Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Album Retrospective: Relient K - Forget And Not Slow Down

Album Rating: A
Pop-punk and its closest relatives hit the mainstream hard between the years of 2003 and 2005. In this small timespan, Yellowcard's Ocean Avenue, Simple Plan's Still Not Getting Any..., and Good Charlotte's The Chronicles Of Life and Death all went platinum in the US, while Hawthorne Heights, New Found Glory, and Sum 41 all had albums go gold. Relient K fits into this group as well, going gold with Two Lefts Don't Make A Right, But Three Do and Mmhmm, while also gaining two Billboard Hot 100 hits in "Be My Escape" and "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been". It's hard to imagine any of the above bands sell even a quarter of those figures anymore, as the bands as well as their modern counterparts have been shut out of the charts in "honor" of more club jams and pop-stars. But Relient K in particular has raised their game considerably since their heyday, releasing an extremely underrated cool weather masterpiece titled Forget And Not Slow Down. The band embraces a more indie based pop-punk sound, accenting the keys and pushing the punk influences to the absolute minimum. Not only is Forget And Not Slow Down easily their most mature record, it is also easily their best.

Gone are the immature lyrics of songs such as "The Best Thing" and "Must Have Done Something Right" from the band's last record. Matt Thiessen's lyrics shine throughout the entire album, as opener "Forget And Not Slow Down" immediately displays Relient K's maturation. "I'd rather forget and not slow down / Than gather regret for the things I can't change now" show Thiessen at his most apologetic after his marital ending, a theme that reflects itself throughout the entire record. Thiessen isolated himself from the rest of the world for three months during the writing process for Forget And Not Slow Down, a development that helps explain the record's more somber mood.

Even the upbeat tracks on the record have more of a sad overtone to them. "Therapy", "I Don't Need A Soul", and "If You Believe Me" are some of the "heavier" tracks on the record, yet the spirits of ex-fiancee Shannon haunt those songs and add a couple layers of blue to the emotional output of the tracks.  "Candlelight" is easily the most positive song on the record, and shows that Thiessen doesn't need the "in your face" expressions of compassion to express how much he cares about someone. The mid-tempo track has an almost swing-like feel, which along with the bluesy guitar licks makes "Candlelight" one of the more unique tracks in Relient K's discography.

However, went placed in the context of Forget and Not Slow Down, the song flows perfectly. In fact, the entire record is easily one of the most cohesive pop-rock albums of the last couple years. The transitions between songs are seamless, with four interludes scattered throughout the album assisting in the flow. Each of the tracks is similar enough to the rest to fit together, yet different enough that each of the songs is instantly recognizable from each other. It takes extremely impressive songwriting to put together an album that both runs as a whole and sounds just as good when the individual songs are separated, but Thiessen succeeds with no misfires.

The music industry works in very weird ways. The most deserving bands often suffer, while mediocre groups prosper more often than they should. Even stranger is the fact that a band can improve greatly in every aspect of their music, yet lose a large proportion of their popularity. Forget And Not Slow Down isn't just one of Relient K's best albums, it's one of the strongest releases of the last couple years, mostly based off Thiessen's excellent songwriting. While the band seems to be returning to a more upbeat, happy sound (look at their cover albums of fun songs such as "Girls Just Want To Have Fun", Bieber's "Baby", "Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy", "Doctor Worm"), Thiessen has already proven to be a master composer of pop-rock songs. The band's next release could easily be for the warmer weather what Forget And Not Slow Down is for the cooler weather; a necessary piece of listening for fans of music.

Rating: A


Track List:
1. Forget And Not Slow Down
2. I Don’t Need A Soul
3. Candlelight
4. Flare
5. Part Of It
6. Outro
7. Therapy
8. Over It
9. Sahara
10. Oasis
11. Savannah
12. Baby
13. If You Believe Me
14. This Is The End
15. (If You Want It)

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