Sound — 8
It will be interesting to hear what Underoath fans will think of this one. The new release from The Almost, or Underoath drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie's (for the most part) one-man band, sounds very little like the Christian post-hardcore work you've heard from him in the past. Rather than writing songs heavy on melodic guitars and screams like he did in Underoath, Gillespie has actually gone in a very back-to-basics, pop-rock direction. The Almost's debut record Southern Weather never does feel like it's the creation of just one person, with plenty of instrumental layering and hi-quality production. The only problem comes in the fact that the album's collection of songs tend to rely a little to sound a bit too much like a lot of other pop rock out there. Gillespie has always brought a very strong presence to Underoath with his amazing percussion and strong, melodic vocals. Those areas continue to shine on Southern Weather, without a doubt. But the songwriting is not always consistent and is a big jump from the harder edge heard in Underoath. The opening track Say This Sooner has it's moments, using alternating electric and acoustic guitars, which is a fantastic touch that keeps it interesting. That up-and-down momentum is a great way to start the album and deserves to be a hit single. Some of the other up-tempo songs like Drive There Now, however, stay too safe in terms of the usual pop-rock format, though. Southern Weather does have it's moments where the usual pop-rock format takes a left turn and something out of the ordinary pops up. It's during the instances featuring atypical pop-rock formats that the album stands out the most. The best example comes in the ballad Dirty And Left Out, which you might assume to be like every other emo love song out there. Thankfully Gillespie goes in a different direction, using pedal steel and an organ-like keyboard to give an almost bluesy feel. That track stands out as being the most stripped-down, yet still the most honest and well-executed song on the playlist. Gillespie surprises the listener a few more times throughout the course of Southern Weather, at one point even adding the Youth Group at Calvary Fellowship Choir in Amazing Because It Is. At this close there's also what sounds like a Beatles-esque Mellotron being played in the closing track Everything That Makes Me Sick. While a Mellotron doesn't appear to be listed in the credits, just the fact that Gillespie is trying out unique sounds shows that he is thinking outside of the box.
Lyrics — 8
Much like his other project Underoath, Gillespie only makes slight references to his Christian faith in the lyrical content. He instead focuses on human emotions and situations, and delivers solid lyrics along the way. In the title track Southern Weather, Gillespie explores a relationship where he tends to get blamed various things. He sings, If my faults are your song; Then I will not be content to sing along; If I'm the one that's got you so out of touch. The heavy emotional content heard on the album does suit the music beneath it and shouldn't scare away fans of Underoath too much.
Overall Impression — 8
The Almost will most certainly find a fan base while on tour this summer with it's collection of catchy and easily accessible songs, and Gillespie deserves attention for attempting a large-scale project by himself. While there are a lot of supporting musicians and vocalists involved in Southern Weather, Gillespie still is listed as playing pretty much all of the primary instruments. The songs do tend to be very pop-rock oriented, so it's hard to say if all Underoath fans can make the transition to The Almost. The songs on Southern Weather don't quite pull you in as much as Underoath's work in terms of unique songwriting, but that's not to say Gillespie can't write a likeable pop-rock song.