Sound — 8
To write The Almost off as another pop/rock band is not really doing them justice. If you take a listen to a couple singles then you might reach that conclusion when listening to songs like Say This Sooner or Hands, but listen to this album and you'll see a nice range of sounds and interplay going on. Songs like Monster Monster have a decidedly punk feel, but there is a slinkier and ratty feel to it that's more akin to an older punk sound. Across the album they juggle pop/rock that ranges from feelgood to serious and brooding, grungy alternative that demonstrates more aggression, almost country sounding ballads with pedal steel. There is a variety of guitar textures from over-ringing strings, to melodic delayed lines, to octaves, to ratty bends, to bluesy fills and slide licks, to a couple guitar solos that sound at home on a 60s or 70s rock record. They also use some suspended and 7th voiced chords instead of regular major/minor voicings and powerchords. The instrumentation ranges from country/folk sounding acoustic, to electric guitar in varying states of cleanliness and overdrive, not just full distortion and pristine cleans, but TEXTURES (I'm all about the texture). There are also some nice vocals and harmonies throughout the album. The final track actually does something here and showcases a textbook example of quiet restraint with a loud finish. Add in the bluesy vibe and the live jam and we have something interesting and DIFFERENT. Not to leave out the compatibility of the band members; they are quite tight. It's not just on these recordings, but live. The drums carry a nice beat that doesn't get stuck in just the basics of the time signature, but creates some memorable beats and fills. The bass playing creates a nice groove that doesn't take over, but perhaps could be slightly more intricate. It does mesh with the drums decently enough (which is important). The guitar parts are intertwining and playing off each other, but not cluttered. Aaron taking care of a lot of rhythm guitar frees things up for this. Final verdict? Maybe it's not the most innovative stuff, but it's pretty fresh and expressive sounding (because music is really expression, right?) considering this is mainstream pop/rock. Kudos on sound.
Lyrics — 8
These guys are a Christian based band and their faith is important to them, but the lyrics can be taken from a normal perspective. Maybe they aren't very special lyrics, but they have a message. The general them of the album lyrics seem to be centered around coming to terms with one's flaws and finding ways to reconcile them and also about finding meaning in life. This them gets applied to topics ranging from personal problems and evaluation, loneliness, to friendship and relationships, to forgiveness. Maybe they aren't the most eloquent lyrics, but they are deep more in how we can relate to them rather than how poetic and mysterious they are. Like all good lyrics, there is one theme to the song but multiple manners of interpretation if you are so inclined. They mesh well with the music. I must reiterate that a lot of this can be taken from a Christian point of view if viewed from out of the "religious" box and fromn a more personal outlook, but it doesn't have to be. If spiritual things aren't your bag, there are plenty of other conclusions you can reach with these lyrics and they all drive home positive yet realistic messages. The singing on the album is pretty similar to most pop/rock, but Aaron still sounds like Aaron. He goes from a low tone and some whispering, to medium range melodic singing, to sustained high notes, to a more gritty sound. He's not the most outstanding singer in the world, but his voice is pretty decent and matches the music.
Overall Impression — 9
You might be able to dig some artists out that sounds like The Almost or vice versa, but for the most part they sound like themselves and I don't hear any direct copying going on. I can't really compare them to anyone else I care to listen to. Some notable tracks are Monster Monster, No I Don't, Young Again, Hand Grenade, and Monster. I can't say I hate anything about this at all or else I wouldn't have it. Albums don't please me too well if there is something I hate on them. If I lost the cd or this got erased from my itunes, I would definitely buy it again. Maybe this isn't your cup of tea, but then again, music is pretty subjective. I approve.