One Way Letter - Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Release Date: April 19, 2005
Record Label: Negative Progression
I saw One Way Letter about three years ago at a small local venue in Marietta, GA and distinctly remember leaving the show a bit unimpressed and bored, but thinking that the band had a good amount of potential. I also remember thinking to myself "One Way Letter must really like Taking Back Sunday." So far, they have not entirely realized their potential, but have made damn good progress--and I still think they really like Taking Back Sunday. Where Everybody Knows Your Name, One Way Letter's debut album, is a solid emo punk release, though I feel that this is simply the beginning of much better things to come for the band.
One Way Letter has a slight one-up over most bands in the emo genre in terms of being unique, simply by virtue of having a female lead singer. Selena Langley's wavering voice is both bold and gentle, driving the songs with vigor and liveliness. Unlike most female singers I've heard, her voice isn't really angelic or light, but is somewhat aggressive and assertive. Langley also handles bass duties for the band, though there's not much I can say for her abilities--I don't mean that in a negative way at all, it's just that she plays very simple lines, so it's hard to judge how good of a bassist she is. The guitar playing is also pretty simple for the most part, but occasionally there's some pretty cool stuff, such as the dual guitar work in "Alone in my Principles" and the intro of "Counselor of the Left Handed Boys Camp." I didn't really notice anything surprising about the drums, except that they sounded a bit thin. Playing-wise, it's pretty much basic stuff, but it sounds fine, and all the parts were written in good taste.
The album's first song, "The Damage," starts off with a lone, constantly shifting palm-muted guitar until Langley comes in with her powerful vocals and takes charge. The guitar riff and vocals culminate in a somewhat boring, relatively heavy, power-chord passage, only to return for the first verse. The song is fairly uneventful until we get to the lyrics "Choke, choke on your words / Instead of feeding them to everyone else." The words appear in the chorus before the synth-enhanced interlude, and make for a pretty catchy moment, but when the same lines appear in the gang-vocal breakdown of the song, they make a much stronger impact. The third track, "Alone in my Principles," begins very much like Name Taken's "A Year Spent Cold," with a bending guitar line kicking things off. Like I mentioned before, there's some cool dual guitar work going on, but as for the rest of the song, it doesn't do much for me. "I'm A Great Misogynist" slows things down a bit with a slower tempo, an occasional acoustic guitar, and some falsetto vocals. The next track, "The Second Story Love Affair," is also a slower track, making for a relatively dull middle of the album, though the song itself does pick up a little bit mid-way through. "Counselor of the Left Handed Boys Camp" gets the CD rolling again with a quick countoff and drum and guitar pull-off intro. Later on in the album, One Way Letter slows things down yet again with an acoustic ballad ("The Passion of the Action"). While it's not a bad song, it doesn't do much for me--not because it's not passionately played, but because something about the songwriting just doesn't click with me.
Ultimately, I find that a lot of the album is a bit boring, though there are definitely some cool parts. I'm not entirely sure why I find myself bored, though I suspect that some of it has to do with the relatively average and repetitive melodies, and that some of it has to do with the uneventful, uncatchy choruses.
One Way Letter prides themselves greatly on their sincere lyrics, and they do have some neat lines: "Choke on your lies / And die in the house or the car or the yacht / You bought with the money that should have saved their world" is some pretty intense stuff, directed against dishonest politicians (redundant?). Sometimes the lyrics are kind of hackneyed, as in "Counselor of the Left Handed Boys Camp": "Press your lips to mine / And kiss me one last time / I'll press my gun to yours / And you'll kiss the sky tonight." The lyrics are pretty good overall, but again, since I don't really pay much attention to lyrics when I listen to music, I don't have too much to say about them.
Matt Goldman usually does much better work than this, and I'm really surprised that he's the one who produced this, especially after his good work with Copeland's latest album and Cartel's EP. The guitars on the album sound too remote, and there's just way too much distortion on them, muddying things up. The bass sounds alright, though its not as clear as it could be. Goldman has never been one to get big sounding drums, but they sound especially thin and weak here. The mix also helps to drown the drums out with the overpowering guitars, so that's another disappointing aspect of the production.
Overall, Where Everybody Knows Your Name is a solid emo rock release in the vein of Taking Back Sunday, but could gain substantially from better songwriting (particularly the choruses). However, this is only One Way Letter's debut, and I see bright things ahead of the band.