad. It's by no means there best effort to date, but it is a fun summer album that is ment to make you feel good and it does that rather well.
Relient K's last album, Forget and Not Slow Down, came from a dark time in lead singer Matt Theissen's life. From what I understand, his ex-fiancee left him after thinking that he was cheating on her. That album felt like a working out process of what happened and also installed the idea of a silver lining waiting at the end. It was thought provoking, moving, and was one of the best albums to come out that year. Fast forward 4 years to the present day and the new album, Collapsible Lung, has more of an upbeat vibe to it that I felt was needed. The band has changed their style once again and now are experimenting with different pop sounds which makes every track on this album unique. No one song sounds like the other which is great as it lends a sense of variety to the overall album.
However, there are some problems present. One of which is that the lyrics can be hit or miss. There are some good lyrics that offer that brand of Releint K satire we know all to well, yet there are some lyrics that don't sound like something the band would write ever. The reason for this is that there were a bunch of outside writers who got co-writing credits on most of the songs, mostly people who have written songs for mainstream artists like Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga.
Collapsible Lung might be a bit polarizing for Relient K fans. It's not among the best akbums the band has made, but it has a sense of fun to it that is well deserved after the subject matter of their last album. The band experiments a lot with different pop rock sounds and it mostly works for them even if some of the lyrics sound really bad coming out of Matt Theissen's mouth. I'm sure this album will make it onto some people's summer playlists, it sure will be on mine.