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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Album Review - You Blew It! - Keep Doing What You're Doing

Album Rating: A-
Last year, emo was all the rage. Major mainstream publications wrote articles about the "emo revival," focusing on the subdued instrumentation and heartfelt lyricism expressed through the technical stylings of bands like Dads and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. Many fans in the "scene" (whatever that is) chimed in, and debates ensued over what bands were emo, when emo went away, and if it ever went away at all. The proverbial genre bastardization "twinkle daddies" was spewed over Tumblr referring to this new generation of bands influenced by the likes of American Football, Sunny Day Real Estate, and the Promise Ring. Now it's 2014, and we have a whole new box of sadness to pry into. Enter Keep Doing What You're Doing, an album from Orlando's own You Blew It! that's quirky, depressing and anything but derivative.

When the three-piece released their debut LP Grow Up, Dude in April of 2012, underground emo fans went nuts. With notable quotables like "I'm not a fucking trophy/but to you I mine as well have been" from the whiny "Medal of Honor," Grow Up, Dude was more than just another twangy indie record. It propelled You Blew It! from their relatively unknown existence into a more public eye and with the help of Topshelf Records, the record quickly sold out several pressings of vinyl. Another release in the form of a split with Fake Problems wet fans' appetites early last year, but the lackluster production on both the last full-length and the split left a lot to be desired. The muddy guitars blurred together into duel of fuzzy distortion and harsh clean noodlings, and not exactly in a good way. It had that DIY sound, but unfortunately the production didn't add much to the record as whole. This time, the boards were handled by none other than busy emo bee Evan Weiss notable for his involvement in projects Into It. Over It., Their/They're/There, and Pet Symmetry. Honestly, it was the best decision the band could have made.

The upbeat "Match & Tinder" blows the top right off of Keep Doing What You're Doing. The sad realist lyrics "Don't take this the wrong way/I know you can't relate to feelings you don't have personally" pull straight into the post-pop-punk jam. The crisper production makes the drum snares pop and the revving guitars resonate, an inconceivable step up from their earlier material. It sets the scene for the rest of the record with the accessible mid-tempo and the clear and confessional lyrics, all backed with a certain jangle of Midwestern emo goodness from the non-Midwestern band. The driving "Rock Springs" is another loud track christened in honesty. Drums roll around the kit as singer Tanner Jones squeals "you've made the list of people I'd like to forget" in the chorus.

You Blew It! really show a technical maturation in their slower tracks like "Strong Island." Where the quick, finger-running guitar licks of their faster songs proves talent, the composition really culminates in a sort of epic musical romance. The song features a heavy bass riff throughout the chorus accented by touches of dissonant guitars, pulling emotions and warm reminiscences from your chest like finding an old toy up in your attic. "I'm still finding pieces of me that I could live without" will cue up fingerpoints and raise tallboy beer cans in unison in a basement near you soon. "Regional Dialect" follows a similar structure, dialing up the loudness factor once again, featuring the same iconic pummeling drum beats that enrapture the other performances throughout the album. The waltzy, sway-worthy "A Different Kind of Kindling" is a slow jam that will conjure much-welcomed singalongs with gut-punching lines such as "The only thing that stays the same/is the way I never change."

When the band shows their punkier edge, they go ballistic. "Gray Matter" takes the energy from "Terri vs. Tori" and retools it into a chill jam. With a chorus that sounds like it could have come straight from an Into It. Over It. album, it's obvious that Evan Weiss's influence has not only gone hand-in-hand with You Blew It!'s sound, but complemented it very well. First-released single "Award of the Year Award" is a gruff anthem that sounds a bit disjointed but ultimately prevails as a key part of the album. "You can always consider me a friend/just strictly in the past tense" begs to be used over some Instagrammed photo of a live crowd shot and shared on Tumblr in the most necessary way, and you'll probably see that too. The lyrics on this album stand out, and deserve that recognition.

As the album shoots into the final stretch, not one ounce of energy is wasted. Drums slowly gain traction as clean guitars layer up into a loud gangvocal of "ohs". "Better to Best" shows a lyrical change from the depression-inducing stack of tracks before it, something that's welcomed after all of relationship-centered stuff heard prior. As the sound instrumentally turns to an uplifting vibe, "Maybe things aren't quite as bad as I let myself believe" is repeated as the song swirls into a crash of cymbals and slight reverb. The song ends on that positive note, and with an album as consistent and important as Keep Doing What You're Doing there's absolutely nothing to be moping about, boys.

You Blew It! have come a long way, both in terms of their mileage under their shoes and in an evolutionary sense. After playing hundreds of shows and spending the past two years with Grow Up Dude, I'm sure the band are as excited to jam the new material as you are. Keep Doing What You're Doing stays true to everything that Grow Up, Dude was, but it's got a little hair on it's chest that the former doesn't. Consider this new album a modern emo classic, the big brother to the younger but much adored Grow Up, Dude. Bawl your eyes out or don't, just don't pass up this album – that would be just too sad, even for this genre.

Keep Doing What You're Doing is available today. Pick up the record from Topshelf or stream it at Bandcamp here.

Track List:
1. Match & Tinder
2. Award of the Year Award
3. Strong Island
4. Regional Dialect
5. House Address
6. A Different Kind of Kindling
7. Rock Springs
8. You & Me & Me
9. Gray Matter
10. Better to Best

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