Sound — 7
Blue October formed in 1995, as they were currently a band called Harvest until Jeremy stepped behind the drum set while they practicing. A few short weeks later they had changed their name to Blue October and were playing local shows under that name with both Furstenfeld brothers in tow. The Furstenfeld brothers' parents formed a management company named RoDan Management in order to manage the band and help them get their career started. Since then it has been a crazy ride; being signed by record labels, being dropped, being re-signed, charting songs and selling platinum records but always missing that #1 spot just barely. They've finally landed on their own independent label, Up/Down Records. The band's overall sound has changed and evolved throughout their career, but they've remained essentially the same band that started almost 20 years ago practicing at their bass player's house. They have had some lineup changes, but have maintained the Furstenfeld brothers throughout, as well as Ryan Delahoussaye (predominantly keyboard, but also violin and mandolin), Matt Noveskey (bass guitar) since 1999 with just a small break in the early 2000's, and C.B. Hudson (guitar) since 2001 except for a recent break, but he has returned to tour with this new album. The album is definitely broken up into two parts: the first half, which is lighter and very melancholy albeit with an undertone of optimism, while the second half of the album is heavier (though never getting near the heaviness of some of their earlier material) and more about angst than melancholy. Overall, the album almost paints a picture of Justin Furstenfeld's emotional recovery from his divorce, while his previous album, "Any Man in America," was essentially his emotional journal of his divorce. This is the seventh full length album released by Blue October and contains 13 tracks with a total runtime somewhere around 56 minutes. The first single from the album was "Bleed Out" and was released in mid-June. The track "Angels in Everything" was released as their 2nd single for international markets. The first track on the album, "Breathe, It's Over," is an almost ethereal track with a lot of vocal processing, minimal percussion, an acoustic guitar and lasting less than 2 minutes. I feel like they could have fleshed that out to a full song and it would have possibly been my favorite song on the album. The second song on the album, "Sway," is pretty much an autobiographical love song and has a strong U2 vibe to it, musically. The track "Bleed Out," which was the lead single from the album, is possibly one of the best written songs on the album, musically and lyrically, but it just doesn't grab me. The track "Debris" is about where the album really started getting my attention as it has a stronger groove than the previous tracks, though it is still a lighter track at a fairly low tempo. The track "Hard Candy" is a mid tempo track with a simple percussion track and a fairly straightforward guitar part, but somehow infectious. "Light You Up" is absolutely my favorite track on the album as it has a really interesting vibe to it as well as some actual rapped lyrics I can absolutely see this track getting some serious air play on local rock stations. The album ends with the tracks "Not Broken Anymore" and "To Be," which kind of close out like the album started, dealing with Justin's divorce and learning to move on with his life.
Lyrics — 7
Justin Furstenfeld's vocals on the album were actually much more enjoyable than other recent releases, while he still has his signature huskiness in his voice, there seems to be some added power behind it, even on the softer songs. While there are minimal rapped lyrics on the album, I like what little of them there are. Justin's lyrics are usually pretty straightforward autobiographical stuff, focusing on his life events and his emotional reaction to them. As a good example, here are some of the lyrics from the title track, "Sway": "We sway/ Grabbed her by the hips and hand/ Then off we went/ Across the sanded floor/ She said that's not sand, it's salt/ It will get worn like we did before/ I only wanna dance with you/ Every time I try/ We only get an hour or so/ It's time to get personal/ We've got these times of our lives/ Lets take this time to let it show/ these are ours/ These are ours/ We sway/ The moon shines down/ And everybody's safe/ Christmas lights all day/ And rightly so/ We feel high as f--k/ And everything is good/ Good to go/ I watch the snow fall down/ Feels great to be honest/ Forget about the trouble/ Forget about the drama/ Cause I ain't Casanova/ Baby I can dance for days/ This time with you/ Is just amazing in so many ways."
Overall Impression — 7
I've become a disenchanted reluctant fan of Blue October over the years, as I've enjoyed their angst-y music over their melancholy music and the balance has definitely been shifting over the years. With "Sway" they do seem to have a better balance than they've had previously. There are a few of the songs that I think are absolutely worthwhile, such as "Light You Up." I also enjoyed "Debris," "Things We Don't Know About," "Hard Candy," "Put It In," and "Things We Do at Night." There weren't any songs that were dreadful or anything, and it is more a matter of taste than quality. If anyone likes their lighter music more, they will probably like every song except the ones I listed. Honestly, I'm rooting for Blue October again, as this album did a little to win me back over to their side. I look forward to hearing more from them.