Courage My Love Shows a New Side on Synesthesia
This review is likely exciting for any indie rock junkie who was hopping on the Warped Tour train a few years back. However, don’t be too quick to sweep your side bangs because Courage My Love is back with a new look, and a new sound. This is the second full length album for the trio. The previous Becoming was a Juno nominated, high energy, indie rock/pop-punk classic. Now, with Synesthesia, the band is seemingly re-branding itself and taking a large leap into the pop world, as evidenced by the album’s first single “Stereo.”
The debut single has much more of a pop feel than the trio’s previous work. It introduces a lot of synth into the mix. While electric guitar melodies are still featured, they take a heavy background spot to the synth chords.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the incredible synergy between the twin singers Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn. The blood-harmonies between the sisters are still heavily featured, as they should be.
The downside to the new direction of the band is that it becomes formulaic at times. For a large portion of the songs, there is a soft, but intense intro. This turns into a harder, drum slamming chorus, quickly followed by heavily echoed bridge and a vocal breakdown finishing with the high-energy chorus. Unfortunately, this mechanical approach to song-writing is an inevitable change that comes with a shift to pop music. For example, “Two-Headed Monster” sounds like a slower version of “Stereo.”
As a result, the album becomes rather monotonous and many of the songs seem to blend together. Furthermore, not only do the songs have similarities amongst each other, there are also many similarities with current top 40 pop. The song “Dirt” could be something written for One Direction. While, marketing wise, this may be a good move for the band, it seems like they’ve given up too much of their voice for marketing purposes. Despite pop being somewhat regurgitated, it is usually those with an original flare that make their statement.
“The Year I Disappeared” is a saving grace amongst a trail of repetitive, non-descript tracks that precede it. The song is still pop inspired but uses more piano than synth than previous track. Moreover, the transition to the higher paced chorus is flawless, unlike some other tracks where it sounds forced. Furthermore, the bridge brings on a head banging guitar solo. The instrumentals and vocals build to a crescendo that is uplifting and refreshing; definite single potential.
Another interesting move by the trio is the artistic choices they made in terms of the separation of the album. As the name Synesthesia suggests, it would seem the trio is trying to evoke several opposing feelings from the listener with stylistic choices like the title track, “Sight:Sound” and “Taste:Touch.” These tracks are referring to different facets of the album but are only short one minute mixes of different sounds. Upon the first listen, these tracks stick out like a sore thumb, but after a while, you realise that this is necessary to differentiate the parts of the album, since the tracks are not different enough from one another.
If the shift was a move to make Courage my love more marketable, perhaps they should have listened to their own words: “Never Gonna Change for You.” On the other hand, if this the type of music the band wants to make, I think the problems arise from the fact that they aren’t sure about their sound. Shifting between genres is no easy feat. As an introduction to a more ‘pop-y’ sound, Synesthesia is a good effort. However, if they were to hang onto a bit more of their original sound, the band would likely be more successful and differentiable among other current pop acts.
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