Hate all you want, but at some point, you’re going to need to give credit where credit is due: The Story So Far have figured out where they fit into the grand scheme of the scene, and they know how to keep finding ways to increase their already exponentially-expanding fanbase. Last year’s sophomore effort What You Don’t See was a mental maturation and audible tightening of the screws from the brash, bold, often immature Under Soil and Dirt. 2013 also saw the band stray from their pop-punk starter kit sound, opting for a stripped-down, subdues effort on a split with The Story So Far. Maybe it was the fact that Tumblr went crazy for the acoustic track “Clairvoyant” that turned out to be one of the band’s best songs, the fact that they’re on Warped Tour this summer, or the fact that their meteoric rise through the ranks may be too rapid for indie label Pure Noise Records to handle, but something’s possessed the band to keep their creative juices flowing. And the result of that motivation, whatever its cause may be, has produced a brand new EP, Songs Of.
When trying to provide context to a fan of the band, Songs Of can readily be described as a companion piece to 2013’s surprising effort What You Don’t See. The EP begins with a stripped down rendition of “The Glass,” a song that has quickly become a fast-paced staple in the band’s live sets. It’s driven by acoustic guitar, sure, but the presence of an electric guitar playing with an almost blues/country music tone keeps the energy from the track in the back of the listener’s mind. The band also uses this strategy on a re-imagining of “Bad Luck,” as Ryan Torf’s drumming is still a prominent force of the track.”The Glass” and “Bad Luck” aren’t strictly acoustic versions, and thus will remind listeners of recent “re-imagined” albums, like what Yellowcard and Story of the Year did for the ten-year anniversaries of their Ocean Avenue and Page Avenue, respectively. An acoustic rendition of “All Wrong” makes a cameo, if you can call it that, as Parker Cannon croons and then repeats the song’s chorus before the track’s abrupt ending. No, seriously, that’s what they decided to put on the EP. It’s a strange move, as the EP would still feel complete without it, but the band certainly would have been even better-suited using a different song from What You Don’t See (“Things I Can’t Change” or “Right Here”) to get the bluesy re-imagination treatment.
Aside from the three tracks you’ve likely already heard in some form before, Songs Of actually does feature something the band’s never attempted before: a cover song way outside their comfort zone. In what can be assumed as a tribute to the band’s favorite, um, recreation activity, they decided to cover the great Bob Marley, with a breezy, longing rendition of the king of reggae’s track “Waiting in Vain.” The band’s laid-back California style is perfectly suited for the song, and they pull the cover off with ease.
The clear standout from the EP, however, will always be the band’s second venture into the moody, campfire-ready acoustic track. This release’s submission, “Navy Blue,” tackles the same subject matter as its predecessor “Clairvoyant” (a break-up that’s getting ugly), but finds a new way to pluck at your heartstrings. Featuring just the music of two acoustic guitars, frontman Parker Cannon’s sing-shout sounds pain-stricken and defeated, a stark contrast from his boisterous, downright angry form he’s become famous for. While most frontmen would likely form a side project to do a song this different from the band’s signature sound, but Cannon’s lyrics are still as biting and relateable that the song still fits within the canon of the band’s discography. When the strings come in right before the second verse, the listener won’t be able to stop themselves from singing the track’s simple-yet-impactful chorus. Coupled with “Clairvoyant,” “Navy Blue” may be enough to start fan clamoring for an entire album of stripped-down tracks in the future.
There are certainly some tracks that are questionable (seriously, I still don’t see the point in including “All Wrong” at all), but to acknowledge the negatives of Songs Of would be denying oneself the simple pleasure of enjoying The Story So Far’s budding career. Sure, the lyrics aren’t the most in-depth you’ve ever heard, but Parker Cannon’s delivery makes the songs very difficult to dislike. The Story So Far certainly aren’t the first band to make a release like this, but that doesn’t stop “Navy Blue” from challenging Man Overboard’s “Arlington Drive” as the best acoustic-based track in the “new wave” of pop-punk bands. Whether the band was trying to force something out to help their merch sales on Warped Tour (as if they’d need it) or are trying to get another title out towards their obligation to Pure Noise, the fact of the matter is that Songs Of gives us more songs from The Story So Far to jam in our cars, as summer slowly approaches. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.