There’s always been something about Pentimento that has separated them from their peers. There’s an autumnal vibe to Pentimento’s music that just fits the colder weather, the shorter days, and the back-to-school atmosphere. Most pop-punk is tailor-made for summer. But not Pentimento. They’re not satisfied to just write a “catchy,” “fun” record. No, their goal is to write a good album. And, for the second time in a row, they’ve done it.
‘I, No Longer’ expands on the palette that ‘Pentimento’ laid out. If ever a band wanted to overcome the “sophomore slump,” these guys did. Their pop-leaning songs now contain skyscraper riffs, while on the other hand they’ve learned a whole new level of restraint. In fact, both sides are shown off in the first two minutes of the album. “Small Talk For Strangers,” the album’s introductory track, would undoubtedly rank among the group’s best were it more than just an introduction. Its gradual climb serves perfectly to draw in the listener before a barrage of drums and harmonized vocals take over.
It flows perfectly into “My Solution Is in the Lake,” another highlight. In a similar way to “Small Talk,” “Solution” builds from a soft, echoey verse to a chorus that stacks among the band’s best. Jeremiah Pauly sounds absolutely tortured as he begs, “Let me out/I just want to disappear.” As always, drummer Mike Hansen’s lyrics are simple, but all the more powerful for it. He writes with an earnestness seldom seen, never shying away from revealing his own faults and insecurities, where most other bands only push the blame on others.
This vulnerability is on full display on “Sink or Swim,” a bona fide pop-punk gem. While, in comparison to the rest of the album, the song is a tad generic, it’s still one of the better songs I’ve heard this year in the genre. For those who’d like to hear the band push the envelope, though, look no further than “Got My Answer.” A slow, twinkly, ambient ballad, “Got My Answer” is furthest thing from a pop-punk anthem Pentimento have ever penned – and it’s incredible. The song’s extremely slow build works in its favor, subverting expectations of when the listener thinks it’s all going to explode. And when it finally does, it’s possibly the most beautiful moment in the band’s catalog. Then, “Tiger Eye” is similar sonically, building from a pretty ballad-esque beginning to a singalong ending that’ll please fans of the band’s rougher-edged debut. There’s no more cathartic moment on this album than Pauly’s yell of “My father said to me.” It’s a perfect mix of both sides of the band’s sound and a testament that they’re not necessarily confined to one or the other.
When “Tell Me” winds down the record, it’s about as opposite of “On Summer” as can be – a softly sung, piano-laden dirge. Along with “Answer,” it’s one of the least familiar sounding songs on ‘I, No Longer,’ and I can’t think of a better way to end the album. It’s a new side of the band to cap off the new record – their most ambitious yet. What’s really impressive about it, however, is how well everything fits together. Despite the array of styles on display, ‘I, No Longer’ is somehow more cohesive than ‘Pentimento,’ and overall more complete sounding. It’s an album none of their peers could’ve written. It’s the best album Pentimento’s written and it’s proof they’ll swim, not sink.