Sound — 9
Blue October has ventured in a new direction with Approaching Normal while still maintaining the sound that fans recognize them for. Each song on the album leaves you wondering what to expect with the next track, and with piano driven songs leading into heavy, guitar driven songs, Approaching Normal is a fantastic musical ride. The addition of violin, mandolin, and synthesizers really add to the musical experience. The use of ambient sounds is more prominent on this record, with the opening track, 'Weight of the World', a song about domestic abuse, starting with the cries of a young woman and police sirens. These ambient sounds are well placed and add to the overall mood of the songs.
Lyrics — 10
Unlike previous Blue October albums, with lyrics focusing on the bipolar disorder of lead singer Justin Furstenfeld, Approaching Normal's lyrics coincide with precisely what the title suggests, finally approaching a state of normality. Furstenfeld wrote all the lyrics for the album and one must commend him on his unique and descriptive style. Some songs are more like blank verse poetry, which Furstenfeld manages to make work, adding a unique appeal to several parts of this collection of songs. Perhaps the most exciting and stand out track, both lyrically and musically, is 'The End' (found only on the uncensored version of the album). It begins with a mandolin riff and builds with guitars and big drums from there. Lyrically it deals with a double-murder suicide, and is an exciting, albeit a bit creepy, song to listen to. Nevertheless, it is a very well performed track. Just Furstenfeld's resemblance to an emotionally scared Jack Black is much more noticeable this go around, but he manages to keep his singing diverse, with some lines being spoken poetically, some screams, and some talented straightforward singing.
Overall Impression — 9
Blue October has been a unique band from their genesis, and Approaching Normal continues this idea even further by taking the band in a new direction musically. It is clear the band has put forth much effort in writing and producing this album, which is a thrill to listen. Though all the songs are great, standout tracks include 'Weight of the World,' 'Dirt Room,' 'My Never,' and 'The End.' I'm sure you'll find your own favorite tracks if you purchase this album, which is worth every penny. If you're a fan of Blue October, alternative rock, or if you're simply looking for a deep musical experience offering a unique sound, give Blue October's Approaching Normal a chance.