Best of 2016 Playlist

September 28, 2016

Too Close To Touch - "Haven't Been Myself" Review

If you only listen to one album this year, make it this album. Too Close To Touch knock this out of the park, and then some. Should NASA do another one of those "send Earth shit into space for some alien race to find" let's make sure this album is on that capsule. Words can't express how incredible this album is. TCTT set the bar high for themselves on album one, and on album two they surpass it with plenty of leeway. 

Click this (link) to buy the album on iTunes. And catch them on tour this fall with Crown the Empire. 

This album's alternate title might as well have been "Catharsis". Because that is the theme of this record. Keaton Pierce works his way through his pain and sadness as the album progresses. The haunting album was written after Pierce lost his three year old sister, the titular "Eiley" on the closing track. This album represents all the raw emotions he has felt, and will continue to feel. As dark and at times depressing as the songs may seem, they’re beautiful at the same time. 

TCTT mixes their brand of alt. rock with some mainstream rock to give us a catchy and introspective record. The atmospheric quality from their debut is again the underlying theme throughout. Again, can you believe these guys are only on their second album?  The band have tightened everything, and brought us another knock out album. It’s hard to believe they’re only on their sophomore effort. 

As in the past, the band draw many comparisons to fellow alt. rock, post hardcore masters Hands Like Houses. There are strong differences between the two bands (such as HLH’s strength in their rhythm section and creating contrast between their verses and choruses) but its in the similarities that we find TCTT growing. This album is darker, and more personal. There’s no sophomore slump for this band, they’re still going strong.

We’ve praised Pierce’s voice before, and we’ll do it again. He’s got the vocal chops of a more seasoned frontman, and the skills of a veteran of the field. Comparable to Brent Walsh of I the Mighty and Trenton Woodley of Hands Like Houses. Pierce knows when to use unclean vocals to push the emotion behind the lyrics forward. Rather than clutter songs with growls and screams, he utilizes the raw power and emotion to bring out the best of the song. 

Track by Track Review - 

1. Sympathy - 8/10
Too Close To Touch’s album starts with an emotional roller coaster in the form of “Sympathy”. The highs and lows of Keaton Pierce’s voice will take you for an incredible ride. The heavily muted guitar and bass work during the verses lets Pierce’s voice shine, while the drum provides a strong beat. He adds touches of unclean vocals here and there. The song is a great way to start the album. Not too safe, and a perfect example of the band’s growth from their debut. It is the sequel to “Hell to Pay” in the sense it has the about the same level of emotion and flow. 

2. “Crooked Smile” - 8.5/10 (Click link to read full review)

3. “What I Wished I Could Forget” - 9/10 (Click link to read full review)

4. Translate - 8/10
The way this song starts you’d never guess how anthemic it would turn out to be. Pierce’s light voice is undercut by a huge intro. Building up only to be brought back by his voice again. But that chorus breathes more than just life into the song again. “Translate” is as close to a "filler" track you'll find on this record. It is the weakest, but that means nothing coming from a band like this. It would have been better suited for their debut, as it isn't as polished as its brethren. That being said, it is still a solid track. 

5. “Miss Your Face” - 10/10 
If you don’t cry listening to this song then you should get your eyeballs checked. This song will bring out the feels in anyone, even the toughest of us. Pierce sings about the loss of his sister, and all the things he regrets about her passing. How he’ll never see her face again, how she’ll never grow up and see the world, and then laments about his sadness in general. This is about as raw as an artist can get. 

6. The Art of Eye Contact - 7.5 to 8/10 
A more electronic track, it’s nice to see the band bring out the usually background effects to the forefront. The opening verse could have been taken from Issues’ most recent album. The strongest aspects of the song are actually in the R&B verses. It's easy to imagine this track on twenty one pilots' "Blurryface", or on Bring Me the Horizon's  "That's the Spirit". Gotta love the intimate vibes from the R&B rooted vocals. Only Pierce doesn’t come off as a cocky douchebag. He’s sincere and soft spoken. Clearly one of the more experimental tracks of the record, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. There are moments that would have benefitted from edgier guitars or a stronger bass line. That said, the placement as the middle track is key, acting as breathing space for the listener. 

7. Modern Love Affair - 8/10
A peaceful intro is a hallmark of TCTT music. This song is comparable to "Sinking So Long" or "Someday" from their debut. The track has strong R&B influences, particularly in the verses. The steady drum beat seems to be Pierce's heartbeat, as he belt soft spoken lyrics about being trapped in a cycle of hopeless love. Yet the song has a strong sense of hope. Despite the seemingly pointless cycle of pain Pierce and his lover are trapped in, he holds out hope that they'll be able to move past this and grow. Another cathartic moment for the singer, accompanied by a edgier guitar. The emotions and instruments spike during the bridge, another hallmark of TCTT music. The transition from the bridge to the chorus is seemless, perfectly timed and impactful. 

8. Inside Voices - 8/10
One thing you have to love about this band is how well they utilize pianos and electronics. The opening verse is built of just Pierce's voice, a melodic piano and those signature atmospheric effects. The song is fairly close to being classified as a "filler" song, but that lead guitar line after the chorus saves it. We have yet to see any standout moments for guitarists Mason Marble and Thomas Kidd, but on this track they shine. In the future, we wouldn't mind some more of those guitar solos. Melding into Pierce's woeful voices as he laments about not having a voice, this song elevates things to a new level for the band. 

9. What A Shame - 8/10
Another one of the band's heavier tracks, at least as far as TCTT music goes. But along with those heavier guitars and bass, there's also a stronger electronic presence. With those electronics, you get some more alternative influences. Again from R&B, and modern rock. As well as from The 1975 and even Bring Me The Horizon. As a song written about regrets and self reflection you can be damn sure there are some truly emo moments. The angsty and frustration coming off Pierce's voice are new, as most of the album up till now has had a "sad" vibe. The song shines and brings some light into an otherside dark album (though the subject matter is still fairly dark). 

10. For Your Sake - 8.5/10
Did we mention how much we love the band's use of piano? We're saying it again, because this track makes the best use of pianos. The intro is built around the piano melody. As for the rest of the song, we can't say enough. The at times distant guitar combination gives the song a "haunted" quality we saw on tracks like "The Air In Me" and "Until I Collapse" from the band's debut. Nice to see them bringing in some familiar details. And then there's the guitar solo, which at this point is just icing on the cake.

11. Eiley - 10/10
We said "Miss Your Face" was about as raw as a song can get. We were wrong, this song outshines all others. It's the climax of all Pierce's emotions, and he releases them in the form of frustrated screams. Listen, or even just read the lyrics. But you'll get the full impact from listening. Pierce lets everything go, and we can only imagine how cathartic the process of writing and recording this track could have been. The bridge is his vocals and minimal effects backing him. You can also taste the tears he must have been shedding while performing this track. Live, we'd be willing to bet that the audience would be balling their eyes too. 

Summary -
Too Close To Touch have learned from the mistakes of their first album (and there weren't many mistakes), and provided a sublime listening experience. From the powerful single, “What I Wish I Could Forget” to the album's crowning achievement, "Eiley", there’s a solid balance of the old and new. The band have not given up quality, nor have they given up their individuality. Two records into their career, and these guys are clearly just getting started. 

Favorite Tracks -
You really can't beat "Eiley", as the song is one of the most incredible pieces of music you'll ever listen to, period. Other noteworthy tracks include: "What I Wished I Could Forget", “Crooked Smile”, “Miss Your Face”, and "For Your Sake

Average Rating - 8.5/10

      Rating Breakdown -