The albatross hanging around Sorority Noise’s neck that they’re amongst the most emo of emo’s new-school has been a difficult one to ignore. As much as 2015’s Joy, Departed managed to resonate, it was last year’s It Kindly Stopped For Me EP that really dug its claws in, largely acoustic as to not overshadow frontman Cam Boucher’s stark commentary on the suicides of his close friends. Compared to that EP, third full-length You’re Not As _____ As You Think feels like its deeper, more fleshed-out companion piece, drawing on the same heartbreaking subject matter to a greater degree.
The result is an album that’s vulnerable and intrusive, yet simulataneously distant and closed-off, and the dichotomy between the two extremes is key in the way that this album works so well. Because let’s be blunt, on a surface level there’s very little about You’re Not As _____ As You Think that’s appealing – lyrically, it’s uncomfortably bleak; the low monotone that Boucher favours is hard to imprint upon; the only place that this album really superficially succeeds in is the instrumentation, arguably the easiest element to get right with its combination of driving indie-punk and shining, low-key pensiveness that comes in understated guitar lines backed by the usually earthy, spit-and-grit production style.
But then again, that’s the point, in that this isn’t an album that can be experienced on a purely surface level. It mainly comes in how stark Boucher’s delivery is and just how prominent the flat vocals actually are. And considering that this is an album that hinges around the concept of suicide, it works to tremendous effect. It’s similar to how Kanye West used AutoTune on 808s & Heartbreaks as a means of deflection and distance to save that stoic face, and in Boucher’s case, it makes the moments of genuine hurt and vulnerability so much more powerful. So while the likes of A Portrait Of or A Better Sun have that barrier firmly up, it makes moments like the cracking whisper of Car or the utterly heartbreaking First Letter From St. Sean with what sounds like Boucher on the verge of tears throughout, all the more potent.
And for an album like this, potency is its greatest asset; there’s palpable pain here, even at its most distant. But while talking so openly and in such an uncensored fashion about the death of close friends on No Halo and Disappeared takes an emotional fortitude that most can’t even imagine, to accept it and manage to move on, as is the case on Where Are You, feels like the sense of closure that brings not only the album’s arc, but also Boucher’s own personal neuroses to a satisfying conclusion.
It’s immaculately crafted in how it’s set up, and just the honesty that’s on show here makes You’re Not As _____ As You Think essential listening, not just for emo fans, but for anyone with an interest in pure, unfiltered music that manages to do a whole lot in very little. For as much as Sorority Noise have never been amongst modern emo’s top tier, this is the kind of album that sees them deserving of a place up there; it isn’t precisely innovative, but as far as emo in 2017 goes, it’ll be a surprise if this isn’t up there with the best come December.
For fans of: Modern Baseball, The Menzingers, Microwave
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘You’re Not As _____ As You Think’ by Sorority Noise is released on 17th March on Triple Crown Records / Big Scary Monsters.