On ‘Joy, Departed’ Sorority Noise have decidedly traded in the rough around the edges feel of their previous work for a fuller bodied and anthemic brand of indie pop. It is a welcomed transition from ‘Forgettable,’ an album which is incredible in its own right, but brought an onslaught of lazy comparisons to Modern Baseball. “Art School Wannabe” was the first single released from this record (featuring Jake of Modern Baseball, ironically enough) and is as musically playful as it is lyrically melancholic. It was a step in the right direction and made it clear that Sorority Noise has taken all of the best parts from their last record and have evolved accordingly.
They have in fact, evolved into a beast of a pop band with shredding guitars, gut wrenching lyricism, and incredibly anthemic hooks. I don’t know that it’s so much of an evolution as it is a transcendence. ‘Joy, Departed’ is a pop record through and through. Just a surface listen will tell you that. The real gem of this record is how well Cam and the gang are able to work their morose lyricism into something that you feel the need to sing along too. To take gut wrenching life experiences and translate them into a full-bodied work of art is a feat that is often presented and rarely met without having to constantly cloak your experience in metaphors. That aspect of the listening experience is a huge part of what makes this record so important (See: “Using”).
That’s not being said to downplay that style of lyricism, as it makes it’s fair share of appearances on the album. “All I’ll ever be is the sound of grinding teeth/the autumn wind that blows your hair/and the hand that’s out of reach/if you think you can’t find a way to breathe/all I’ll ever be is the smoke to clear to see” is the entirety of the second verse of my favorite song from the album. “Corrigan” stuck out to me immediately, and is the one song I listen to two or three times in a row before finally moving on to what’s next. My favorite lyrics are usually that of self-deprecation and unrequited pining, and if those metaphors above weren’t enough, the driving gang vocal delivery of “I will never be the one you need/I only hope to be the solid ground beneath your feet/I will never be the turning of your leaves/I just hope to be the one you call when you can’t sleep” that ends the track will surely get the point across.
There is a sweeping, somber darkness to the opening of “Your Soft Blood” that will resonate with any single person that’s ever felt alone. The softly sung “How do you become more to your friends than just a conversation piece” gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it. The track continues to build until we reach the climactic culmination of everything hitting at once. It’s chaotic and loud – catharsis at its best and most poignant.
That same darkness will follow you throughout the second half of the record. Although it may be cloaked in an otherwise refreshing sounding, up-tempo song, it’s just waiting to remind you that it is there. It’s buried in the bodies of these songs. For example, in “Art School Wannabe” when the chorus begins with “Maybe I’m my own greatest fear/maybe I’m just scared to admit that I might not be as dark as I think/maybe I am not the person that I never wanted to be.”
“Mononokay” sees the band bring Beach Boys-esque harmonies to the backing vocals of a song that is otherwise riddled with stories of depression. This is a shoe-in single and guaranteed to grab the listener’s attention because of how light-hearted the music sounds before they’re hit with lyrics like “I’d kill to leave my house and not be afraid of the outside/so I started thinking/It’d be so nice/to not have trouble sleeping/I haven’t slept in nights.”
And just when you think you’ve reached the peak of it all, you hit “When I See You (Timberwolf).” I just…I don’t know what to say about this song other than that you need to listen to it. It is slow and daunting, with strings and keys that will tug on your heart strings. The lyricism is just as haunting as we’ve seen it on the rest of the record and work in perfect harmony with the music to help open the floodgates. “You smell like hospitals/and you look like bad news/and if God is real/then I hope he has a plan for you” is the first line from ‘Joy, Departed,’ and really the first in a long time, that’s made my eyes well up. The song ends with another screeching catharsis before falling into a slow, fading exit.
This album is important. ‘Joy, Departed’ is an important, well-rounded piece of art that will hopefully stand the test of time. I liked Sorority Noise when I heard ‘Forgettable’, but I fell in love with Sorority Noise because of ‘Joy, Departed.’ This band has shed their shaky skin and found a comfortable place as an emotionally dense, and even more-so aware powerhouse of indie pop. Hopefully, this will be this years ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There.’ Sorority Noise certainly deserves the praise.