After a couple listens of their newly released sophomore album I realized State Lines operated in territory unfamiliar to me. As someone who hates indie rock, I found myself disliking their indie influenced punk rock sound– but even with this prejudice in the back of my mind, I found myself enjoying them. For The Boats is an album where the quality of individual songs leave an impression greater than the whole. State Lines write good music. Period. And even a shitty, jaded curmudgeon like myself can’t get mad about that.
For The Boats opens with its title track, a song that shows off its singers gruff vocals, an element that shows State Lines at its best. When vocalist Jonathan Dimitri lets his powerful voice loose, the listener can feel the passion. “For The Boats” is driven predominantly by drums in the beginning, but gains more character when the guitars kick in. One of my favorite moments is a double-stop riff reminiscent of Van Morrison’s on “Brown Eyed Girl.”
It should be said, State Lines are great instrumentalists. “The Same Mistake” is far from my favorite song on For The Boats, but even it knows how to build tension and deny gratification, finally letting itself explode in a frenzy of emocore explosivity from beneath its Tiger Jaw-lit surface. On the same song, State Lines also show their talent for tight harmonies– bringing to the mix a sense of ethereal distance.
“Shady Existence” opens with a hip hop sample that could’ve easily turned me off completely, but actually reveals a playful side of State Lines that served well in juxtaposition to their music. The song also features one of the album’s most resonating lyrics, “it’s me telling some kid through a microphone, he might be fucked in the head but he’s not alone,” reminding us of State Lines undeniable punk influence, and the savior that is music and community. “Shady Existence” follows up this piercing lyric with one of its biggest hooks, making the song one of the best on the album. “Shit For Brains” brings more punk into the mix with some serious howling and self-loathing. And “Kids” is another standout and also one of the catchier songs on For The Boats, using its melodicism to carry nostalgia directly into the listener’s own memory bank.
State Lines bring a lot of good songs to the table, but I can’t help but wish they brought a better sound. In today’s world, indie rock and punk have steadily began to overlap thanks to such bands as Transit and The Sidekicks, but unfortunately this has become such a distinct and specific sound that it already sounds stale. State Lines do their best to inject some of that classic punk rock aggression to differentiate themselves and lend a bit of urgency to a sound marked by twinkling guitars and attractive vocals– and to their credit, most of the time it works. But, when they’re not bringing their energy to the forefront, the songs tend to get a little bit lost in the mix. For The Boats does feature some excellent songwriting though, and many of the tracks do hit hard– for the right listener, it could be a classic.
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