For Fans Of
Before diving into Issues’ second album, ‘Headspace’, we went back to their last outing, 2014’s debut self-titled record. And man…there are far more hits and far fewer misses on ‘Headspace’ than its predecessor.
Look, while their debut full-length wasn’t bad by any means, it was pretty inconsistent at times. Sure, it had some great songs like ‘Never Lose Your Flames’, ‘The Langdon House’, ‘Old Dena’, and perhaps the best Issues track to date – ‘Life Of A Nine’. But it also had some pretty average songs such as ‘Mad At Myself’, ‘Late’, ‘Sad Ghost’, and ‘Disappear (Remember When)’. But this new 13-track record is just so much more consistent, and, simply, a huge step forward for the group. It’s the kind of post-hardcore/metalcore that most other bands today wish they could pull-off. Like many Rise Records bands, Issues bring together pop-like choruses and polished production with down-tuned guitar chugs, screams, and the occasional breakdown, but here they’ve done it better than most of their peers.
Seriously, it must really suck to be Memphis May Fire right now.
‘Home Soon’, ‘Yung & Dum’, ‘Someone Who Does’ and ‘Made To Last‘ are the most melodic and catchiest songs on ‘Headspace‘. Those four really show off the commercial sound of the group, but while those are damn good songs, they’re also the weakest. It’s songs like ‘Flojo’ (whatever the fuck that means?), the HUGE ‘Rank Rider’, and the edgy, ‘Fuck the po-po’ ‘Blue Wall‘ that are some of the better cuts. They’re also the heaviest, most aggressive songs of the bunch. Then you have ‘Home Soon’ and the beautiful ‘Lost-n-Found (On A Roll)’, which both fall somewhere in the middle, proving that the band can weave both extremes together without breaking a sweat. The latter may just be one of the best songs the band has written to date, too.
Personally, this writer’s favourite songs are the record’s two singles; the groovy, soaring ‘The Realest’ and the almighty ‘Coma’. If you can’t fuck with that pair then it’s very safe to say you will NOT like this record, so use those two as a litmus test for your enjoyment of Issues. Now, some of you may be wondering, ‘Well, why should I bother hearing this one? It sounds like more of the same!’ You’d only be half-right in thinking that, however.
There are some big changes to Issues‘ sound this time, and each is very welcome. First off, the album’s timbre isn’t as dark as their debut; it’s much brighter and uplifting. This is achieved through the mixture of clean guitar chords with distorted, down-tuned riffs. Basically, think of it as a slightly heavier Dance Gavin Dance, just with more palm muting. In all seriousness, though, it creates some much-needed dynamics and contrast to the band’s sound. Thankfully, it also lacks a lot of the repetitive breakdowns that the first record featured heavily.
Even though DJ Tyler “Scout” Acord is not touring with the band anymore, his presence and influence upon the group’s sound is still there to a near-forensic degree. The trendy synth lines and vinyl-scratchings are just as prevalent here as they were on their past releases, and the production has Acord’s name all over it. All of that’s a good thing, mind you. When you add the samples and electronic elements with the fast vocal phrases, and just how goddamn groovy and bouncy these songs are, it’s easy to agree that the nu-metal vibe is strong with this one and yes, Darth Vader would have been a nu-metal die-hard. You know it’s true.
On top of all this, screamer Michael Bohn actually sings now! This is a fantastic addition to the sound and while he doesn’t have the higher register and angelic voice Tyler Carter has, that actually makes for a really nice contrast. When he is screaming it is just business as usual – so really bloody solid – but with this tighter songwriting, his screams can now hit harder due to the improved musical bed below them. Oh, and before we forget, the thick, slapping bass grooves of Skyler Acord really stick out of the mixes so much more than most other bands, and that is always a good thing!
Respect the bass, people. Respect the bass.
But for how solid this album is, we really could’ve done without the two minute instrumental ‘I Always Knew’. It’s just nowhere near as memorable, or as musically interesting, as some of the other songs here, or like ‘Old Dena’ from the group’s previous album. It really needed some vocals, in some capacity, to help fill it out and make it worth it. It’s the one track that brings the album down as a whole and it should’ve been a B-side quite frankly. But, as it’s just two minutes long, we can forgive the band for this one discrepancy.
We’ve always felt that Issues are more or less the musical offspring of Justin Timberlake and The Amity Affliction with some nu-metal thrown in. ‘Headspace’ is really no different but it’s such a step up for the band that we don’t mind it in the slightest. It’s a fantastic mix of styles and sounds, and every aspect of their sound has been amplified to 11 for this pumping new release. The mixes are wider and cleaner, the songs are brighter and have more space and breadth, the choruses soar higher than ever before, and the heavy moments swing harder than anything else the band’s done to date.
On ya, Issues.
1. The Realest
2. Home Soon
3. Lost-n-Found (On A Roll)
4. Yung & Dum
5. Made To Last
9. Rank Rider
10. Blue Wall
11. Someone Who Does
12. I Always Knew
13. Slow Me Down