Aspen It Is | Release Me From the Weights of Gravity! (Piermont)

Rarely do albums come more generic and underwhelming than this New Jersey group's debut.

 

cd_aspenContrary to popular belief, there are plenty of good emo records out there. This isn't one of them. Rarely do albums come more generic and underwhelming than this New Jersey group's debut, the kind of bland, by-the-numbers emo you would expect a band to make had their only exposure to music been hearing a handful of All American Rejects songs on the radio and deciding to become a band.

The music isn't bad so much as unremarkable and unmemorable, but singer/guitarist Jimme James drags down what could have been an at least average band. The lyrics are almost excruciatingly banal (the first full track, "Pipe Dreams," opens with "We grew up on Nintendo/ Fraggle Rock and GI Joe/ Now I've got the key to the castle to save the world"-totally deep, man), and James sings them in an over-the-top affected emo whine that carries no emotion whatsoever. Things hit a painful low with "A Journey to the Home of the Blue Hens" as James emotes repetitive lyrics about jumping, falling, tops, and bottoms in a warble so far out of his comfortable range that he sounds borderline tone-deaf, and the production does him no favors by pushing his voice front and center in the mix.

There are a few moments of pleasure that rise above the din, mostly occurring when the crystal clear, radio-ready production takes a break and allows the band to play fast and loose. The undoubted highlight is "Our Weekend in Florida," a shambling acoustic near-country number with a shoutalong group vocal on the outro that's perfectly charming for all of its 96-second runtime. The album closer "Every Magician Knows Where the Trap Door Lies" has the lo-fi charm of a home demo and would almost be enough to save the album by leaving with a good last impression, were it not followed by one of the most torturous bonus tracks ever recorded. Half-formed acoustic songs become loosely joined by the squealing sound of tapes being rewound and horrible poetry read over the sound of someone playing Super Mario Bros. Experimentalism is all well and good when there's purpose behind it other than being random, but being random seems to be the only goal of the band as the track stretches past the 8-minute mark. The song, much like the rest of the album, never really goes anywhere. Release Me From the Weights of Gravity! is the epitome of style over substance; it's too bad the end result isn't the least bit stylish. D | Jason Green

RIYL: The Academy Is…, All American Rejects

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