Sound — 10
The Graduate finds it's niche right in the center of what is rising in popularity today, a blend of pop-punk, alternative rock, and indie. The three characteristics are all in equal measure, producing a mature and in several ways unique form of the catchy, youthful teenage pop-punk model. As such, in reference to their first EP which was produced in a style aimed at this immature group of music, the production on Anhedonia is strikingly different, steering them in a more general rock direction that is deeper, thicker, and more true to their individual sound. Corey Warning's vocals are on a plethora of different styles from song to song. "Sit and Sink" demonstrates a pining, pained sound that fits the lyrical meaning well; "I Survived", "Bet It All", and "Justified", the three most upbeat, pop-punk songs on the album are all sung with the optimistic, catchy, and fun formula native to the genre; "Better Company" demonstrates a cool, smooth, and classy know-it-all attitude; "Stay The Same" is sassy and powerful with hints of a raspy tone on the higher notes; and as if that weren't enough for Corey to prove his adaptability and skill, he goes all out on the ballad "Surround Yourself", with a raw and heavily emotional sound that also showcases his immense range. Corey is easily one of the most versatile and talented vocalists in modern rock music, and it is this characteristic that will gain The Graduate respect in both the pop culture and in the teenage pop-punk underground. Musically, everything stands out. Guitarists Matt Kennedy and Max Sauer are a phenomenal duo rare to be found in bands today. Matt often adds unique and catchy leads which add to the pop-punk dimensions that accentuate the band's fun side, while Max commonly and skillfully makes use of delay in his riffs to smooth out the edges and thoroughly expand the band's indie/ambient side. Jared Wustenburg isn't your typical "I'm not a musician I'm just in this band to party" bassist either. His parts rarely are as simple as following the power chords, and although they are a melody of their own, they don't stand out too much; they fit smoothly in the collective sound and provide the thickness that bass is made for. Then, after moving past the cunning use of synths where appropriate, you still find excellence in the drums. Innovation is key when it comes to creative juggernaut Tim Moore, and the drums play the largest part in keeping this band from being stuck in one genre, as they are a lot more thoughtfully written than your typical pop-punk beat and fill formula. If I had any criticism at all for the band's music, it's that the collective songs with all the parts together sound a bit cliche at times, but taking into account some interesting chord progressions and the many indie traits that make this band unique, that flaw becomes invisible.
Lyrics — 7
It is obvious Corey writes to have a meaning in every song, and puts the full force of his emotions into them. Although this is highly respectable when compared to the pretentious majority of filler lyrics, he still has a ways to go before the transition from good to great in lyricism. The lyrics will likely be loved by the pop culture, which rejects dense and intricate songs and appreciates only raw, powerful messages (which Corey has). But on the underside of pop-punk, these fans appreciate lines that are bitter, ironic, cheeky, cunning, stylish, and sometimes metaphorical, characteristics shown by the likes of Jesse Lacey (Brand New) and Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy). In other words, for this scene it's not necessarily what you say it's how you say it, and Corey's lines lack this depth. Whether or not he will aim for the arts of this style in the future remains a mystery, but disregarding my own personal preference to this lyrical style, here is some analysis of a few songs. "Sit and Sink" has a message of taking a chance on dreams that could make or break your life, probably written about the chance Corey took when he dropped out of college to pursue his aspiration for music in the band. The title line itself, "sit and sink", is a simple way of saying you'll lose everything if you just sit there and don't push hard to achieve your goals. Many of the lines seem to be quotes of what was told to him as he was making the decision or otherwise things he mulled over in his mind, and although the lyrics generally lack style they do very well to put you in the setting of being at the crossroads in your early adult life and choosing a treacherous path. He most fully emphasizes the fear of regret if he makes the wrong choice ("we don't want you to get older and tell them what you wouldn't have done if you were us") and his justification for not choosing a sure thing ("you've got so much to lose but I don't", "I know you don't think we can go, but I've seen the bright lights shine on less deserving men before.") "Bet It All" expands on the lyrics of "Sit and Sink", seemingly taking place a few months after the chance he took, speaking of the shaky ground he stands on after giving it all up for the dream of a music career. It mostly speaks his grievances and worries, and contrasts the euphoric image of being in a band from the reality of hard work and no sure thing for it. The lyrics well express how he "bet it all and never folded" for "no steady wage and a cheap guitar". The song is capped off with a tone of remorse and regret-- "I know I'm a disappointment so why do you believe in me?" and the lyrics do a good job of showing the listener raw emotion. "Better Company" is better as far as style is concerned, as these lyrics showcase a sassy attitude throughout. Smooth, arrogant lines are apparent commonly, and he plays the role of the player who knows exactly what to do to make a girl fall for him. "Baby, you're too hard to break, but treat you right and you'll come back for me. Oh, you don't want to stay away, what suits you right is better company." The vocals match the mood and attitude perfectly, something Corey will surely become famous for.
Overall Impression — 9
The Graduate, though catchy and poppy, is a unique band that cannot be compared to any other. They are incredibly talented and innovative and will not surprise many to rise in popularity very quickly. Anhedonia is an excellent debut, because not only is it mature, but while most bands' first albums seem to be a cliche blend of the band's influences, The Graduate were able to immediately reach inside and find their own individual sound. Worth three times the money in my opinion, and I just can't wait to see what this band sounds like in their prime one or two releases down the road.