Magnolia is an excruciating, tedious listen– an exercise in blandness with brief glimmers of talent that refuses to settle into a pleasant experience. It feels like I’ve been trying to review this album for years but haven’t been able to give it the time, because when an album like this is on your docket you readily and frequently make many new dockets.
Turnover play emo, the ‘real’ variety that has grown more popular within the last few years, drawing on acts like Sunny Day Real Estate and The Get Up Kids. Magnolia is their first full-length release, a consolatory note that proves they can only get better.
“Shiver” opens the album with a promising flurry of guitar notes. I remember the moment I first heard them fondly, it was a time when Magnolia could’ve been great. But, as the song drones on it is completely undone by its refrain of the title. “Shiver, shiver,” is called over lazily strummed chords and becomes a monument to obnoxious repetition. It’s a boring hook that begs the question: which came first, the title or the chorus? Whatever the answer, it could’ve been excised in favor of a more subtle song less shackled by bad songwriting.
While bad, or at least monotonous, songwriting seems to be Turnover’s forte, they do show more promise on “Most Of The Time.” The melodies are more vital and the music is dynamic enough to give Magnolia one of its few highlights. To be fair, most of the goodwill Turnover earn from this song can be dissipated by a quick look at its lyrics. “Most Of The Time” opens with the line “you can find me, drifting slowly, sinking beneath the sea. Try to catch my breath, silent struggle, drowned in my apathy.” While starting out promising with it’s nautical metaphor, Turnover takes the easy route and leans upon a weak, cheap, and by now utterly meaningless punk rock vocab word. Apathy has become a boringly common trait in the punk scene and has been canonized as cool, at least in the minds of most fifteen year-olds. The lyrics aggrandize the author in a sickly, juvenile way, characterizing the author as someone more interested in sounding deep than being deep.
Magnolia is filled with these nuggets of superficial depth. “Wither,” “Seed,” and “Bloom” form a trifecta of look-at-how-fucking-clever-I-am song titling. “Hollow” combines all of Turnover’s most irritating tendencies with it’s grating refrain of the title (seriously, stop) and trite emotional lyricism (“I’m hollow. I feel the emptiness, the things that aren’t real, to see if I can feel.”). “Daydreaming” ends the album well though, although not well enough to erase the memory of everything that preceded it. It has its cliches, sure, but at least it doesn’t feel forced or dishonest.
Emo is a lyrical genre; it needs fresh, poetic perspectives and an unflinching, honest gaze. If the emotion comes off as cheap or contrived it falls apart. Turnover spend too much time saying what they think they should say, as if they’re painting an impression of the music using only its most superficial components. Magnolia is an artistic failure and I’m glad I don’t have to listen to it anymore.