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After the amazing freshman album Under Soil and Dirt, an incredibly successful tour with the Wonder Years that launched them into the minds of every pop punk fan, and a cover story with Alternative Press, The Story So Far had much to live up to with their sophomore release of What You Don’t See.
First of all, don’t expect a replica of Under Soil and Dirt with this record. USAD contained angry heartbreak and angst-filled lyrics like “Do you look yourself straight in the eyes and think about who you let between your thighs”? While What You Don’t See still deals with its fair share of heartbreak with tracks like Small Talk and Things I Can’t Change, it has shifted to a more mature stance. Instead of just being pissed off, lead singer Parker Cannon seems to actually be asking questions while trying to figure out what is going on (Cannon actually went through a break up right during the recording of the album. Pick up the most recent issue of Alternative Press for the scoop). The entire first half of the album is a demonstration of the maturity that has come with getting into the full swing of being professional musicians, and the trial that can cause in relationships.
Right Here is the 5th track (the first single released from the album) and the peak of this near depression from the first 4 tracks. It really gives a sense of moving on but not forgetting, saying “Head on the wall, tell me why I feel so small, when I don’t even care at all”. These theme continues in the next two tracks with my personal favorite, Empty Space, and The Glass. Finally, the anger from USAD has broken free, but once again still shows a lot more maturity.
The rest of the album is solid the whole way through and continues to deal with the bands newfound fame and their transition into popularity while struggling to leave their old lives behind.
Generally, I have a problem with musicians complaining about their popularity, especially when it is early on in their career (B.o.B.’s Airplanes, anyone?). However, TSSF do so with such maturity and in a way that is dealing with their problems instead of just whining aimlessly. Cannon puts a lot of emotion into every track, and it is incredibly evident.
Unfortunately, that emotion is sometimes evident to the point where his words are a bit slurred. The production of the album is far better than any of the leaked qualities, but it is still hard to understand the lyrics through the heavy punch of guitars and drums at times. Just like with USAD, once you read the lyrics, it all makes sense and the problem is pretty much gone, but until that point it can be like trying to understand Boomhower on King of the Hill.
Yet, this is partially a sacrifice for the edgy punch of the instruments. This album packs just as much as a wallop as USAD did, and has an effect that makes every listen sound better. Most of the sounds are fairly crisp, and the riffs are incredibly catchy.
What You Don’t See should satisfy any fan of the promising newcomers from California. There will most likely be some haters, as is expected with any sophomore album, but it’s safe to say that is partially because it was nearly impossible for the boys to live up to what they did with Under Soil and Dirt. More importantly, the two albums play very well together, and provide a very rich context for the band as a whole. Continue to expect big things from The Story So Far, and make sure to catch them in a city near you on The Suppy Nation Tour.
Lyricism: 9 out of 10
Production: 7 out of 10
Musicianship: 7 out of 10
Overall: 8 out of 10