Divided by Friday - Modern Memoirs EP
Record Label: Hopeless
Release Date:Oct. 15, 2013
In releasing the Modern Memoirs EP, North Carolina-based trio Divided by Friday has gone on record as admitting that their sole focus was to return to writing pop songs and rekindle their love of chart-toppers like Justin Timberlake and OneRepublic. From start to finish, Modern Memoirs carries far more Tedder than Timberlake. Piano-drenched opener “You Fooled Me” is propulsive and power-packed but undeniably gooey. The band’s sonic output is decidedly light and airy with lots of space, giving vocalist Jose Villaneuva plenty of wiggle room to croon and emote.
A bed of strings and layers of piano accentuate the expertly produced “Free Tonight,” a song dripping with polish, swagger and radio appeal. Bolstered by a towering chorus, this hip-shaking singalong is the first of many moments in which the band has distanced themselves from their back-catalog. Arguably the most complete effort on the EP is “Relapse,” an engaging pop song with a massive chorus and some of Villaneuva’s best vocals to date. The nocturnal and synth-driven “Rhythm of the Room” is a dance effort that is equal parts seductive, silly and sloppy. Clearly a nod to Timberlake, “Rhythm of the Room” manages to trip over itself far too many times to merit repeat listens.
On the contrary, the soul-pop groove of “Better Off,” channels Maroon 5 and relates a simple, if not safe, story of a fragmented romance. The EP closes with the open-hearted valentine “Longer Than Forever,” a tender slab of string-laden heart-sleeving that is overly saccharine, if not a bit desperate and self-indulgent. The end result though is aurally pleasing and the band once again shows a definite penchant for Top 40 radio.
That last point is the grand takeaway from the listening experience. If Modern Memoirs has a vice, it’s that the band seems far too concerned with mega-hooks and less concerned with the auxiliary details. The lyrics are at times gag-inducing and the entire veneer is at times too polished, too safe and too simple. Additionally, vocalist Villaneuva sounds way too similar to Patrick Stump on more than one occasion. Normally this kind of compliment is a good thing, but there are times it almost sounds more like mimicry than sincere art. While the disc is light years stronger than anything the band has released to date, there’s still a sense that this is the apex. Whether or not the band can write a better record than this remains to be seen. For now, let the band relish this momentum and see where it takes them. After all, there’s enough radio singsongs on this disc to make a sizable dent in the months and years to come.