Sound — 7
The Airborne Toxic Event's sophomore effort "All At Once" stays true to the band's past tendencies, both in its strengths and in its weaknesses. Mikel Jollett continues to shine in his ability to write catchy and intricate songs, but over stimulates the listener with a barrage of out-of-place synthetic melodies. Songs such as "Changing" and "Numb" contain synthetic hooks that would have best been left to a string section. The band has now twice attempted to raise interest in their release by recording and uploading acoustic mixes of the entire album, only to release the studio album weeks with completed songs that do not match the standard held by the acoustic "incomplete" versions. Indeed, the shinning songs of the album include "The Kids Are Ready To Die", "The Graveyard Near The House", and "All For A Woman", all which stay closest to the original acoustic version released. This is not to say that acoustic songs automatically equates to better music, but it can safely be said that The Airborne Toxic Event is at the pinnacle of their music abilities in an acoustic setting.
Lyrics — 9
Lyrically, Mikel Jollett continues to showcase the talents of his failed profession. (History lesson: Jollett originally intended to be an author, but through breakups, deaths, and half-published novels, decided music was the route to take instead). His lyrics are often musings, fears, or events in his life written as prose and set to music. "The Kids Are Ready To Die" and "The Graveyard Near The House" are both prime examples. As stated, Jollett often takes events from his life (his split with his fianc), his fears (leaving someone he loves), and musings (death and the angst of adolescence) as the subject of his songs. This album contains more diversity than the last in terms of subject topics, but continues to stay consistent in terms of quality.
Overall Impression — 8
As a whole, this album both impresses and disappoints. As a personal opinion, I found the acoustic versions of the songs more unique and listenable than the versions released on the album. However, this is not to say the album does not keep the listener entertained. They remain, at their core, solid tracks, and a solid track shines in virtually any setup. "All At Once" follows the same path as the previous, with catchy hooks and melodies on all instruments. Jollett's voice carries the album well and matches his writing style. If you enjoyed the debut album, "All At Once" is worth checking out. But I would recommend getting a hold of the acoustic tracks, as they exemplify all the individual instrument pieces found on the studio versions.