Thursday, March 28, 2013

Album Review: Old Gray - An Autobiography

Album Grade: A
An Autobiography is an emotional gauntlet. Roughly 26 minutes long, the band delves into traditional emo, building up monoliths of sadness with twinkling guitars and passionate spoken word that will no doubt become a staple in the scene. With a sound similar to heavy hitters Pianos Become the Teeth and La Dispute, An Autobiography will definitely be one of the most vital and important records of 2013.

Split between the world's of post-rock and screamo, Old Gray's An Autobiography takes a direct screamo approach rather than a post-hardcore one, but with large influence from poetic spoken word and post rock. Influences from City of Caterpillar, I Hate Myself, and I Would Set Myself On Fire For You are extremely prevalent.  Opener “Wolves” is a quiet and atmospheric track as the band harmonizes in gang vocals, “I've been digging a grave/with the parts of my brain that still work.” The track is accessible, laying a groundwork of emotion on which vocalist Cameron Boucher screams heartfelt honesty. “Wolves” is a solid opener, setting the scene and sound for the breathtaking and disheartening album that is about to unfold.

“Coventry” is post-hardcore head banger, much akin to We Were Skeletons, with a mid tempo clean guitar riff behind anxious drumming as the band once again takes on collective gang vocals, closing with, “I will keep breathing/ but I won't feel alive.” The song bursts with the classic anxiety that pulsed through the veins of their predecessors, as does the two-minute assault of “The Artist.” A straight-forward screamo song ala Orchid, the"The Artist" builds up slow, then burns and rips through quick firing snares and intricately laced guitar twangs. The songs dissonance and distortion encapsulates the tumultuous lyrics so well, you will find yourself lost in the sheer mastery of the musicianship.

“Show Me How You Self Destruct” is a spoken word piece performed by drummer Charlie Singer. It acts as a relief from the fierce onslaught, however, the depressing honesty never lets up. “Where did my refuge go/you used to hold me/now we embrace and you turn your back” will leave hearts broken and minds contemplative right before the album picks up again. Rolling drum beats and snapping drums reverberate throughout “The Graduate,” another traditional blast of punk-infused emo culminating with the declaration, “Maybe I'll leave this town/ when my fears become too strong” that will embed itself into listeners' brains. “Emily's First Communion” is one of the strongest on the album. Featuring Becca Caldazo from hardcore band Cerce, the song is a one-two punch of call back vocals and quiet-then-loud-then-quiet structure. The guest vocals also lend a memorable quality to the song with another fierce, dynamic voice. 

As the album nears the end, “I Still Think About Who I Was Last Summer” delivers the agonizingly sad self-reflections of Boucher and Singer. The song starts off with quiet dissonant guitar picking, eventually rolling into a wave of crashing cymbals, guitar tremelo, and full-throat screams. Boucher's lyrics are simple, yet direct; they create a brooding atmosphere with lyrics such as, “You told me that you'd love me until the end/ which begs the question are we now dead?” As the track ends, Singer's spoken word acts like a musical confession, “If you would stay here with me for one more minute, I would steal the world.” When the emotion is at its peak, the song quietly transitions into an instrumental post rock piece, “My Life With You, My Life Without You.” Though it lacks vocals, the emotion that translates from the music lets the listener take from it what he or she will.

If there were to be a criticism of the album, it would be that it is too short and possibly unbalanced. “Wolves” sets up such an amazing intro and “I Still Remember Who I was Last Summer” is such a striking emo classic that everything in between may blur together. The continuity is seamless, so much in fact that the album seems like it ends before it can make an impact on the listener. Sure, the album accomplishes so much in such a short period of time, and it's absolutely commendable. However, some fans just may be left yearning for more.

Old Gray's An Autobiography is an absolute masterpiece. The post-rock and spoken word parts are necessary additions to the album, building upon screamo's groundwork laid forth by their precessors. Though the album is short, the cathartic collection of songs is absolutely brilliant. Filled with misery, self-reflection, and even moments of revelation, An Autobiography contains the band's best material and some of the best instrumental arrangements in the screamo scene in a long time.

You can preorder the record here and you can stream it on Old Gray's Bandcamp.



1. Wolves
2. Coventry
3. The Artist
4. Show Me How You Self Destruct
5. The Graduate
6. Emily's First Communion
7. I Still Remember Who I Was Last Summer
8. My Life With You, My Life Without You

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