LP Review; Story of the Year: “Wolves”

“Wolves” starts with the sounds of nature that remain at an almost in-audible level. This audible scene grows in dynamics with the illusion of someone heavily breathing with whistles and cracks in the air. As the scene develops aurally, the character begins running as a semi-tone builds quickly and transitions into the second song of the album.

“How Can We Go On” starts with the ending of the chase scene from the first track. The first musical instance of the album is driven by sharp hits in the string section with faint vocals until the first verse drops in full force. The vocal style shifts between a catchy, smooth technique and a technique that is on the verge of yelling. The band messes with instrumentation throughout the verses to allow the rawer vocals to stand alone, which gives those lyrics more impact. The percussion section provides a steady pulse throughout with slight subdivisions to help drive the song forward. In the middle of the selection, the band includes a major instrumental feature that puts emphasis on an over the top guitar solo that is intriguing to the ear. This leads the audience to the final restating of the chorus, which drives to the end of the work.

“Bang Bang” starts with a mixture of tones that seem to shake, which lie behind a rapid percussive motive. This motive establishes the tempo of the work, and it quickly leads the audience to the first verse, where the groove of the song is established. The musical genre of this song may catch the listeners off guard, for it gives off a clear alternative vibe, but it also mixes influences from the pop music genre; thus, creating something ornate and interesting for the listener. Once the instrumental section establishes the groove, the band rides that vibe throughout the entire selection, even as instrumentation fluctuation wavers in and out. In the middle of the work, the band includes their first breakdown of the album, and it is approached beautifully. The music crescendos, and it is balanced with vocals that increase with intensity before plopping down into the halftime feel that drives the breakdown. The band shifts back to their memorable chorus after the breakdown is settled. This will likely be a foreseen favorite from the album because it is memorable and innovative.

“Youth” starts with a brief undertone to it before strings enter over top it. The strings that enter in are featured in an extravagant guitar solo. This solo sounds similar to materials that would be presented in the middle of a high-volume song that would be performed in front of thousands of fans. This work was used as transition material, and it leads directly into the next track.

 “I Swear I’m Okay” starts with the ending of the elaborate guitar solo presented in the previous song. After that, the band transitions into a relaxed groove that is led by the repetition of block chords. The vocals that enter quickly after the groove is established focus on the graceful nature of the voice, and it does so by providing lyrics that follow a conjunct melodic line. The band utilizes the adding and subtracting of instrumentation to play with different textures to keep the audience engaged in this selection. This is strong for the band, for the music provided isn’t overly exciting, but it is pleasing; moreover, this change of textural color provides variety to the audience. In the middle of the song, the band isolates their vocals alongside simple chords in the strings, a forward-moving percussive motive, and sudden glimpses of electronic tones. From there, the band moves back to the original tone to finish the work

“Miracle” starts with vocals early on with a catchy guitar motive that comes crashing in soon afterwards. The motive is driven by small steps, musically speaking, at a rapid rate. As the band settles into the first verse, they set a medium paced groove that is led by the weighted hits in the percussion section. The vocal technique of this song remains close to the cleaner style that the band uses more often; however, the band includes moments where the vocals sound stretched, especially when the vocalist is using more emotion or “reaching” for a note in the vocal melody. Towards the end of the work, the band includes brief moments of silence to allow the audience to breathe within in their work, and the addition of silence adds an intricate sound to the overall piece, which adds color to the album.

“Can Anybody Hear Me” starts with vocals from the first beat of the song. The melody of this work is simple, but it is awfully memorable: it brings the audience in within the first few seconds of the selection. Throughout the beginning of the work, the band uses minimal instrumentation to allow the vocals to glide overtop the gentle orchestration that is provided. As the band transitions into the chorus, they settle into a gentle groove as more members of the musical ensemble join in, but this song remains contained in terms of its musical nature. Overall, this song isn’t overly exciting, but that doesn’t make it a bad song by any means; rather, it just won’t stick in the minds of the listener after their first encounter with the album.

 “A Part of Me” starts with an instrumental feature that focuses on strong hits on the downbeats of the work with faint chords underneath it. However, the band provides a slight grand pause before slamming into this same motive but in a more aggressive manner, which the band is able to pull off by using their full instrumentation. After a few moments of the heightened feature, the vocals enter with instrumentation that immediately drops to the original minimal groove that was set at the very beginning of the selection. Throughout the song, the band uses electronic tones to rise and fall in different times within different moments of each phrase. This is strong for the band, for they are providing the audience with slightly altered material as they travel through the song, which helps to keep them engaged and helps them want more from the band. Towards the end of the work, the band includes another major breakdown that rides strong until the instrumentation drops to restated the lyrics of the chorus. After the lyrics are reestablished, the full ensemble joins in to drive the chorus to the end of the selection. This will likely be a foreseen favorite from the album because it sounds completely different from the songs that were presented thus far, and it has a neat sound to it.

 “Give up My Heart” starts with a smooth guitar motive that is accompanied by a single tone that is held out beneath it. Vocals enter soon after the initial introduction. The vocals provided capture the audience’s attention quickly because of their dramatic yet pleasing nature. The vibe of the song remains calm throughout the first portion the work. Although the vibe remains low, the percussion section phases in and out to add texture to the work as well as audible variety that pushes the momentum of the song forward. In the middle of the selection, the band includes a small instrumental feature that is led by faint hits in the percussion section with synthesized material in the strings. As the band transitions out of this feature, the tempo of the song is slowly increases, and the band is able to achieve this through the momentum of the percussion section. Once the band returns to their original melodic material, they use that to travel to the end of the selection.

“The Eternal Battle for Mike Cronin’s Soul (To Be Alive Again)” starts with an audible scene that is driven by a character’s breathing. The background to this starts faint, but the tones begin to clash as they build in dynamics. This crescendo builds until the vocals and instrumentation enter. The beginning of this song leads the audience to believe that this was going to be one of the band’s heavier selections, for they utilize harsher vocal techniques throughout the verses, but as the band transitions into the chorus, they fall back into their memorable smoother style, vocally and musically speaking. The band eventually establishes a steady groove that begins to be prominent as they grind through the second restating of the chorus. Towards the end of the work, the band includes a small breakdown that is driven by electronics, and the material presented feels more related to the dubstep genre rather than the alternative, punk genre. This is smart for the band, for it shows their audience what else they are capable of musically, and it is completely different than everything else they’ve presented on the album thus far.

“My Home” starts with vocals from the first beat of the song that soon add symmetrical clapping that is in unison with the strings. The first verse is accompanied with minimal instrumentation to allow the clean, graceful vocal line to shine as it presents a simple yet pleasing melodic line. As the band approaches the first statement of the chorus, they create a gentle groove that remains static throughout the selection. The feel of this song is uplifting based off the lyrical content presented, but the music provided isn’t overly interesting. The lack of interesting musical material doesn’t hurt this song because the emotion the band shows through the lyrics doesn’t need extravagant musicality; rather, the simple material provided keeps the song moving forward as the audience gets lost in the beauty of the vocals and the meaning of the words.

“Goodnight, My Love” starts with an upbeat guitar motive that catches the audience off guard in the best way. Soon after the motive settles, the vocals enter in a rapid style and smooths out as the first verse phases through the song. The musical genre of this song is quite interesting. The band shifts between alternative influences to pop influences to punk influence, and all of those are tied together through an EDM influence. This mixing of genres is strong for the band because it gives their audience something completely different compared to other artists that they may be listening to. Also, since the content introduced is so different, the band will likely remain in the mind of the listener. The musical content is driven by an intense groove that is established and held by the instrumental section, which is paired with the band’s characteristic vocals that have been presented on the other tracks of the album.

 “Like Ghosts” starts with a simple melody that is held within the string section, and this melody is elaborated on throughout the work. Once the melody has time to settle, the vocals enter in lightly accompanied by a faint percussion part and small electronic tones. The band utilizes minimal instrumentation throughout this work to allow the vocals to resonate with the audience; however, the band does create a small groove that helps to keep the listener’s intrigued in the musical material that is being presented. As the song nears its end, the band began to build their sound with driving intensity, but the band never allows the song to reach the over the top level, which keeps this song in the softer repertoire for the band.

“Praying for Rain” starts with a playback of a storm that stood alone until chordal tones phase in and out to add textural variety. Once the vocals entered, the storm scene faded to almost nothing to allow the vocals to take the lead. After the first vocal line, the band fell full force into their instrumental feature with a heightened sound that established the groove of the work. The band, when confined to the verse, pulls back their instrumentation to provide a shift of style between the verses and the chorus. In the middle of the selection, the band keeps the heightened groove until it suddenly drops to feature a small guitar motive where the vocalist provides a short story through a spoken word technique. As the vocalist ends his story, the instrumental section begins to build from the guitar motive. As they do so, they begin to build their sound back to the higher level, which helps to drive to the end of the album. This is a strong ending song for the album, for it gives the audience a little bit of everything that the band has to offer.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I would give this album a 4 out of 5 stars. I am giving this album such a score because the music presented on the album is very solid and enjoyable. Throughout each song provided, the band wasn’t afraid to take risks and blur the lines of musical genres within the scene. It was really interesting to listen to a band that keeps their characteristic sound so steady while being able to push their skills outward, speaking in terms of musical genre. Furthermore, if you are looking for an album to sing along and jam to, this is the album for you. Nice work!

*”Wolves” was released on December 8, 2017 through Story of the Year.

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