Sound — 7
I couldn't believe there was not already a review of this album on UG. To fill that void, I've written my own review of "Sirens and Condolences" by New York based Bayside. The band has released five full-length albums to this point, four for Victory Records and one on Wind-Up Records. This album was their debut full length album was released on January 27, 2004 via Victory Records. The record features original drummer John "Beatz" Holohan who died shortly after their second album titled "Bayside" was released. The album features the four piece band playing what we've come to expect over the years as their standard fair of punk and with catchy vocal lines. Why it's called "Sirens and Condolences" I'll never know, but I have an idea as to why it was titled that. The vocalist spends a lot of the album signing about acquaintances who might be on the wrong path, much like a foghorn or siren would alert a ship of an impending wreck on the shore. "Condolences" refers to the portions of the album written looking inward, like he's sharing in the pain with you. I might be way off base, but that's what I've come to gather on the surface.
The quality of the recording is not excellent, but it does not take away from the emotion or message of the album. The vocals come across fairly clean, you can clearly understand Anthony Raneri's vocals. My only complaint about the recording sound of the distorted guitars at times sounds thick, muddy and not very well defined (a longtime complaint of mine about Victory Records recordings of that time). Raneri has an interesting vocal delivery; his voice is a good mix between Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) and Jordan Pundik (New Found Glory). The interesting part of his delivery is the inflection he gives to each word. At times it is beautiful, and at times it makes him sound crazy and unstable which given the subject content of a number of songs, it's perfect.
The music and arrangement is above average for what you might hear on a punk or emo record. The band features two guitars, both of which handle leads and rhythm riffs. Composition is very original and musically thoughtful in my opinion. They set themselves apart from the crowd by not just strumming chords and singing over them, the albums is full of thoughtful and musically fresh guitar and drum fills that resemble those you would hear in a hardcore or hard rock song (sounds strange I know, but that's the only way I know how to describe it). This band and album, gave me hope that bands can play what's on their heart without sounding sappy or overly emo. I'd equate the sound of this album with that of Brand New and Alkaline Trio as they probably share a number of the same influences. Best part of the album in my opinion is the guitar solos, they won't blow anyone away by any stretch of the imagination but they do stand out in a genre that does not really feature them at all.
Lyrics — 6
Lyrically the album straight up honesty, both about Raneri's life any everyone else's too. He does not sugar coat his feelings or pull any punches so to speak about his feelings. The track titled "Masterpiece" displays Raneri's 'tell it like it is' attitude with the line "You're not eighteen anymore. Five years should have been, enough time for you to grow up and get over this. Not too cool to be throwing up all morning sick from what you might have done or done it with." He's obviously trying to coach a friend through something, while being blunt and straightforward. This track features one of the better vocal deliveries, the meter at which Raneri sings is what gives this track its power. "Masterpiece" is one of the heavier tracks on the album, and his vocals fit very well with the instrumentation behind them. Raneri is not the best vocalist in the world, but what he lacks in skill he makes up for in effort and actually comes out okay. He's one of those vocalist who does sing with all he has, no holding back, and it really shows. Because of his "no hold bars" approach, and they way he forms the meter of his vocal lines, his mental state and emotions during the writing process is close to the service and the listen can clearly feel where he's coming from.
Overall Impression — 8
"Sirens and Condolences" compares well with albums of its time. I would compare it to Brand New "Deja" and Alkaline Trio "Good Mourning" as they share some of the same structure and overall feel. The album features a lot of the same style of writing, but what sets it apart from those examples is the guitar arrangements and guitar solos. "Masterpiece" is one of the better tracks on the album, another track I like is called "Guardrail." "Guardrail" features a more laid back guitar approach while making its case with the vocals. The track titled "Alcohol" and "Alter Boys" is also a standout song for me as well, but this album is best served in its entirety. Sure listening to one song here and there is okay, but cover to cover is the way this album was meant to be digested. I love the brutal honesty and shear emotion put forth by Raneri in his vocals, he really does bare his whole soul on this record. My one and only complaint is the sound of the guitars at times, some softer tracks they sound great but anything distorted sounds too fat and muddy. If it were lost or stolen I would get it again without question.