It feels almost unfair to go into Picturesque’s new album when, in terms of poppy post-hardcore that peaked and subsequently began its decline around 2015, they feel like such an easy target. That in itself is a pretty strong reason, not helped by their 2017 debut Back To Beautiful being so ineffectual at leaving an impact from simply doing what everyone else had been doing up to that point. And now, for a band who’d previously been unable to stand out turning to the notion of not wanting to be confined by genre for their new release, that’s just throwing up red flags like nobody’s business. That’s usually a roundabout way of saying a band is going full pop anyway, but when Picturesque’s scene has effectively embraced that mindset from the start, there’s an uncertainty hanging over Do You Feel O.K.? about what it’s actually going to be. On the bright side, that’s a more interesting feeling to go in on that most albums like this muster, but whether that can actually be a good thing or not is just as unpredictable.
It becomes somewhat hollow on the actual album though, as Picturesque’s self-proclaimed emphasis on ‘genrelessness’ doesn’t feel quite as strong as they might have let on – or rather, it isn’t a factor in the slightest. And yet, that’s not as much of a knock as it could seem; Do You Feel O.K.? might feel like a product of its genre – complete with a lot of the issues that come bundled in – but this is far from bad on the whole. That comes as little more than a case of this album connecting more than most, but when that feels like it originates from a real place and is relayed with an intent to keep that drive there, it accomplishes more than a lot in this field do.
It’s why Do You Feel O.K.? can also be something of a frustrating listen, as there’s clearly more potential to Picturesque than they’re willing to show given the continuation of a sound that really doesn’t allow that. Their proclamations of crossing genre boundaries amount to little more than feeding in more pop and electronic influences into their already-polished post-hardcore, something that’s been done countless times before and here, suffers from the same overbearing overproduction as vast swathes of their predecessors. Playing up to that shine isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when it’s used to present more sweeping drama in Crimes and Glass House, but as is frequently the case, the guitars have so much of their weight sapped from them (evidenced rather neatly by how superior the solo on ATTN: sounds to everything around it), and there’s not a lot of groove or fluidity when needed thanks to diminished bass presence and louder-than-necessary drums, meaning that tracks like Holding Me Down and Day By Day feel exceptionally clunky. If Kyle Hollis’ vocals weren’t as much of a redeeming factor as they are, this would all be far more damaging, but his convincing Kellin Quinn impressions paired with the open-ended drama of the mix can pull it all back somewhat. A few instances like Swipe see some whiplash transitions from different points in his range that do jar or just straight-up don’t work, but there’s clear, raw power there, and when he’s allowed to slide across into more jagged tones on Pray with emotion that feels instinctive rather than stylistic, they’re moments that Picturesque would do well to give more representation in future.
Indeed, Do You Feel O.K.? could do with more of that itself, as the ten-a-penny lyrical throughline of post-breakup angst feels a bit more chaotic and unstable in itself, charging through clearly toxic feelings of resent to serve as a buffer for self-loathing and yearning that’s yet to go away. Hollis’ chastising of this capricious woman has venom behind it on a track like Swipe that’s almost excessively vitriolic, to which a line like “Get out my head girl, I’m already over you / I’m just sitting, waiting for my body to figure it out” lends a twinge of melancholy to that goes a long way to fleshing out such a sentiment. Even on O.K.? and Glass House’s self-criticism that’s become such a repetitive, overused trope in this scene, it’s connected to the same central, reactionary moment that gives the situation its resonance. It’s not pleasant, but it’s not supposed to be, and feeding into those negative, destructive emotions as a natural coping mechanism strips away a lot of the artifice that this brand of post-hardcore often shoulders. In itself, it isn’t a new arc, but it’s one that can be believably attributed to Hollis; he sells it with a great deal of conviction and humanity, and that’s a pretty key elevating factor for Picturesque.
And at the end of the day, that’s more than a lot of bands like this have, even if sonically Do You Feel O.K.? isn’t too far removed from them. That’s where the faults here lie more than anything, in that such a naturally visceral sentiment is matched up with a presentation that’s anything but, but there’s at least a size that tracks well between the two sides and that does count for something. Even if it’s nothing magnificent, Do You Feel O.K.? feels like a necessary bridge between the blasé trappings of pop-driven post-hardcore and something more exciting and real, upon which Picturesque prove they’re able to toe the line of well. What needs to happen next is making the full crossover; what they’ve got now is solid, but there’s something more within this band and the sooner they let it out, the better.
For fans of: Sleeping With Sirens, Too Close To Touch, Normandie
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Do You Feel O.K.?’ by Picturesque is released on 24th April on Rude Records / Equal Vision Records.