As It Is-Okay Album Review

UK Pop-Rockers, As It Is released their sophomore album on Jan. 20 and it takes everything they created with their debut with the addition of deeper lyrics, catchier instrumentals and more. Their debut, Never Happy Ever After created a sound that was fresh to the genre but at the same time something fans of pop rock would find difficult not to enjoy. Their second record, Okay, takes all this and improves upon it. Just by one listen it can be heard that As It Is took their time to create the best lyrics and instrumentals possible.

The album follows a theme of catchy, upbeat songs with somber lyrics. Without paying attention to the lyrics, a listener could assume the album follows happy themes, but that isn’t the case. There are deep topics that vocalist, Patty Walters, clearly had personal inspirations for. These inspirations make this album sound rawer and with more emotion than the previous.

The band formed in 2012 in Brighton, England and is made up of lead vocalist, Patty Walters, Benjamin Langford-Biss, guitar and vocals, Patrick Foley, drums, Andy Westhead, guitar, and Ali Testo, bass.

Okay begins with “Pretty Little Distance,” which instrumentally sounds like the As It Is fans know and love but with lyrics that create a whole new listening experience. It’s an upbeat and catchy pop punk song, instrumentally, with lyrics that describe what the album as a whole is about. It’s about how life throws twists and turns all the time and that bad things are always bound to happen. The lyrics, “Ain’t life swell from a pretty little distance?” implies that the way we live our lives there will always be tragedy and heartbreak.

“Until I Return” is a track that follows a similar formula as “Pretty Little Distance” does, because of how the lyrics are written. “I promise I’ll fight but I can’t promise I’ll be fine;” they explain that it’s okay not to be okay, which is another huge theme found across this record. These lyrics also explain the theme behind all the personal stories Walters is telling through each song. The fact that this track is towards the end shows contrast between the beginning with “Pretty Little Distance” and this one.

All the tracks on this record have some sort of personal experience that is written about, but there are two that stand out the most in what they are about. “Hey Rachel” and “Austen” are those two songs. “Hey Rachel” is written about Walters’ sister and how he could have been a better brother during a difficult time in her life. Meanwhile, “Austen” is a song written about Biss’s grandfather being hospitalized and his experience seeing him in that state.

Walters experimented with more topics on Okay such as relationships and being trapped within his own mind. “Patchwork Love” and “Still Remembering” discuss the topic of love, more specifically the end aspects of a relationship. In “Patchwork Love” Walters writes about a past relationship and how even though they aren’t together anymore he won’t forget or regret it and he asks her to do the same. “I won’t forget you, I won’t regret…All I ask, my one request/Don’t forget me, don’t regret me.”

“Still Remembering” is a bit different because it isn’t as clearly defined as “Patchwork Love” but the lyrics discuss a lot about endings. “When you left, not without warnings or regrets/Nothing would fill this hole in my chest/Bid your farewell…So my love, goodbye.” These lyrics make it the perfect way to end the record combined with the fact that it’s the most acoustic song. Instrumentally and lyrically, the album is being wrapped up with this track.

The topic of being mentally stuck was another idea that Walters struggled with because it made its way into some songs as well. “No Way Out” and “Soap” are two tracks that exemplify it perfectly. The lyrics in “No Way Out” explain this topic clearer than “Soap’s” but both still get the idea across in their own unique ways. In “No Way Out,” Walters experiments with some screaming vocals that work well with the song because it makes the lyrics stand out as more meaningful to him. “I shut my eyes, but my world’s still burning/I can’t escape, I feel it killing me/No way out.”

“Soap” is a bit different, not only in the fact that the lyrics are more cryptic than straightforward but because instrumentally, it is the most unique. The verses have a unique style in the way the vocals interact with the instrumentals. The vocals are mixed with a slight screaming to pair with the raw emotion created through Walters’ lyrics. “This will only take a lifetime/To bury me as deep as troubled is your mind/I’m sinking deeper into your head/I’m the lie you live in, every thought you dread.”

Every track on this record is wonderful and Okay is an album that doesn’t disappoint in any way. The instrumentals follow a pop punk sound, but have twists that make certain songs stand out and lyrics that are meaningful and personal in all of the best ways. This record is more than just a listening experience; it is an experience that makes the listener really think while still enjoying the upbeat pop punk tunes.

Rating: 9.5/10

You can stream the record here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpZL8cbLq4o&list=PLsBWlr67U5NsBbWZyypkhNmXzuJycASJr

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The xx-I See You Album Review

An album filled with a variety of tracks, while holding onto similarities to make the piece more cohesive is what best describes The xx’s newest and third release, I See You. It puts together tracks that go hand and hand with another, while each song still remains unique and its own. This prevents most of the tracks from being lost and forgotten in the whole feeling of the album. The xx are considered an indie/electronic pop group from London, England made up of three members: Oliver Sim, vocalist and bassist, Jamie Smith, drummer and producer and Romy Madley Croft, vocalist and guitarist.

I See You begins with the funky and upbeat first track, “Dangerous.” The band mixes a trumpet with the alternative instrumentals and even electronic effects to create a sound like no other. These effects last during the majority of the song and when combined with Sim’s and Croft’s vocals, sound wonderful. Their voices blend well during the whole track, but especially in the chorus. Both their vocals are mellow, which show off a contrast with the effects that turn the song upbeat.

There are other songs similar to “Dangerous” that take the upbeat effects and instrumentals to create a song with enough balance between the relaxing indie sound and a funky rock one. These songs are “A Violent Noise” and “On Hold.” Both contain similar elements, but each stand out with their own sound while blending with the overall feeling of the record. “A Violent Noise” has parts where there are softer vocals and effects, while in others faster and more intense ones. The instrumentals and vocals equally speed up and gain intensity to match some lyrics in the chorus: “Every beat is a violent noise.”

“On Hold” is the most upbeat and rock sounding song on the record. This makes it stand out but the way the instrumentals are used allows it to fit into the sound of the album as a whole. What makes it unique is the use of the electronic effects. All the other songs on the record utilize them, but this is the one where they are the most prominent. They also sound different compared to the relaxing effects that make this album overall sound calm. These effects sound like they belong in a pop-electronic track instead.

The remainder of the album follows a calm sound, especially in tracks: “Performance” and “Replica.” Each one has a similar feel to them because of features like they each doesn’t have many complex electronic effects like another track, “Lips.” “Replica” is instrumentally driven, as the effects and instrumentals overpower the vocals at times and tend to lead the song in the correct direction. However, overpower is not meant negatively in this case. Somehow, this element works in these parts of the song since its focused on the relationship between the instrumentals, effects, and vocals.

The album concludes with “Test Me,” the most mellow song and one that does its job of wrapping I See You up completely. The vocals only last until about two minutes before the song ends and the rest is a combination of electronical effects and instrumentals. They sound dark and dramatic, which creates a somber feeling. Similarly, to when something good comes to an end. It closes out this record in a way that is truly unique. The length of pure instrumentals give the listener time to reflect and think about the album and the lyrics.

I See You is a great listen for anyone looking for a relaxing record to chill to and especially for fans of the indie genre. It does not contain as many rock elements as other bands considered part of the indie rock genre and the use of electronic effects makes them unique when compared to other artists. This record is one that is cohesive and at the same time blends different elements together that wouldn’t seem to make any sense. The xx makes them work in a way that wouldn’t be expected.

Rating: 8/10