Armor For Sleep
The Rain Museum
Despite the 15-year gap between releases, Armor For Sleep still sound authentically like themselves. That’s a pretty common thread for emo of this vintage, especially when there’s an ease to translating some post-hardcore leanings or defined edges into greater maturity. It’s what The Rain Museum primarily strives for, and generally hits upon pretty well. If nothing else, the uphill climb to get here is sated, with Armor For Sleep never being the biggest or loudest band, and whatever shreds of nostalgia mustered since 2007 have been used to plug in the gaps left by nonexistent material since.
On those merits, The Rain Museum definitely ticks the right boxes, particularly when it comes to growth. The sci-fi concept has since morphed into tracking frontman Ben Jorgensen’s responses to his broken marriage, resplendent with emo’s vaunted emotionality but doing well to steer clear of outright melodrama. The sparkle also comes off somewhat, but that’s to be expected; Armor For Sleep are aiming for something rawer and heavier, and thus there’s more sourness to how World Burn Down crunches by, or Rather Drown’s airier, piano-driven canvas is notably darkened. For as many glances are cast towards pop-rock contemporaneity—the hints of programming being chief among them—it’s never even close to overwhelming or overpowering.
The word that comes to mind most is ‘capable’, though not in a way that’s as belittling or backhanded as that might seem. A decade-and-a-half of creative backlog isn’t the impression that The Rain Museum gives off; at the same time, it’s hard to fault as an example of picking the baton back up again and dusting it with a slight coat of paint. There’s some good energy and gumption at its centre, clearly rooted in those 2000s days without being so bogged down by nostalgia that it never finds a direction for itself to take. The similarities remain—even though it’s a much better example of it, New Rainbows is as indebted to the ol’ acoustic emo ballad archetype as it gets—but the likes of How Far Apart and A Teardrop On The Surface Of The Sun have enough to them to be just plainly good songs.
Beyond that, The Rain Museum and its appeal are pretty straightforward. Armor For Sleep mine a lot from old-school emo’s current space, from melodies to a crunchier production style, and emerge with an album that’s exactly up to par, if not the tiniest bit above it. It comes together very satisfyingly overall, more so as a uniformly good emo album with every facet taut and arranged expertly, but that’s not to deny how solid that is on its face. Definitely a worthwhile listen, and the extended wait hasn’t dulled that in the slightest.
For fans of: Senses Fail, Bayside, The Early November
‘The Rain Museum’ by Armor For Sleep is released on 9th September on Rude Records.
If it wasn’t me, I would’ve called it funny
One of the things that benefits Snow Coats the most is the high floor they’ve given themselves. That’s not discounting the actual output itself—their Pool Girl EP is still a great little listen that’s only improved since its release—but they’ve tapped into an indie-pop lode whose richness and ragged pop savvy ultimately speaks for itself. As such, If it wasn’t me, I would’ve called it funny arrives as the sort of album practically guaranteed to land on its feet, as an expansion of their previous shagginess with the right amount of twee, and a proclivity for ear-candy melodies that’s an easy sell all the way down.
It’s hard to say if it’s strictly better than Pool Girl when that’s a more perfectly refined and tightened piece, but the disparity isn’t severe. Snow Coats continue to have a firm grasp on what makes the throwback, college-rock nature of their indie-pop work so well, thanks to the texture brought by quick-strummed acoustic guitars on Dinosaur and Chevy that tempers what could otherwise be overly tart. That’s still present thanks to Anouk van der Kemp’s vocal style, but it’s demonstrably more a feature than a flaw. It facilitates the closed-in persona she embodies across the album, as she navigates through her own hang-ups coming from social awkwardness and anxiety, while avoiding drowning in the quirkiness that can so often be the downfall of acts like this.
All of that feeds into If it wasn’t me…’s sense of homespun charm that’s truly its defining characteristic. The hooks and choruses definitely worm their way in, but it’s through Snow Coats’ lightness and warmth rather than brute-force size. On one hand, it fields some accusations of being a bit tepid that an EP of this style could avoid, but when songs like Anyway and Amber are so clearly rich in melody brought on by perfect balancing in the mix, it’s a direct feed to the joy receptors. If nothing else, Snow Coats’ buoyancy and likability is what sets them this far apart; few indie bands can craft balls of light in song form as succinctly as they can.
It makes for a wonderfully fun listen, not one that’s particularly groundbreaking in its vision but really isn’t meant to be. It’s small-scale and precise to a fault, and such a great palette-cleanser among a dense, frequently dreary alternative scene. Snow Coats simply have both the freshness and familiarity to strike a significant chord, the sign of fan-favourites-to-be whose skip and spring is totally unimpeded. Absolutely worth the time.
For fans of: Bears In Trees, Cavetown, The Moldy Peaches
‘If it wasn’t me, I would’ve called it funny’ by Snow Coats is released on 9th September on Alcopop! Records.
Thank goodness that Dear Seattle appear to have the industry foresight that they do, because otherwise, they’d likely have been swallowed up in record time. Their origins as an indie / garage-rock band (that would’ve ultimately opened up unhelpful comparisons to fellow Aussies like Dune Rats et al) were quick to dissipate over their releases, and they’re now pretty much within an emo mould that’s far more beneficial for them. Someday is as definitive as proof of that gets; within that template, this is really high-quality stuff.
Clearly they’ve got a good grip on what this style demands, a lot of which can be attributed to frontman Brae Fisher. Here, he wrestles with self-doubt and criticism where past confidence once stood but now crumbles away, with a vulnerable vocal bray that’s fitting for the mood he’s giving off. Songs like Irretrievable and A Perfect House do a lot to coax out some real charge, among a musical palette played with a lot of layers and swirling, muted colour on show. Think of bands like Balance And Composure leaning towards some of the more restrained emo-pop of the same era, and that’s effectively where Dear Seattle land.
It’s all extremely well executed, even if Someday can occasionally fall a bit too deeply into its own rhythm. The mid-paced sweep and gauzy production can make that a bit difficult to avoid, though it isn’t like the quality suffers as a result. If anything, it highlights how rock-solid Dear Seattle are, always able to land on some irresistible melody that’s as rich and delicious as you like. It’s most noticeable on Way Out or Split, both of which fall among the different strata of a band like The Dangerous Summer with almost equal panache, but for this sort of expansive, heart-swelling alt-rock, Someday barely puts a foot wrong.
Even if it doubles down more than it adds, it’s a remarkably easy album to like, and opens up an avenue for its creators that isn’t exactly bereft of opportunity. For Dear Seattle sinking into this persona, it’s a comfortable fit for them, and they’re pulling off some really effective material in what’s clearly a shift through purpose, rather than simple profitability. In other words, it’s the best they’ve sounded to date, by a considerable amount.
For fans of: Balance And Composure, Trophy Eyes, Real Friends
‘Someday’ by Dear Seattle is out now on UNFD.
Words by Luke Nuttall