Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I'm Getting By With My Collapsible Lung

So let’s talk about Relient K’s new album, Collapsible Lung.
(I know I haven’t blogged in a long time and I should post some obligatory drivel about how I’ve missed it and I’m sorry and whatever but honestly I just haven’t had it in me and I haven’t missed it, not really, and I’m not very sorry at all.)
So let’s talk about Relient K’s new album.
It’s currently six in the morning on July the 2nd (regardless of when I actually publish this post) and I’m on my third go. It started downloading last night sometime around 11.45 pm, and I literally screamed in excitement.  I’ve waited a long time since Forget and Not Slow Down, honey, and while Is For Karaoke was quite lovely and magnificent (particularly Baby because irony and Crazy because I didn’t know Matty T’s voice could do that) it was not original music and it was about time for a new record let me tell you.
I needed me an RK fix.
First of all I’ve just got to say the sound is unlike anything I’ve heard from Relient K. Compared to Forget and Not Slow Down, Collapsible Lung has a much more swingy feel to it.  There’s a lot of finger-snapping, beachy, surfy, dancy tunes and a lot of instruments that I am far too ignorant to name that sound like very personable computers in other songs.  Fun, interesting background vocals add a lot of dimension and we’re not afraid of falsetto or oh-ohs on this album here.  Oh, and did I mention the finger-snapping?
The blend of songs that make me want to sway and those that make me want to tap my foot and those that make me want to do that one dance move where you’re doing that alternating straight arms thing straight out up and down is really just fantastic—and all of them make me want to sing my heart out.  Really fantastic and also quite insouciant and rather unlike anything that I’ve heard from Relient K before, although I suppose I could find some hints of it were on Is For Karaoke if I think about it too long.
I’ve had That’s My Jam from its youtube debut in February (which, technically, isn’t really that legal) and it hit my top 25 most played within 12 hours, if that gives you any idea as to how glowing this review is going to be. It was my preferred summer jam four months before summer. (I can’t decide which version I like better, though—the original or the album version.  There’s something to be said for Adam Young’s voice, even though the unruliness of the first release makes me want to choose it as the favorite. (That being said both combined have 112 plays, making That’s My Jam my number one song on iTunes ever.))
So let’s get started on this journey through sound, shall we?
Straight off, Don’t Blink makes the perfect opener to the album.  It sets the tone as a catchy, positive song, working to reset the deep sadness of Forget and Not Slow Down and choosing to look ahead in a healthy way. While the title track of FaNSD told me that we’re moving on in a way that denies the pain of the past and thus remains stuck in it, Don’t Blink is a step forward. It sings of healing.  After leaving us with This is the End (If You Want it) in 2009, Don’t Blink is a song of much-needed closure.  (Not even mentioning how dang infectious and upbeat the sound is. Man.)
And suddenly, cue dancing.
Boomerang is a tune.  It’s talking about a girl that he just can’t get away from—she seems to be everywhere he goes.  And he loves it.  It makes you want to move and sing and clap.  Also, the cowbell?  Yes.  I love the placement of this song, too, because after closing of the melancholy tones of FaNSD in Don’t Blink, we burst right out into this celebration of love and life.  It’s like the album is telling you there’s nowhere to go but up—and it sounds awesome.
The falsetto makes its debut on Lost Boy.  For some reason, this song makes me want to go on a roadtrip, roll the windows down and let the music flow through my hair and out the windows into a warm, dark summer night.  Also the whistling and snapping and clapping gives this song a really organic, community vibe. It makes me think of campfires and intimate little concerts.  Definitely good feelings.
If I Could Take You Home brings you to the dance floor.  It feels like lights and the warmth of bodies dancing and the throbbing synth in the background had me bouncing in an instant.  (Bouncing because I don’t dance, don’tcha know. (Also if that’s not a synth feel free to educate me.  I’m quite musically ignorant for having a little brother in two bands and having 1382+ songs on my ipod (No, that’s not exaggeration. (The majority of them are Relient K. (how many parentheses can I get to before derailing my train of thought?))).))
I don’t even know where to begin with Can’t Complain.  From the first note, the first line, the first lighthearted whimsical line, I am beaming.  This is what I’m talking about when I say beachy.  This sounds like Tybee Island, Georgia in my brain (which is good. It’s a good place. (Or Joe’s Crab Shack, which is another good place.)).  Also for some reason when he says “life is gonna suck someday” I just have to grin because it’s so honest and so flippant.  The whimsical persiflage of this song is marvelous. (Also he says puppy which makes me want to cry from cute, even though I’m a cat person.)
Gloria is so surfy. Gosh this is such a summer album.  The background vocals and the overall Killers-esque element to Matty T’s voice are unique and fresh (“Um, just the freshest band in the world”, anyone? Yes? No? Okay.). The curveball of the bridge was worth of Owl City, if I do say so myself.
PTL has me dancing by the second beat (which is tragic—no witnesses survive), and the catchy falsetto chorus makes me want to croon I never meant to be a part-time lover/but then again I’ve never been a full-time man loudly out the windows of a cute, trendy little car, never mind the fact I’m still working on my license and my car is not cute, trendy, or little.  Also that I’m not a man or a lover of any kind.
And don’t get me started on the brilliance that is Disaster.  From the tasteful cacophony of trumpets in the background that so adroitly embodies the whole idea of the song to the lighthearted bridge and feel-good vibes of the guitars that remind me a little of Faking My Own Suicide, this song makes me smile right down to my toes. 
I’m missing the last few tracks of my album because my internet crashed at the end of the download (boo) but I’m certain I’ll love them just as much as I love the rest.
Essentially this album is nothing like I expected, and yet marvelous and perfect and just as good if not better than anything that I could have imagined, because I feel like Relient K really just made the album for the heck of it, and the fun plays out in every song.

This post is already the length of a short novella (indeed, I’m writing it instead of my wordcount for Camp NaNoWriMo, but we don’t have to talk about it), but I feel like my review would be incomplete without some account of the moral/Christian aspects of the album.  Some of you probably want me to, others probably don’t but I’ve got to say something because . . . well because I want to. So there.  It’s my blog. Nyah.
Honestly, though, I really loved this album’s message.  There’s no overt Christian overtones or very strong messages of a moral or spiritual flavor—in fact, there’s mention of bars and drinking with no thought and I really don’t see how If I Could Take You Home could be interpreted other than at least mildly sexual, which by most standards are quite “un-Christian” things.  There’s no mention of Jesus or God outside of one mention of coming home from church.
Regardless, though, I’m still quite comfortable with the album, and while Relient K might not have any songs fit for contemporary Christian radio, I don’t doubt the beliefs of the members of the band in Jesus Christ. (Also I feel it necessary to bring to mind the fact that most of the songs on this album were co-written/collabs with non-Christian writers. So there’s that.)
I suppose it’s because as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that Christianity, in some of the circles I run in, can become quite the sterilized cadaver.  Not Christianity itself, but I think we as people have a hidden tendency to be too rigid in our legality and that it’s just as much an issue as when we tend to be overtly lax with our morality.  I think there’s a humanity to a messy Christianity that is organic and lovely and intriguing.
I am not, nor would I ever, endorse sin.  Anyone that knows me knows that I’m quite stoic and unwavering when it comes to what is right and wrong, and I believe that’s necessary.  But if our Christianity doesn’t allow for slip-ups or mistakes or turning around, then what is it worth?  If our beliefs hinge entirely on what we do, and grace doesn’t even factor in, why do we need Christianity? Those are just rules. Why would we need Christ at all?
I need Christ because life is a wreck.  It’s a mess.  And so messy Christianity is appealing to me because I live in a messy place.  I like the fact Thiessen throws in “sexy” in Disaster because it doesn’t deny the reality of life in favor of a colorless Christianity.
Not only that, but as a believer, I can see the Christianity through the album.  First of all, there’s a lot of hope in this album, whereas in Forget and Not Slow Down (even with implicit mentions of the name of God such as in Therapy) there was pain and desperation in its place.  There’s a joy here that feels more than just skin-deep.  He does mention church, and it’s a part of doing life—it’s included, it’s normal.  I like that there’s not a big deal made of it, actually, because I think it might have felt sterilized or stilted, some lame attempt to appeal to a more conservative audience.
I see the belief in the threads of the album, even if the tapestry doesn’t depict a picture of Christ, but rather a picture of life.

All right, I think I’m about done. It’s almost eight and I’ve been up since 4.55 because of some jank ninja insomnia bout that had suddenly invaded my life. Also my last few songs just downloaded so I’m out to hear me some When You Were My Baby, Sweeter and Collapsible Lung.
And it’s a good time, 100% of the time~

xx Icarus

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