GAMI GANG was a defining point for Origami Angel, but also a vast overextension. As a band in the throes of DIY pop-punk and pop-rock and emo, a big, 20-track release was certainly a bar to clear, though one that had barely any residual impact long-term, outside the fact that they actually did it. Honestly, their EPs and prior full-length Somewhere City have done more; not only have they aged more favourably, but they’re better representations of where Origami Angel’s fun and freneticism lands.
So let it be known right away that The Brightest Days rights pretty much every wrong of its predecessor. At only eight tracks and a crisp 22 minutes, it’s far punchier and more tightly put together. (It’s also self-classified as a mixtape, but for the sake of ease, it’s effectively still an album.) Moreover, the re-energised feeling that brings is palpable, between the evergreen thrust of 2000s emo-pop and the scrabbling excitability of Origami Angel themselves.
Their most prevalent new trick is the addition of ukulele, feeling rather limited in the interlude Looking Out, but placing some nice, gentle melancholy to the project’s bookends on its title track and Few And Far Between. It’s the initial hint of summer air that The Brightest Days seems very informed by, not only in its invocation of Warped Tours of yore, but in the stylistic shifts it undergoes on top of that. Thank You, New Jersey is far and away the clearest, with its surf-rock guitars and full-blown Beach Boys vocal runs hopped up by Origami Angel’s naturally caffeinated state. Elsewhere, there’s the ska breakdown on Kobayashi Maru (My Very Own) and some classic Hellogoodbye-esque synth wheezing on My PG County Summer, all with the express intent of heating up an already scorching pop-punk sound even further.
Because, let’s be frank—it’s not like The Brightest Day isn’t leveraging its ‘summer release’ status for all that it’s worth. It’s bold and bright, and overflowing with an exuberance not dissimilar from the likes of Motion City Soundtrack in their prime; that’s the power-pop field Origami Angel are aiming for, and they hit square on the bullseye. It’s wonderful to hear, not just through a nostalgic lens but from the pure vibrancy brought to it here. Thank You, New Jersey is positively radiant with pop-punk splendour, while Second Best Friend and Few And Far Between carry an expanse that’s wonderfully realised for a DIY duo. The scrappiness of that particular side of Origami Angel is never lost here; rather, it’s balanced out by such an easy sonic win, a convergence that’s among the best this style has sounded in a fairly long time.
Of course, there’s a healthy amount of emo at play in here too, assuredly par for the course but feeling considerably pronounced. And it’s rarely mindblowing stuff in the realms of self-examination and depression against the backdrop of summer—although My PG County Summer swings much wider in an exploration of American identity that so often can cross over into outright hatred and bigotry—but that’s kind of how it’s supposed to be. Especially when Ryland Heagy has the voice to fit in with the 2000s’ nerd-rock crew unimpeded, the appeal here is pretty much one-to-one with that. Big emotions abound, sold with genuine earnestness and a universality that’s notable without bogging everything down. It’s exactly how the bands holding up the halcyon era of this sound operated, and Origami Angel have practically perfected it themselves.
And while all of that might seem heavily contradictory to nostalgia not being a key player in this case—a lot of praise that can be heaped upon The Brightest Days does reflect back to its spiritual forebears—it’s more a case of the style continuing to spread its wings than anything associated with it forcing them open. Sure, if this was your bag two decades ago, The Brightest Days is an absolute home run, but it works outside of those conditions too. Origami Angel show off a gift for melody and colour that’s unavoidable, produced to perfect form and stocking up on an admirable restlessness that’s constantly so addictive. Add on the fact that it never even comes close to overstaying its welcome, and The Brightest Days might just be Origami Angel’s strongest body of work to date, or at least their most deeply enjoyable. When it’s borderline impossible to listen without cracking a smile at least half a dozen times, that seems like a given.
For fans of: Motion City Soundtrack, Jimmy Eat World, early Fall Out Boy
‘The Brightest Day’ by Origami Angel is released on 16th June on Counter Intuitive Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall