Back in March, I trudged through terrible rush hour traffic with my brother and a friend to Connecticut to see a band called Hostage Calm play their farewell show. None of us were huge Hostage Calm fans, there being only one song that we truly liked, and we were really there to see the opening acts. More specifically, we were there to see Sorority Noise. We had been introduced to their music not long before the evening, but had been listening to their debut 9-song LP Forgettable since. Once the band took the stage and said they were going to play a few songs from their new album, it didn’t take long to further solidify in our minds that Sorority Noise’s sophomore effort was going to do big things. If it says anything, I spent $25 on a hoodie after their set, that’s how sure of their future success I was. Only a few months later, Joy, Departed is here and that $25 was certainly well-spent.
Taking its name from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “A Dream,” Joy, Departed tells a story, perhaps without full intention. Although it was never billed as such, Joy, Departed is in many ways an autobiographical concept record of frontman Cameron Boucher’s life, achieving many of the narrative tones and points of character development that many of the big-named, all-in concept albums of late (e.g. Muse’s Drones) sacrifice in order to really get across their big message. Boucher and Sorority Noise are not trying to convey any message, they are just trying to tell it how it is when dealing with problems of self-worth and manic depression. What this record is definitely not, though it might seem that way at times, is a sad recounting about the one that got away.
Joy, Departed opens with the withering, emotional Blissth, the introduction employing a single guitar, vocals, and a soft piano accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack. About half way through the track, Boucher drops the line “Why do I compare everyone I love to the way I loved you?” I listened to Joy, Departed for the first time while I was driving. This line caused me to perk up and really listen to the words that were coming out of my speakers. Closely followed by “I wasn’t built to exist,” it is clear that this is not a song about losing a girl; but it is instead a song about losing your goddamn mind. As Blissth comes to its swelling, dramatic conclusion, it flows perfectly into the album’s second track, Corrigan, which immediately takes off your shoulders the emotional burden created by the instrumentals of the album’s opener. Corrigan is the type of song that will get audiences to bounce, featuring guest vocals from Boucher’s BFF and Modern Baseball guitarist/vocalist Brendan Lukens (there is also a guest spot from Modern Baseball’s other guitarist/vocalist Jake Ewald on the album’s lead single Art School Wannabe).
The contrast between the first two tracks of the record is a contrast that is indicative of the feeling throughout the rest, the arrangement perhaps modeling itself after the stages of depression. Blissth embodied the first few stages – denial and anger, bargaining, depression – while Corrigan takes on the acceptance of your mental state (“I will never be the one you need / I only hope to be the solid ground beneath your feet / I will never be the turning of your leaves”). However, the track arrangement process only repeats after Corrigan, Fluorescent Black returning to the first few stages.
The songs that make up Joy, Departed might have lyrical content too heavy for the casual listener, but the melodies by lead guitarist Adam Ackerman create infectiously catchy head-bangers (see Nolsey below) that will catch the attention of any passerby. I could go track by track and talk about the record’s singles, but I think I’m just going to embed the stream of the record below and let you listen to it for yourself.
Be sure to catch Sorority Noise on tour opening for Motion City Soundtrack and You Blew It! before they start headlining their own tours.
Header photo by Mimi Hong of BrooklynVegan.
'Joy, Departed' tells a story, perhaps without full intention, making it essentially an autobiographical concept record.