A Will Away burst onto the TGS radar in mid-2014 after contributing the first three tracks to their split with Head North, undoubtedly one of the best splits to come out last year. With the newest installment in the band’s discography dropping Friday, Bliss EP continues their momentum of making catchy alt emo. A Will Away has a knack for disguising meaningful lyrics in loud vocals and fast-paced instrumentals. Taking a cue for The American Scene, the songs offer an easy listen without compensating depth, making it an early favorite for 2015.
The EP opens up with fast-paced “Play Dead.” Listening past the Listen and Forgive-esque opening guitar, the snappy drums drive the verses as Matt Carlson delivers fiery yet controlled vocals. The occasional background singing of guitarist Collin Waldron against Carlson’s urgent pleads to “Oh god, please bring me down slowly” create a notable contrast, having a unique sense of both fluidity and desperation.
In comparison, the second track “Sitter” simmers. With dreamier guitars and warmer drums, this song delves deeper into the solemn emo influences. Johnny McSweeny’s somber bassline pulsates as the songs builds into its full sound. “Cheap Wine,” Bliss’s lead single, also has that slow-burner appeal. Lyrically, it is one of the more haunting tracks on the EP. Overall, it is also one of the catchiest. Each track does not rely on solely a bold chorus but rather has impressive lines throughout. However, I found multiple parts from “Cheap Wine” stuck in my head, especially the “hurts like hell” lines. A Will Away just dropped a video for this song, featuring a bunch of balloons and creepy face paint. You can check it out here!
“Ten or Eleven” wastes no time with its powerfully loud opening. Carlson’s unaccompanied vocals are short-lived as booming guitars put a heavier spin on the second half of this release. A standout for the intricate guitar riffs and harsh vocals, this track packs the most obvious punch. In true emo fashion, the introspection and apparent frustration with oneself is all too real. While the lyrics might be blunter and less apt to interpretation, they are far too easily relatable. The versatility of writing styles within the EP brings out the best in each track.
A Will Away nailed the transitions between songs as the brute angst of “Ten or Eleven” subsides and melts into a less abrasive “Be Easy.” Looping back to the more alt pop rock sound heard in the first track, the album closes out with an assortment percussion. From the punchy snare drum beats to some mid-song tom action with the choruses marked with a quick tambourine, Sean Dibble’s writing ability and talent really shines through. The bouncing background vocals and repetitive chorus will make this a hell of a song to see live. I can imagine hearing a crowd full of angry pointers proclaiming “It doesn’t matter/ It never mattered!” along with the band.
With the demise of The Dangerous Summer, there has been a major void in the emo pop rock market. It seems hard to find the right balance of alternative emo and pop rock to accurately represent each sound without gravitating more heavily towards one. For a while, The American Scene seemed to be holding down the niche in the genre alone, although it could be argued that Transit dabbles in it. With a release as strong as Bliss, it’s safe to say A Will Away figured out the formula. With the emotional heaviness and sincerity to rope in emo fans, summery pop rock elements to attract a broader crowd, and obvious growth to satisfy old listeners, Bliss quickly became one of my favorite releases of 2015.