I was really into a few folk-bands for a while. But while I enjoy the lo-fi and personable tones, I find a lot of the vocals to be hit/miss. Which, to be honest, is in tune with my feelings on folk too. It’s a genre where voice matters a lot. Some work for me; some don’t. I like Defiance, Ohio a lot. But something about AJJ has never clicked, even if everyone else seems to love ‘em. Who knows what it is, exactly: like any music, taste is subjective. And on that note, I’m going to add Early Riser to a band whose general style I appreciate, but I can’t get into a full-length.
This 10-song record covers a lot of ground, often exploring fitting in versus ignoring the haters. It’s a good message but, much like the vocals, it just doesn’t quite connect. A lot of it is the age gap. The band is young, which is reflected in lyrics that reference high school and the time period soon after. The other element that strikes me are the abundant mixed and questionable metaphors. When a lyric mentions “You can’t take the corner out of the girl/ Can you take the corner out of the girl…,” well, let’s just say it gives me a different image than they were going for.
And those are my complaints, which I probably shouldn’t have started with. But it means we’ll end on the high notes. Pretty much every song on Vocations has a nice, building movement within. This drama reinforces an activist tone that’s authentic and heartfelt. You can feel the energy. The cello and drums give depth and potency in all the right places. Even though the lyrics are uniquely first person, the songs really pull in a communal, we’re-all-in-this vibe. Closing track “Blood on the Canvas” is a full-on rally cry.
My favorite songs on Vocations capture a personal experience while hitting those more universal moments, with “Blood on the Canvas” serving as a great example. Yes, the stories belong to the narrator, but the emotion is universal. And, speaking of narrators and who owns a story, I should probably tip my hat to “The Narrator,” which has one of the strongest messages on the record -- also told through a personal lens but looking more outward.
There are early era Against Me! comparisons going around with this record and I definitely see them. While most folk-punk is activist music, there is an urgency that calls out from the speakers in a way that few bands actually achieve. Kudos on capturing that spirit, even if it doesn’t move me for whatever reason. Maybe I’m just getting old.
6.0 / 10
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Posted March 2, 2021, 10:06 p.m.
Early Riser are now streaming the title track from their upcoming album, Vocations -- out March 26th on A-F Records. You can also check out their new video, directed by Jess ...
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