Sound — 9
Lead singer Christofer Drew's vocals have never sounded so good. This crisp new "pop" feel that Never Shout Never has gone for with this record do wonders for their vocalists matured, deeper voice than when he started his career 8 years ago at 16. The words are clear and the point gets across very easily; there really isn't a single song where the vocals are off. Christofer Drew's voice has gotten much deeper over the years, and this album showcases that very well, using that to its advantage. Somehow, this album pulls off a feel no different from the rest of Never Shout Never's albums, in a very good way. It gives a familiar sound with new twists, presenting the newcomers with a great album to start with, and die-hards a fantastic work that will no doubt satisfy.
Lyrics — 9
Going track-by-track, I'll start with "Hey! We OK." The lyrics are all about not being afraid to be weird and different, and embracing it instead. This is a good twist on an idea that's obviously been around for a while. Being the first track to be released before the full album, this wasn't too big of a leap in the theme of the band's lyrics, and it's sound harkens back to where the band started.
"Fone Tag" is a twist on a bonus track off of the band's 5th LP, "Indigo." "The Waltz" was an acoustic song with roughly the same lyrics, but a more upbeat sound (and obviously a full band backing).
"Red Balloon" was the third track to be released before the full album, and tells the story of a, well, red balloon, who wants to "cut the ribbon tied around my neck," and see the world. A storm blows through and cuts him loose, and he floats up into the clouds, only to realize, the world is all one big balloon, seeing the "bigger picture." This is Chris Drew's favorite song on the album. The lyrics on this song are very good.
The song "Happy New Year" tells of someone wishing to be somewhere else in life. One lyric says, "I know most people they call it Hell, I call it Home." I believe this means he feels he is stuck in his own personal "Hell" and wants to get out; he finds someone to run away with and get away from his problems, and by saying "Happy New Year," he is saying he's a new person and it's a new year for him. This is just another example of how the music and words fit so well together.
"Awkward Conversations (Best Day)" is about a man who is doing things in the name of fun, but doesn't realize how the things could affect him or others until later on, and wishes to rewind his life. This song is very catchy and hardly falters.
The title track, "Black Cat," is an anti-war song. The song goes through the life of this so-called "Black Cat," how he is shipped off to war, brainwashed into thinking it's no big deal. He gets there, and realizes the harsh reality of it, and is killed. This song conflicts with my emotions; I love the song, but the version I heard before this album came out was a live version, that just sounded much better and more powerful. I'm sure if I hadn't heard that version first, I wouldn't think anything of this song, but it just feels better in that version.
"Peace Song" is a new rendition of a song Christofer Drew released a few years back, called "Pray for Peace." In my opinion, that version sounded a bit better than this one, but it's still a very good song lyrically and is another anti-war song. That and the idea of being different and being okay with that seem to be the two main themes of this album, and I like that.
"WooHoo" is simply a song about realizing you're in love. It's a catchy tune and I feel like this song will be a fun one live. This song talks about questioning everything around you, but looking at someone and knowing you understand and get that person and love them.
"BOOM!" was the second song to be released, being on the "Warped Tour 2015" compilation CD. This song is very different from all of the rest, implementing some scat, and lots of electronic sounds throughout, and it's very fun to listen to.
"All Is Love" has lyrics that sound a bit cheesy, but it has a good message behind it, which is, simply; All Is Love. It seems like it falls under the "anti-war/love-instead-of-fighting" theme.
Overall Impression — 9
This album is very different from Never Shout Never's previous albums, yet very similar in a way. As Christofer Drew put it, they've gone "full circle" from where they started. If I had to recommend songs to listen to, my favorites are "Fone Tag" and "Red Balloon." The only thing I dislike is the difference on the title track from the original live version, but that's more of a personal thing.
And to answer this final question on the list: I would DEFINITELY buy it again if it was stolen or lost. It's some of the band's best work and it's a must-have for new and die-hard fans alike.