Released: Mar 24, 2009
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Universal Records
Number Of Tracks: 12
Although fatherhood has made an impression on Justin Furstenfeld, the Blue October vocalist still has a few demons to exorcise on his bands new album Approaching Normal.
UG Team, on march 30, 2009 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: For those of you concerned that Blue October's latest album Approaching Normal is filled songs that focus on vocalist Justin Furstenfeld's new, more positive outlook on life, don't worry too much yet. While there are songs that were obviously written after the birth of his daughter, Blue, the glimpses at happiness and peace of mind are still few and far between. If you've been a fan of Blue October since they formed in 1995, you probably already know what this means: Furstenfeld still has plenty of demons to exorcise.
Approaching Normal is an album with many ups and downs, both musically and lyrically. From the opening track Weight Of The World, it's evident that there is still plenty of passion within Furstenfeld. The slow, musical build-up in the beginning is highly effective, particularly when out of nowhere you get an explosion of distortion and Furstenfeld bellows. A little more than halfway through, the broken side of Furstenfeld appears in all of it's glory. It gets slightly overdramatic in those moments thanks to some over-the-top shouting, but if you like that no-holds-barred candor in Blue October, you'll love Weight Of The World.
The first single Dirt Room is welcomed with open arms, particularly because it's not necessarily the typical autobiographical track. Dealing with the general topic of not playing the victim, it's one of the few songs on the album that could rely on musical content alone. Dirt Floor features an instantly memorable chorus, and is actually one of the most energetic, rock-oriented songs on the album. The themes on the album don't always necessitate Blue October to go in a harder, riff-driven direction, and Dirt Floor provides a much-needed change of pace from the low-key content on Approaching Normal.
There are a couple issues that keep Approaching Normal from reaching the quality of Foiled. On one hand you have songs like Been Down or Kangaroo Cry, which are lyrically strong and convey powerful messages. If that's enough for a listener, there won't be any problems. However, the musical aspect of those songs doesn't always make for the most unique listening experience. In contrast, Furstenfeld gets it absolutely correct with My Never another heart-wrenching song in which many moments are essentially stripped down to just his vocals and a guitar. There is an eerie quiet that is present, and it makes for a much powerful song.
If there is one song that should divide the most listeners, it's Jump Rope. It hit's you like a ton of bricks because, well, it's just one happy-go-lucky little number. Undoubtedly inspired by Furstenfeld's daughter in some right, Jump Rope borders on being annoying with all of the repeating up and down lyrics. I'm sure that kids will love this one because the whole arrangement is tailored for that audience, but it's just a monster leap from your typical Blue October fare. // 7
Lyrics: Love him or hate him, Justin Furstenfeld is one of the most honest songwriters out in rock today. You could accuse him of being selfish or whining, but essentially every song in the world is relaying some sort of personal emotion and he just takes it to the next level. You get another heavy helping of Furstenfeld's world on Approaching Normal, from the lovesick My Never to the political/social/possibly 9/11-related Kangaroo Cry to overt self-reflection in Weight Of The World. If you are able to obtain the explicit version of Approaching Normal, the bonus track The End will throw you for a loop. That is one song that is not so much about unrequited love as it is about stalking and/or voyeurism. And amazingly, it's one of the most interesting songs on the entire album. // 9
Overall Impression: Approaching Normal is somewhat inconsistent, and it's very possible that it's indeed because Furstenfeld is finding himself now that's he a father. The musical aspect does tend to get hidden in the background through it all, and that's unfortunate particularly when you have talented players like violinist Ryan Delahoussaye at your disposal. Songs like Dirt Floor, My Never, and The End are strong musically and lyrically, and it's obvious that band can still churn out hit's in those cases. What should likely grab the attention of fans more than any musical inconsistency, however, is the fact that Furstenfeld is changing his lyrical scope. Jump Rope and Blue Does are indications that the fatherly side of the singer is taking over. While that's a great personal step for the singer, some fans might eventually miss all of the drama. // 8
styxfan226, on march 30, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Blue October has returned to their older sound with their newest album "Approaching Normal". it's not as experimental as Foiled but to me, that's a good thing. It doesn't have that dreamy/trancy feel to it like Foiled did.
01.Weight Of The World: a slow song, where Justin talks the lyrics for the most part, except for the chorus.
02.Say It: sounds like something that would have come off of History for Sale, kind reminds me of Sexual Powertrip at first. The drums and percussion sound cool. there's a cool little violin solo towards the end.
03.Dirt Room: the single from the album. Very simple musically but sounds great.
04.Been Down: my personal favorite on the album. it's very mellowed out. Reminds me of Everlasting Friend at first.
05.My Never: another simple song, starts with a little guitar riff played over again, then in the bridge/chorus, that riff is mixed with chords. A piano compliments everything.
06.Should Be Loved: upbeat, sounds like an 80's song to me. Guitars and violin sound awesome. In the middle an electronic organ is used which sounds cool. It reminds me of another song especially in the chorus.
07.Kangaroo Cry: verses are slow, but the chorus and bridge get louder into a really nice melody. I don't know why but it reminds me of HRSA.
08.Picking Up Pieces: moderate pace, during the verse, the percussion used sounds amazing, kindof like a bunch of bells, and a nice little beat made with a palm muted guitar.
09.Jump Rope: honestly, this song threw me off at first. it's the one song that sounds out of place to me. It's a more silly-type song for them than usual, happy. Catchy beat, and violin melodies.
10.Blue Skies: very upbeat song, not one of my favorites. Reminds me of Angel off of Consent to Treatment.
11.Blue Does: reminds me of Black Orchid, but it's not a sad song. More like a lullaby, a little like Zoe Jane from Staind.
12.The End: an extremely tense song. The main melody used in the verses keeps the tension along with Justins spoken lyrics. // 10
Lyrics: I was happy with the lyrics, overall, except for the song Jump Rope, which has extremely catchy vocals and is very radio-friendly. There was just something missing. Justin is an amazing songwriter and singer. Their lyrics may not rhyme but the way he sings them with the music, it just works, and it is an amazing thing. When he said that the song "The End" was the reason why it was parental advisory, he wasn't kidding. Many of the songs had more of an angry tone to them, which I thought worked well. // 10
Overall Impression: I am very satisfied with this album. I liked their older material more than Foiled, but Approaching Normal is like a mixture of everything they've ever done. The only way I can truly describe it is by a comparison to another bands album where they changed their sound again. The other album is All Hope Is Gone by Slipknot. Yes, I know it is an extreme comparison considering they are two different genres but it's the only thing I can think of at the moment. Slipknot started out fast, and went real heavy with Iowa, then when Volume Three came out, they slowed everything down but still had their sound to it. And when All Hope Is Gone was released they went back to an older sound, and in my opinion made one of the best records of the year. They changed and got heavy again but kept their melodic traces from Vol.3. I think slipknots vol.3 is like blue octobers Foiled in the way that both bands changed everything for a while. They picked things up again and went from sad songs back to more angry ones. The best songs on the album to me, are Been Down, Dirt Room, Picking Up Pieces and Should Be Loved. If it were lost/stolen, I would surely buy it again. // 10
himynameisgabe, on july 30, 2009 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 9
Lyrics: 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. // 10
Overall Impression: 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'sApproaching Normal a chance. // 9