Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Album Review: The Composure - Stay The Course

Album Rating: A-
Making pop music is much harder than you think it is. While anyone can recycle melodies, you need to know how to recycle correctly to make a song that simply sticks in the back of a listener's head and never lets go. On that account, you need to give credit to (among others) Will.I.Am and the Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, and Britney Spears (and their songwriting teams) for being able to continuously knock out insanely catchy hit after hit. fun. and Gotye have recently brought pop music to a more alternative sound, but it's still the same concept; they needed to make a hook that simply dominates everyone that listens to it. The Composure, while a bit more rocking and far less popular, uses these same conventions in their latest EP, Stay The Course.

The fact that their ability to grasp in a listener works in so many different sounds on the EP just makes Stay The Course even more impressive. While all the songs may be considered to be in one fairly broad spectrum, the underlying characteristics of the songs differ well enough to show that The Composure simply knows that they can write a song, and they want to show us all how well they can do it. "Stay Away From Me" is a pop punk song, plain and simple. There is no lack of energy throughout the song, as there isn't one moment where the drums aren't driving us through the song, while the memorable guitar riff and crowd-crazing opening assert it in the realm of Punchline, Sugarcult, MxPx, and other early to mid 00's pop punk groups. But through verse and chorus, there isn't one moment in which the singing style isn't one massive hook. It takes skill to write a catchy chorus, but it takes a special sort of songwriter to make every waking moment of the song utterly contagious.

"The One" and "Out To Dry" fall plainly under the umbrella of pop rock, with each song resembling one of the stronger bands of the genre of the late 2000's. "The One" resembles what everyone thought of as "pop punk" when really all they were listening to was Every Avenue and friends. While the chorus lyrics of "there's still something about you girl / there's no one like you in the whole wide world" reek of cheesiness, the melodies behind it keep a listener coming back to those lines. But the band brings what Every Avenue did to a new level, with stronger bass phrases, harmonized guitar lines, and just overall stronger musicianship. The verses of "Out To Dry" resemble the vocal style of Mercy Mercedes, and the entire song resembles a slightly harder version of songs off the band's 1.21 Gigawatts EP, which simply means that The Composure added stronger riffs to a band that made some of the best pop rock (the kind that leans far towards the pop angle) of the late aughts.

After the poppy ending of "Out To Dry", the aggressive intro of "Break Until I Bend" may feel like a shocker. It's a dark pop rock/pop punk song in the vein of Valencia's "Friday Night" or some of The Used's material, and is a totally different direction for The Composure. But this song is probably where the bands' instrumentalists perform at their best, especially in the rhythm section. The drums and bass rhythms are more sophisticated than one might expect at first listen, and they drive the song to a new level. And of course, the chorus is another mindnumbingly catchy tune.

While "Bridges" is the closest the EP has to a less than great song, the band makes sure to end on a high note. "Satan" is a song that brings the meaning to pop perfection. From opening whistles and handclaps to strings, brass and keys, "Satan" features some of the best production and arrangements of the year. The chorus features possibly the biggest pop hook of the year save "Somebody That I Used To Know", and John Browne (of Bright and Early fame) only adds more life into the song with his entrance into the song. "Satan" is right out of the book of how to make a chart topping song, and should the band sign to Fueled By Ramen, everyone in the world will know this infectious chorus.

Most bands don't want to be labeled "pop" music. They make "rock" music and "punk" music because they don't want to be held to specific standards when making music, and want to show "the man" who's boss. But the true spirit of "pop" is that the songs can be enjoyed widespread, and not in a specific niche. Stay The Course is full of songs that can be enjoyed from crowds looking for a simple song to sing along with to crowds that are looking for depth, meaning, and musicianship in a listen. And that may very well be the goal of every band in the world. The Composure has already succeeded, and there's plenty of room for much, much more.

Track List:

1. Stay Away From Me
2. The One
3. Out To Dry
4. Break Before I Bend
5. Bridges
6. Satan

Purchase Stay The Course

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