Release Date: March 11, 2014
Columbia’s Rejectioneers do us an enormous service by taking an older style of music (in this case, emo and punk-infused ‘90s alt rock) and dragging it back into our collective consciousness without making us all run for the nearest exit. In fact, the sound on their long-awaited new record, “Better This Season”, does the opposite: fans of that era of music will most likely be drawn in by the well-written tunes, Ben Walker’s powerful and emotive lyric-driven vocals, and the general high level of finesse the band shows in arranging these 7 songs. The band has a South Carolina supergroup feel, with most members laying claim to experience in many local bands through a good number of years. Guitarists Christian Tyler and Kenny McWilliams lay down tasteful parts that thankfully don’t hold back the rock in their quest for pop perfection. Bassist Brandon Kean and drummer Chris Carroll keep everything locked down and it doesn’t hurt that McWilliams’ recording studio, Archer Avenue, pretty much guarantees a solid sonic product for every artist whose work they catalog.
First track “Way Too Hard” is catchy-as-hell power pop that might draw comparisons to Fountains of Wayne or Nada Surf. Be prepared for the line “I don’t know what broke/ But I can’t fix you” to be stuck in your head. “My Arms” showcases the loud/quiet dynamics of the band and the totally radio-ready “Brothers” has a great nostalgic Soul Asylum feel; singer Ben Walker seems to be channeling a pop-punk Dave Pirner on most of these tracks to me (which is a good thing). “Burn it on the Altar” has a well-guided post-punky guitar/bass intro that soon evolves into an earworm chorus with explosive buildups. I dig the abbreviated Bob Mould-ish angsty guitar solo in this one, too. “Government Floor” is a short low-key acoustic sing-a-long that segues into “Young Man”, which offers even more inescapable catchiness with an emo/ indie rock style straight out of the Jimmy Eat World playbook. There are a lot of serious relationship concepts explored here, and broken family themes seem to be in hard focus by Walker. The same can be said for last track “Changing Voices”, with its charged emotional lyrics, fueled by a slow-churning power rock. The melody is undeniable and will stay with you long after the song is over.
I have seen this release classified as an EP, but if it is, it’s a pretty long one, clocking in at over 25 minutes. In any case, the short duration keeps it from wearing out its welcome and actually leaves the listener wanting more. Hoping the next recording won’t take so long to materialize and might even push through into LP territory. If it’s as quality as this release, Rejectioneers are welcome to linger around the ‘90s as long as they want.
Recommended if you like: Fountains of Wayne, Jimmy Eat World, Soul Asylum