Relient K

Air For Free

Written by: TL on 09/08/2016 15:52:49

Eleven studio albums since forming in 1998. That is kind of a lot, and it shows that Ohio pop-rockers Relient K are nothing if not dependable, to the point where you might have started taking them for granted at some point we're well past by now. With number eleven, last month's "Air For Free", they soldier on, however, with seemingly no intentions of looking back or slowing down.

While originally deemed a 'pop-punk' act there's nothing much punk about the new album. Rather the style can be described as a very relaxed and euphonious piano-pop/rock, reminiscent of Ace Enders' I Can Make A Mess project, or of The Rocket Summer but with less intensity. At sixteen tracks over 59 minutes, the album is a long one for a pop record, yet this probably stems from Relient K simply having some justified confidence in their own songwriting abilities. Because even if the lyrics are a little packed here and there, there remains an easy, hard-to-resist charm to the atmosphere cooked up by the remaining core members Matt Thiessen and Matt Hoopes. "Bummin'" is catchy, "Local Construction" is catchy, "Mrs. Hippopotamuses'" is catchy, and those three in sequence get proceedings started by easily embedding some tunes in your head to remember the album by for a while.

The best song by some distance, however, is "Man" at track five, in part, though, because it puts in contrast what much of the rest of the record lacks, namely the feeling that anything at all is at stake. The seemingly cheerful, "The Graduate"-referencing and piano-boxing tune creates a restless atmosphere and centers lyrically around anxiety, transition and becoming an adult. And that's actually a noticeable contrast to many of the surrounding tracks, which don't really seem to be about anything, other than Thiessen waxing sort of contently about this or that. The spiritual "God" for instance does have something going for it, though, and the following "Elephant Parade" makes a mark with a pretty cool tempo change midway through.

All throughout, Relient K's veteran musicianship is readily apparent, ensuring that each composition is a level of detailed and wholesome that goes beyond what more obvious made-for-easy-radio-play pop-rock records would contain. This and the rampant displays of catchiness aside, however, don't change the overall impression that the album is just a tad on the harmless side, which doesn't exactly help you stay interested as it progresses through the somewhat excessive tracklist. Maybe something like the vocoder-drenched "Empty House" or the Owl City-esque title track could've been considered for omission to alleviate the sense of too many tracks crowding each other a bit? Or maybe it's just a matter of casually enjoying the tunes for what they are while hoping that Relient K might perhaps find inspiration to make something a bit more affected at a later point.


Download: Man, God, Elephant Parade
For The Fans Of: Andrew McMahon, Ace Enders, Mae, Punchline

Release date 22.07.2016
Mono Vs Stereo

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