Better Off – (I Think) I’m Leaving
Record Label: 6131 Records/Blood & Ink Records
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Ah, fuck. Okay, let me be honest: I hate when people rave about things. I’m a cynical turd, so whenever someone claims something is the “greatest” or “best” or some other hyperbolic descriptor, I immediately start looking at them with slight disdain. So, ya, sometimes I look at reviews on this site with a bit more than just a critical eye. For me, when someone gushes about something (cough…Thomas Nassiff…cough), to me it’s more a self-aggrandizing exercise in being heard rather than spreading the word of something that multiple people would relate to or enjoy. And my experience with actually taking these recommendations is hit or miss. Alright, so I have fallen in love with The Wonder Years and The Gaslight Anthem. But, okay, (inhales), let’s talk about Clarity. Like, alright, so that one song that was on the “Never Been Kissed” soundtrack was pretty good. But I honestly could not make it through the entire album. And I realize saying so will either get me completely banished from this site or qualified to write for Pitchfork, but I do so to show just how inconsistent my experience with highly recommended albums/bands has been. And I do this to preface and highlight the overall take away statement of this entire review: (I Think) I’m Leaving by Better Off is probably the best album, ever. Now, a year from now, a month from now, heck, maybe an hour from now, I’ll (probably) back track on this statement. But that guy doesn’t exist yet, so I’ll stick with what my gut is telling me right now: if I had to choose one album I had to keep and toss out everything else, I would choose the debut album from Better Off.
See, I could go into all the various aspects of why this album is incredible. Sure, Luke Granerd can go from soulfully crooning to high pitched excited yells flawlessly. And sure, the band can match that versatility by going from soft, restrained indie melodies to fast paced, pulse-racing punk anthems in step, without sounding forced. But honestly, I could try scientifically analyzing how the band manipulate all of the variables (song structure, overdrive effects, tempo, riff-to-solo ratio, obligatory chorus comprising only of “yeah”, etc.) in order to construct the “perfect album”, but it would be a wasted effort because, like all good things, one has to personally experience (I Think) I’m Leaving in order to appreciate it. It has to make you feel. From those sad, quiet numbers that fuel desperation, to the aforementioned punk anthems that make you want to embrace reckless abandon and drive off with no destination, the guys in Better Off do a good job at tapping into those universal human emotions/experiences with their songs. I’ve never had an album guide me through various states of being with so much ease. One minute I'm reserved, contemplative, and solemn while listening to "Letting it In/Making it Go", and the next I'm head banging with a lead foot on my pedal while listening to "Keeping Watch". As often as these mood and genre changes happen, they never feel contrived. Not once while listening do I think, “Hmmm, that was a very tricky/intentional way of making me feel all mopey and nostalgic all of a sudden”. The vulnerability and honesty is so heart-on-your sleeve, it is only perceived as genuine human emotion.
I mean all things considered, there is a certain, errrmmm, Jimmy Eat World-ness to the record. The album is a mere two months old and comparisons to the overall vibe and stylings of the former emo kings are already rampant, and as someone who is a casual Jimmy Eat World listener, even I am aware of the similarities. However this does not take away from the fact that each track is a unique, solid piece on its own, and combined with the other tracks form a Voltron like construction that is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s true, where Clarity was the flagship album for the emo revolution, (I Think) I’m Leaving may be its equivalent for the recent emo revival.
I realize that I have done the very thing I completely lambasted in my intro (#forgivemeThomasNassiff), but I did so to convey as earnestly and urgently as I could the impressiveness of the debut from this Nashville quartet. Seriously, listening to this album almost brought me back to the times when I first acquired some of my favorite albums and listened to them straight through. Do you remember those days? You would drive home eagerly from the store, frantically tear off the plastic wrap and that God-forsaken seal, open the case, close the door to your room, pop the disc into your stereo, and just sit on the ground beside your bed and listen. Everything else didn't matter except making sure the next 40 minutes were undisturbed by external intrusions into your personal space and internal being. And with that last statement, I HAVE to cut myself off. Seriously, get the album on iTunes, get it on your phone/mp3 device, get in your car, and just drive aimlessly while the guys in Better Off provide the soundtrack. You can thank me later.
Love this album and could praise it all day. Huge, late contender for my AOTY. Your review, however, left me confused as to if I was reading a review about this album or not. It's very well written, but loses it's course way too much. Felt like I was reading a piece on Nassiff's review appraisals. Either way, everyone should give this album a listen if they like this genre at all! The production is one of my favorite things about this record.
I don't even remember how I stumbled upon this record, but it is certainly the MOST underrated/unknown album of the year. I can't even get my submission for them on RYM approved it's still pending! Shame shame shame. Anyway good review. I fell in love with this when I first heard it and kinda forgot about it til the other day. But it crept back on me when I was doing my AOTY list and this is easily in my top 10. So so good and emotional.