Best of 2016 Playlist

June 6, 2016

Speed Reads: Real Friends, Against the Current & Survive This!

New edition of "Speed Reads"! Concise, quick reviews for those who don't want to bother with full length reviews. In this entry, we're looking at the latest albums from Real Friends, Against the Current, and Survive This!

To read the previous entry in our "Speed Reads" series click this (link). To buy any of the featured album, click the links below. 

*We may do full length reviews in the future, but for now we've just got these. 

Real Friends - "The Home Inside My Head" (7.5/10)

Summary - "More of the same, but still very enjoyable"

Real Friends had their work cut out for them. Following up a highly acclaimed debut like "Maybe This..." is hard. It's even harder when you're in the spotlight. Real Friends bow to some of the pressure, but not all of it. Their new record finds them taking a few missteps, while overall keeping with the same emo-The Wonder Years/Jimmy Eat World style of pop punk they gave us on their debut. The problem with the album lies in the actual song writing. There are far fewer hooks, and repetitive lyrics. The album is vastly made up of lyrics about moving on or being stuck on something (a person or a place). Sound familiar? It should. That's basically what the band addressed on their debut. Now while for some bands this works, recurring themes that fans are repeatedly drawn back to. But Real Friends stay inside the lines they've already drawn. 

In the end, this is a comfortable release for Real Friends. They don't push the envelope, and they don't stray far from their roots. So long time fans will be pleased. But those hoping for something a bit more from the band will be left wondering if these guys are one trick ponies. That being said, "happy-sad" look works for them, and there is a high level of emotion behind the band's songs. And the subtle mature notes here and there hint we've yet to hear the best from Real Friends. If you're a fan of the emo revival, then definitely check this album out. 

Recommended Tracks - "Isolating Everything", lead single, "Colder Quicker" and "Keep Lying to Me" (a particular standout for the instrumentals) 

Against the Current - "In Our Bones" (7.5/10)

Summary - "As Brian Dales once said, I'm a bit too punk for the pop kids, and a bit too pop for the punk kids"

There's a lot of pressure on the band to live up to their reputation, and give fans the album they've been waiting so long for. Against the Current prove on their debut that they aren't just another pop-rock band out to make some quick cash. They're here to stay (however long). Leaning more towards the rock than pop, the album has plenty of sing-along moments. It also has its moments when it stumbles ("One More Weekend", "Brighter" and "Runaway") but then picks itself up and keeps on going.  

Opening track and lead single, "Running With The Wild Things" is the album's highlight. It doesn't push the envelope, and definitely relies on the standard pop-rock structures to get by. But the band knock everything out of the park with their delivery and Costanza's voice hits a high note (literally). Anthemic, very Fall Out Boy-ish, clearly Fueled By Ramen loves their arena/anthemic rock. Track #2, "Forget Me Now", is a typical "who needs you anyway" kinda song. But again, the execution is so perfect we love it. 

Unfortunately things get a little muddled after that. Costanza's vocals remain strong throughout, as do the instrumental aspects of the song. But the band give in to pop cliches and reuse lyrical themes so much it's almost criminal. Their use of electronics seems good on the surface. Digging deeper, one can clearly see they're trying to rip off PVRIS (and Costanza is no Lynn Gunn). Ultimately what the album boils down to is the band needing to move away from their labels obvious push to get them into the Top 40, and be themselves. Because the moments when they don't rely on those pop cliches, or that "dreamy" production is when they shine. 

Recommended Tracks - "Running With The Wild Things", "Forget Me Now", "Wasteland", and the title track.

Survive This! - "Reality" (7.5/10)

Summary - "Our summer guilty pleasure

 With their 2nd album Survive This! are trapped between post hardcore and mainstream rock. The times the band go heavy, the music is stronger. But the more mainstream moments are admittedly catchy. "Desperately Hopeless" is the perfect example of the band's fusion of alt. rock and post hardcore. The upbeat nature of the song is offset by the heavier moments and unclean vocals. "Save Me" has some very hardcore punk-esc verses while the chorus is more melodic and anthemic. A huge step away from the cheesy electronic hardcore the band gave listeners on their debut. The hardcore cliches are toned down in favor of something a bit more accessible. 

The track destined for a crossover would be "Disappear". Hard rock meets alt. rock into one perfect song. It recalls some of Get Scared's early music ("Sarcasm" and "Scream" in particular). A tad theatrical, face paced, and, most importantly, incredibly infectious. Upon an initial listen "Disappear" didn't seem that interesting. But after several dozen listens, the track has taken up a permanent residence in our heads. That damn chorus gets us every time. The album is perfect for fans of SECRETS, Get Scared, and Pierce the Veil. Yes the tracks do get a little muddled together, and overall there's nothing new. But everyone needs a fun, easy listen. And this would be our go to for the summer. 

Recommended Tracks - "Feel Tonight", and "Desperately Hopeless"