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Culture Shock


Released 4/22/16 via Topshelf Records

5/7 stars

It rained in England today. Because it always rains in England. It was rainy and cold and things are in that strange transition period between being dead and alive again. The trees are sprouting tiny leaves; the grass is still brown in places. But the real harbingers of spring are the bluebells. They’ve cropped up in the woods surrounding campus and even if they’re not that impressive of a patch by my English friends’ standards, they are mesmerizing to me.

It all seems a fitting backdrop—the weather, this place, the bluebells—to take in Sorority Noise’s latest release, It Kindly Stopped for Me. As the title taken from Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” suggests, it’s a four-song EP ruminating on the theme of loss and grieving.

We begin with “Either Way.” It’s a reserved track with deceptively simplistic lyrics. It begins with the repetition of “I saw my chance, saw my chance and I took it,” and then transitions seamlessly to, “You saw your life, saw your life and you took it.” It’s a simple turn, but it is devastating in execution. This simplicity runs through It Kindly Stopped for Me and is a key factor in its success.

“A Will” comes next and is no less arresting. In it, Cam Boucher deconstructs himself into parts to be given away. It has a steady build, but the instrumentation never gets out of hand. There’s no explosion of sound. Instead it trails off with a march-like drumbeat as if to imply a continuation of this grief. It never boils over, but it never quite goes away either.

Up next is “Fource.” This song is the shortest on the EP, at only 2:07, but it is the most compelling. It’s a song about the loss of a friend, and it starts off in an almost casual sing-song tone, “We lost another one today, makes more than I can count on one hand.” The song sounds as though it’s been made up and recorded while Boucher was on a walk in the woods. Footsteps can be heard throughout the track, and his vocals devolve from singing into a rhythmic sort of talking. He decides between words at certain points and it sounds as though he’s mostly thinking all of this up on the spot. It is a mourning song, but it also contains the repetition of the phrase, “I think I’ll be okay.” The track ends with probably the most emotionally raw lyric on the EP, “Today was an off day. I’ve had a few.”

It Kindly Stopped for Me ends with “XC.” It’s similar to “A Will” in its slow build and emotionally charged lyrics. “Your god sees my friends more than me,” is one example. Overall it’s a fitting end to the EP.

The main factor that sets this EP apart is its emotional honesty. There doesn’t seem to be any pretense in these four songs. There is a simplistic beauty to their vulnerability. Which is sort of descriptive of this genre as a whole. Emo—or pop-punk or whatever we’re calling it to make ourselves feel less weird about liking it—is having an important moment. And yes, people who listen to and create ‘emo’ music are stereotyped as young people who like to slam their doors and write lengthy tumblr posts about how no one understands them, but that’s not what I’ve been hearing lately. The songs on It Kindly Stopped for Me aren’t simply about being misunderstood or sad. They aren’t relishing in unavailability. Instead these songs, and all of Sorority Noise’s music, seem to be about reaching inward and exposing hard, complex, and potentially uncomfortable emotions in the hopes of being heard. Of being understood. There’s something refreshing about that. These songs are not couched in some elaborate metaphor, they aren’t trying to fly above our heads. They are asking us to sit with them in whatever emotions they conjure. That’s important. That’s beautiful.


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