Album Review: My Lady Four – “In This Life Or The Next”

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“In This Life Or The Next” is the second album by the Minneapolis four-piece known as My Lady Four, and I must say…it’s a good album. Good, but not great.

For most people, the music that My Lady Four makes would probably fall into the pop-punk category, but that’s not a term that I would associate with this band. For me, pop-punk has always been a way to describe bands like Good Charlotte or New Found Glory or more recently Paramore and this band sounds nothing like those three. My Lady Four falls into a genre that I now call ‘radio friendly punk’ (it used to be called ‘alternative’) they inhabit the same space as bands like Rise Against, A.M. Taxi and The Gaslight Anthem. You know, bands that were obviously influenced by punk rock but still have a sound that is easily accessible to the average music listener.  Almost every song on “In This Life Or The Next” would fit nicely on an alternative/Modern rock radio station.

Now that you have a bit of an idea of the type of music that this band makes (more on that to come) I want to take a moment to tell you where this band excels. This is a highly-skilled group of musicians. The music that they create sounds like something that a band that has been together for a decade would produce, not something released by a group that was formed a few years ago from an add on Craigslist. My Lady Four know how to put a song together and vocalist, Brian Schwarz can sing (he writes some damn good lyrics too). Brian has a voice that can be very strong at times and very soft at others and he sounds just as good either way. Lyrically, the band explore topics like depression, troubled relationships and introspection (you know, the usual topics) but their songs are written much better than most of their contemporaries.

Now comes the part of the review where I tell you the negative aspects of this album. I know that this is a relatively new band (they’ve only been together for three years or so) but I feel that they have yet to fully find their own sound. While I listened to this album I was constantly reminded of other groups. None of these songs sound like they are direct rip-offs but there were a lot of similarities. I’m going to break down each song and give you my take on them.

“You Played With Fire” starts off the album with a cool intro, (it sounds like you’re hearing the song through a brick wall) then dives into one of the hardest, most rockin’ tracks on the disc. It’s a great song that has a bit of a Rise Against sound to it.

“Fear Of Falling” is another of the harder tracks. This one also has a familiar feeling to it but I can’t quite place it. This one is more rock influenced than punk.

“Shipwrecked” is the first of four (yes, I said four) songs that sound an awful lot like Jimmy Eat World. This one is a slower, acoustic guitar based song. It’s one of the better songs on here and has a heavy bassline that shows up all over the album.

“Wait, Wait” reminds me of Fall Out Boy, especially the vocals at the beginning of the track and during the chorus. This is the song that I like the least on here. I still wouldn’t say that the track is horrible, just not my style.

“Believe” – Vocally, this one has a very, very slight MCR sound to it. It’s another of the harder songs but has some acoustic guitar towards the end. Another really good one.

“This is Energy” is, as the title suggests, an upbeat, energetic song. This is the second song that makes me think of Fall Out Boy (and cringe).

“Hope and Faith” is a piano based song that, from the music to the lyrics and even the vocal inflections has Jimmy Eat World written all over it. If I’d have heard this track on the radio, I would have sworn that this WAS Jimmy Eat World. This song is slow and quiet at the start and builds to a faster, louder song by the end. Good song but this one sounds too similar to the above-mentioned band.

“I am My Own Keeper” starts out with an ’80’s inspired guitar part that reminds me of a ‘Duran Duran’ song before turning into song #3 of the Jimmy Eat World influenced foursome. This one is more upbeat and a little bit angry.

“…In This Life Or The Next” finishes of the Jimmy Eat World sounding songs (and the actual album). The piano makes another appearance here. It’s another song that starts slow and builds from there. It’s a good song, even if it does sound just like the other group that I’ve mentioned several times in this review, right down to the vocal harmonies and the guitar work. The fade out at the end of the song sounds so much like the beginning of the Jimmy Eat World song “Big Casino”, that I’ve got to wonder if they did it on purpose.

So there you have it. My Lady Four is a very talented band that seems to have a bit of an identity crisis; they haven’t really “Invented” their own identity yet. Even though I think they sound a lot like other bands, I still say that “In This Life Or The Next” is a good album. The songs are solid, musically and vocally and the lyrics are well written. Now if the band could just settle into a sound that is their own, I think their next record could be great.

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