Album Review: Close Talker – “So Am I”

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Richmond, Virginia’s Close Talker came out of nowhere for me. In a day and age where good pop punk is as hard to find as hardcore without flat-brimmed hats, their debut album So Am I reignited my love for punk’s catchiest genre. Close Talker play their music with a riff heavy delight that takes the genre far beyond infectious hooks. It’s pleasing to see a band play music that sounds like a natural progression of individual interests, and not just a fan letter to powerful inspirations. It feels organic enough that there’s never an inkling of them setting out to play pop punk, they just do it because that’s who they are, and they do it damn well.

Album opener “Exact Change” falls into a vein similar to Run, Forever and others that pull from the rich well of 90’s emo, but Close Talker’s sound is a catchier beast that is sonically more rooted in punk– a trait solidified with “Tales of Distrust and Cynicism,” an aggro fifty-seven seconds filled with passionately raw vocals that flirt with the border of hardcore. It’s these idiosyncratic additions to their core sound that make Close Talker such a breath of fresh air.

“Mop Water” sounds almost Weezer-ish in its bending chord riff, giving it an off kilter quality that inches towards experimentalism– but it’s lyricism is just as rich as it’s instrumentation, encapsulating the music perfectly with a sense of self-deprecating snark. My favorite couplet from “Mop Water” is pulled from the chorus: “She’s bored with poetry and I’m not very good with my words.” So Am I is a lesson in elevation, with musics and lyrics working in cohesion to transcend genre trappings while still representing them proudly. It’s all pop punk, but the way Close Talker approaches it captures the idea and essence, without losing a sense of individuality.

“Icarus II” features a verse nearly devoid of melody, sounding more like a relaxed hardcore song. It juxtaposes nicely with the catchy chorus and even has a sweet little solo. The song reminds me a little of early Dag Nasty, recalling Dave Smalley’s spoken word attack and big, anthemic choruses. The Fugazi-ish guitar lead that opens “Bowling Night” is simultaneously busy and melodic, a subtle example of Close Talker’s broad influences. The song’s ‘woah-oh-oh’s’ are as infectious as anything I’ve heard this year, making “Bowling Night” brain glue of the most wondrous kind.

For those that love only the catchiest of punk rock, but desire a more mature level of musicianship, So Am I is likely to hit the spot. Brimming with piercing lyricism, ear-catching instrumentation, and some of the stickiest combinations of notes this side of of The Descendents– Close Talker have crafted an album that is simultaneously nostalgic and exciting, as only great music can be.

4/5 Stars

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