Prepare yourself for the most heart-wrenching release of 2016, courtesy of the lads in Touche Amore.
Touche Amore have garnered a reputation as a band that writes music packed with emotion and sincerity. Since forming in 2007, this Californian five-piece have excelled over the course of three albums in crafting songs that resonate with their audience- there’s a delicacy to their post-hardcore angst that speaks to the listener, a feat that most bands struggle to achieve. Whilst the instrumentation itself may be modest and unassuming (imagine The Smiths covering Black Flag, i.e. jangly yet edgy guitars meeting a driving rhythm section), it’s the vocals and lyrics from the band’s frontman, Jeremy Bolm, that has helped the band stand out from their peers in La Dispute or Pianos Become The Teeth. The sincerity and almost poetic quality of Jeremy’s words are hard to miss, and this direct yet elegant manner with his lyrics engages the listener on an intellectual and emotional level. This raw quality perfectly compliments the subject matter that the band delve into, and that is no different on their latest album: Stage Four.
As you may have inferred from the title, the album deals with the sensitive topic of cancer. In fact the album concerns frontman Jeremy Bolm’s mother, who sadly passed away in 2014 due to the illness, and the songs and lyrics document the grief and turmoil that Jeremy experienced when losing a loved one. The universal topics of death and loss are what makes this album so gripping and powerful- the words and feelings expressed are relevant to anyone and everyone. And although the grief and guilt is tangible in Jeremy’s screams, particularly in “Eight Seconds”, which deals with the singer’s regret at being on stage just as his mother passed away:
She passed away about an hour ago
While you were on stage living the dream
Yet there’s also a touching sweetness to the way he remembers his mother, especially on album closer “Skyscraper”. The track is a gorgeous flourish of spoken word and layered female vocals, awash with sombre guitar work, that recalls a final trip that Jeremy took with his mother to New York. This final touching memory builds to a cathartic crescendo of anguish before ending with a recording of a phone message from Jeremy’s mother in which she said that she won’t be home as she was at the hospital. I don’t normally get too emotionally entangled in music, but honestly this brought tears to my eyes.
In fact, this switch between moments of intimacy or vulnerability and angst are reflected in the instrumentation. Even though the tracks themselves may not deviate too far from an established sound, the band subtly act to further a particular feeling that Jeremy is trying to evoke. Tender moments of reflection are mirrored in the reverb-laden guitar work that flutters with lush gorgeousness and colourful melodies, whilst tumultuous feelings are emphasised through the energetic drum work or the rollicking and grooving bass lines- all these elements juxtapose yet compliment each other and work in harmony. Sure, there are moments that hark back to the bands early days, such as the crunchy gain-heavy guitar work in “Eight Seconds” or the upbeat, breathless rhythm of “Displacement” (which certainly draws upon their sophomore release, Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me) but there is a maturity, both musically and emotionally, that is evident throughout.
Albums such as Stage Four are a real rarity- we talk about music having the power to ‘move’ people, but this is an album that genuinely conjures real emotion. People will be quick to tar the band and this album with the ’emo’ brush, but such a throwaway term doesn’t do justice for what is, quite simply, an emotional masterpiece.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What albums should I review next? Feel free to leave a comment, like this blog post, like the Facebook page , follow the Pinterest page, and follow this blog for more content.