Better Off

Milk

Written by: TL on 17/09/2015 16:00:14

Nashville rockers Better Off released one of the more underrated debut albums of 2013 with "(I Think) I'm Leaving" - An album that had some consistency issues but still soared high on its best songs and thrived on a tasty blend of influences that made the group feel like one to look out for. And looking out should have made you see the new album "Milk" coming, partly because its cover art is pretty unmistakeable in itself. Released last week, the new album extends the band's catalogue further into a style that sounds like it constantly balances between the soaring emotions of good emo rock, and the more snarky, guitar-happy histrionics of indie- or slacker- rock. Like Knapsack or Have Mercy is tucking at them in one end while Mansions and Piebald pull in their direction in the other, eventually resulting in a sound that most of all sounds like Scotland's similarly underrated The Xcerts, as well as quite a bit like Manchester Orchestra.

On initial passing listens, this style seems to hold loads of promise. There's a certain power in the fuzzy, reverberating guitar chords and a life in the quiet-loud dynamics that will reach out even from the edge of earshot and seduce the listener, giving off the impression that "Milk" is the kind of thing that has more to offer as soon as you devote in-depth listening time to it. Regrettably, the consistency issues seem to have followed Better Off from one album to the other, as this sense of promise is never fully realised when you do sit down and shut yourself in your headphones. The band routinely gets songs off to a great start, simply because they're great at arranging engaging alternative rock verses, but when it comes to the choruses they just consistently feel a little predictable - more good than great, unfortunately.

As for highlights though, one of the single choices, "Whatever, I Don't Care", does pretty well, conjuring up a solid wall of guitar noise while the vocals head up to their high range for a grungy dismissal you can bang your head to. "Dresser Drawer", another of the single choices, also wins on returning listens, via subtle but catchy "uuh-uh" backing vocals and a compelling melodic progression in the chorus. It's the more slow-paced "Bella Disorder" from later on the record that consistently ends up tugging at your ears the most, however, churning away with a nice, booming low-end, and interspersing the vocal lines with great bits of lead melody, even if the chorus - once again - does have a lingering feeling like it could have been even better.

Furthermore there are some curious details to be noted, like in "Suicide Island", which has exactly the kind of tiny guitar flourishes between verse lines to bring Piebald to mind, and which could also have been great except for the somewhat mocking tone of the doubled vocals in the chorus. Then there's "Interlude" which is bound to cause some surprise midway through the record, dishing out a sudden, fast-paced burst of seemingly derailed punk rock. Yet it is clearly meant as a mile post doodle, which makes you question why Better Off hasn't implemented a little more of such variety into their proper songs. Because as it stands, "Milk" is a good listen, it just feels oddly short on the kind of peaks and variety that you know for certain that you'll come back for. Almost as if the band decided they wanted to make a really solid indie/alt rock banger of a record, but that they also wanted to not make it too impressive, lest they should become too famous in the scene all of a sudden. And that's a bit of a shame as far as this review is concerned.

7

Download: Bella Disorder; Dresser Drawer; Whatever, I Don't Care
For The Fans Of: The Xcerts, Knapsack, Mansions, Have Mercy, Manchester Orchestra
Listen: facebook.com/bttroff

Release date 11.09.2015
Equal Vision Records

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