RIYL: Saves The Day, Tigers Jaw, The Menzingers, The Sidekicks, Transit
Part of the appeal of Hoffman Manor, State Lines’ 2011 debut, was its raw vulnerability; the ten songs that comprised the record each resonated with pop-like simplicity, but were speckled with a coarse and unique character. The band's Self-Titled four-song follow-up displayed the same ragged edges, revealing a band that recognized how an organic recording can underscore the honest emotion already seeping from their songs.
Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that For The Boats, State Lines’ sophomore full-length, is presented in the same natural frame. Yet, something separates this most recent set of songs from their previous releases; it is not only evident in the songs’ varying tempos—some stroll to better observe the scenery, though others, exhibiting Hoffman Manor’s immediacy, seem performed with a new sort of stamina—but also in the record’s overall softer, rounder sound. Essentially, For The Boats displays a band more deliberate, more dynamic, more patient—and certainly more mature.
No song better epitomizes this evolution than “The Same Mistake”, the record’s second track, two-thirds of which consists largely of singer Jonathan Dimitri’s unadorned growl, backed by the gentle thump of his palm-muted guitar. Though the song does not build dynamically, it becomes more tense, tightens until it breaks, then bursts with distorted and disoriented guitars; here, the drumbeat steps heavily and unhurried, stomps in time with Johnny Wims’ humming bass for twenty seconds until its suddenly snuffed out. Similarly, “Shit for Brains” begins amid chaos before slamming on the brakes and advancing in fuzzy, furious strokes; this angular, dissonant song pushes State Lines to the band's slowest and stormiest extremes.
Other songs, though, reveal that State Lines really has not strayed far from the mercurial energy exhibited on their Self-Titled EP. Though “Garages” trots steadily, the song’s grumbling guitars and Dimitri’s restrained croon create a menacing mood. Following a frantic transition, the song snaps and tumbles into a surging refrain. “I’m losing all credibility / and my humility / in these garages,” Dimitri snarls during this chorus, his guitar whining beside Tom Werring’s groaning chords.
Though State Lines has matured since their last release, For The Boats shows that they have not lost their emotional intensity. Instead, the energy, once generated by explosive tempos, is reserved for the record’s most touching moments; likewise the charm that made Hoffman Manor so memorable has been swapped by dynamics and momentum. In fact, one might argue that For The Boats is more restless, more intense, rawer, and certainly more real.
- Dane Erbach
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