A New Direction Musically and Thematically
Posted June 14, 2013
By SarahFine_NRT, Staff Reviewer
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.
Song To Download:
"Don't Blink" (Get it on iTunes here
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