If the hype surrounding A Will Away is anything to go by, then it doesn’t look as though modern pop-punk’s mature strain is going anywhere anytime soon. Though looking back at the genre over the last couple of years it’s not a difficult conclusion to reach, particularly with how it’s been running in tandem with the emo resurgence and reaping similar rewards – just look at how far Moose Blood have come for fully crystalised evidence of what a cross-section between the two can achieve. It’s left A Will Away being positioned as their spiritual successors by many, and for good reason, too. Their last EP Bliss was released almost a year-and-a-half ago in the midst of a scrapped full-length debut, cultivating an upswing in fans left rightfully champing at the bit to see what this band could do with some increased airtime.
It turns out the answer is actually something pretty great. For an album called Here Again, a title that could easily be relayed back to the return of the process of that original ill-fated debut, A Will Away’s first foray into album territory results in a record that mightn’t be startlingly original or diverse, but captures that emotional sense of great emo damn near perfectly. And while A Will Away may occasionally drift into the territory of being Moose Blood 2.0 – it’s the same puppyish, very approachable brand of emo, and Matt Carlson has the same sort of vocal timbre as Eddy Brewerton where you’d be convinced that he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body – but reducing them down to little more than that would be avoiding the real talent and songwriting nouse that this band possesses.
Even so, there’s very little to say about A Will Away’s sound that hasn’t been said before, adopting that same template of poppier emo that Moose Blood pulled off incredibly well on their debut. In many cases though, that doesn’t matter, and Here Again‘s effectiveness comes in the conviction and honesty that’s burned into it, regardless of how lightweight it is. Right from the opening title track which kicks this album off on one hell of a strong foot, A Will Away channel the very best of modern emo, be it in the slightly rougher vocal pickups of Pay Raise, the gorgeously understated simmer of Agoraphobia or the light-dappled acoustics of closer Something Special. No, it’s not reinventing the wheel, but when it’s pulled off with this level of heart and gusto, it’s not hard to look past that.
It’s a similar case with the lyrics as well. While the concept of disillusionment at a lack of answers to life’s big questions is as impenetrable in practice as it is on paper, A Will Away manage to weave in more than enough thematic pathos simply by keeping these ideas in their most basic form. The resultant subject matter spans desperately trying to mend fractious relationships on Agoraphobia and The Shakes to examining self-beliefs on Caroline. Again, that sort of inner examination isn’t exactly uncommon in emo, and what’s exactly being said can be difficult to decode completely (one undoubtable positive between them and Moose Blood is that A Will Away seem nowhere near as eager to succumb to shiny, polished production), the overriding sense of human feeling involved here fills in any gaps. The emotion can feel slightly truncated on shorter tracks like Chemicals and thus the impact feels cut short, but the resoundingly organic feel of this album ends up shining through to an even greater degree.
Ultimately, that’s what makes Here Again as good as it is, the fact that, in a time where proper, ’emotional’ rock music feels more and more contrived and disingenuous, this is clearly an album created with little more than instruments and heart. It may sound simple, but that’s because it is, clearly following the most stripped-down emo formula but getting the best possible result out of it. For anyone who was left cold by the last Moose Blood album, or just wants another dose of quality emo in their life, make it a priority to check out A Will Away. You won’t be disappointed.
For fans of: Brand New, Moose Blood, Transit
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Here Again’ by A Will Away is released on 3rd March on Triple Crown Records.