By: Grace Koennecke, Columns Editor
Capitol Records; 2022
Key tracks: “Close Your Eyes”, “Growing/Dying”, “Snowbank Blues”, “Follow the Sound”
The Backseat Lovers rose to fame with their debut album, When We Were Friends, back in 2019 after its lead single, “Kilby Girl”, won over fans of the indie-rock genre. Since then, the band, comprised of lead vocalists and guitarists Joshua Harmon and Jonas Swanson, bassist KJ Ward, and drummer Juice Welch, has toured all over the world and created a new album, Waiting to Spill, that leaves behind the themes of love and fixation.
Waiting to Spill focuses around the idea of growing older, a scary thought to have while experiencing the highs and lows of adolescence. With only 10 songs, The Backseat Lovers’ sophomore comeback covers a lot of ground thematically, but fails to leave a mark at times with certain songs.
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As soon as the album starts with “Silhouette”, it feels like you’re watching the fall leaves change and cars pass you by as you travel somewhere new, an ambiance that The Backseat Lovers usually create with their music. This song takes a while to start up, but once it does, the lyrics are simple and foreshadow the fear present within: “Wait / Wait for the day / Stay / Stay for the pain / Run / Run while you can / While you are still a silhouette of a man.” Finally, there’s enough tension built between Harmon and Swanson’s vocals and the production to lead to its climax, wails and screaming that become isolated as the song comes to an end.
While the opening song is promising, there’s only a few songs that truly stand out on this record. “Close Your Eyes” follows the first track, consisting of a confrontational and wistful tone. The band is experiencing a sign of the times, counting their days and worrying about ending up like their parents. With a marching beat, “Oh, I’d hate to get any older,” is a repetitive line in this track, yet is the overall message of this album, instilling a sense of anxiety and fear that time moves fast, whether we like it or not.
“Growing/Dying” is another song that helps the album stay in the right direction, with Harmon and Swanson comparing themselves to a plant, one day making progress in their growth as a human and the next failing to improve. Their vocals are again on the verge of mental collapse, fighting against each other as they suppress a scream, which is a motif that starts to get redundant as listeners get halfway through the album.
Country and folk influences are more apparent on this album than the band’s previous, and this is especially evident in “Snowbank Blues.” Singing from the perspective of a band that has amassed over 100,000 followers on Instagram, The Backseat Lovers dive into new waters as they expand their lyrical capabilities and storytelling. “Wish I could roll the windows down / But the snow has swallowed up our little town” alludes to the way fame can suffocate young talent, and the emotion within this song displays a vulnerability usually not present in an all-male band.
Even though The Backseat Lovers begin to crossover to other genres, their album remains average in sound. There’s no true ending point, as its closing songs, “Know Your Name” and “Viciously Lonely”, use the same instruments and leave listeners wanting more as there’s a lack of content lyrically and visually, causing a weak spot to occur in the most crucial part of the storyline the band is trying to explain to listeners.
The only other song that truly is worth mentioning is “Follow the Sound.” A car alarm blares annoyingly in the beginning, but when a piano begins to match its rhythm, it elevates the track. Reverting again to a more folk-blues sound, the band sings of not wanting to live a repetitive life, yet mentally, they’re comfortable in a state of nothingness. “I’ll quit the race & turn my hеad / To see what’s left & who I kept / Brush the guilt off of my chеst / And there’s nothing left, and all I said,” points to this revelation, symbolizing the way mental health can cause people to feel isolated.
Overall, Waiting to Spill just isn’t as good as The Backseat Lovers’ previous album, When We Were Friends. Even though its themes are more mature, there’s not much growth within the 10 songs it contains. Overly repetitive in places sonically and thematically, it’s clear that the band is afraid of time and aging, but they don’t expand on it much, unless it’s through projecting their feelings on to listeners.
Listen here: https://open.spotify.com/album/2Gb2plO2TkNRIgoCuJGm7C?si=tERRJLTPTRyug1zGgSlBZA