Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Album Review: Joie de Vivre - We're All Better Than This

Album Rating: A-
Our lives revolve around goals.  Some of us unfortunately have our goals determined by others or the situations that we are born into, but for many of us, the focus of life specifically deals with personal goals.  We set goals for ourselves so that we have a sense of purpose – something to work toward.  One of the biggest falsehoods of mankind, however, is the belief that once we achieve said “goals,” we consequently acquire happiness or, at the very least, satisfaction.  Joie de Vivre’s newest album, We’re All Better Than This, explores this concept of seemingly unattainable happiness, making it painfully obvious that no one “thing” in life will ever grant us the ability to remain comfortable for more than a short while.  We’re All Better Than This spectacularly demonstrates that, at the end of the day, the people you meet, places you go and goals you may complete are all temporary fixes for the unaccomplished feelings that haunt so many of us.

While the message of We’re All Better Than This is undoubtedly worth discussing, the lyrical content would not be nearly as powerful if it were not for Joie de Vivre’s calm yet enthralling emo sound.  Most tracks on the record feature a synthesized organ as their foundation, but are overlain with familiar, subdued yet complex guitar lines that shift seamlessly into intense bursts of chord-playing.  Occasional trumpet sections surface throughout the album, and add another timbre to Joie de Vivre’s dense instrumental repertoire that already creates a cathartic, well-balanced atmosphere in each track.  No one instrument ever overpowers the others, but each remains as essential as the drums and clearly audible bass in supporting the overall sound of the album.  Although the record does feature moments of instrumental brilliance such as at the spatial, tremolo-driven explosion at the end of album closer, “High School Me Would Have Been Pumped,” the band’s vocals are undeniably the aspect most likely to leave an impact on the listener.

Taken out of context, the lyrics on We’re All Better Than This are, quite frankly, depressing; in fact, even within the context of the album, they are not exactly uplifting.  However, something about Brandon Lutmer’s wailing of, “We all die alone, so why care so much about living with someone else?” produces a strangely empowering, epiphanic sentiment that lingers throughout the album’s 25-minute runtime.  Lutmer tells tales from the perspective of someone who has been in a band, toured, and made friends along the way, yet still seeks fulfillment in other areas of life.  This yearning becomes evident in “I Was Sixteen Ten Years Ago,” a slow burning track featuring the band’s trumpet player, Mark Jaeschke, who plays a brief horn melody before the song explodes and Lutmer powerfully admits, “I wanted to become a writer.”  With lines just as personal as this on every song, We’re All Better Than This proves to be an album that can be quoted endlessly.

With their latest Count Your Lucky Stars release, Joie de Vivre have succeeded in crafting a truly intimate emo record.  Some may argue that the lyrics are a bit too direct and could benefit from added subtlety, but their barefaced delineation creates an otherwise unachievable audience connection, as if Lutmer’s personal thoughts are being hand delivered to the listener on a freshly inked letter.  Overall, We’re All Better Than This is a cohesive, powerful album that features some nifty instrumentation not all that common within the genre.  Even for those who usually stay away from anything with the “emo” label, We’re All Better Than This deserves a listen; Joie de Vivre are here to remind us that we are all people faced with similar thoughts, and at the very least, we can find solace in that fact.  

Track Listing:
1. At Least I Tried
2. I'd Be Upset If I Broke Up With Me Too
3. I Was Sixteen Ten Years Ago
4. Maybe People Do Change
5. Wait Wait Wait... How Soon IS Now?
6. I Guess Not
7. That Dude Leads a Depressing Life
8. Going to a Going Away Party
9. Who Cares
10. Robert Muldoon
11. High School Me Would Have Been Pumped

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