“…a comprehensive album that’s actually meant to go together and not just a random collection of songs by the same artist”
review by Vickey Ziegler
I’m going to be very candid, and informal with you, reader. This was the hardest piece I’ve ever written and I didn’t expect it to be.
I’ve been a fan of Boys Of Fall (henceforth BOF) since they released “Bad Company” on their 2918 album Better Moments. I was psyched when I found out they would be releasing a new album in November this year. They’re signed with a fairly underground label, Invogue Records. I know saying they’re underground makes me sound pretentious but it’s true!
I know you haven’t heard of them until now. The band’s website page calls them pop-punk and I’m inclined to agree. Their sound is pretty similar to the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, Asking Alexandria, and Marianas Trench (if Josh Ramsey had a more metal tonality when he screams).
Most of the songs I’ve listened to by BOF have themes around relationships and navigating them through good and bad times, something they have kept in their newest album, Distance. I couldn’t decide how I felt about this album from the first time I listened to it and honestly, I’m still not a hundred percent how I feel about it overall.
I felt like this album has a cohesion linked to mourning a relationship that’s too intentional to be a coincidence, and I love that. Although, there were still a couple minor things I would have done differently.
Track 1: Distance (3:00)
The title piece, ‘Distance’ has a lovely build up. It begins with a soft instrumental that sounds like a rainy street at night, lights reflecting off the pavement but the colours are muted, almost black and white. Another guitar line is added (likely the melody guitar) about a minute in, and a little colour slowly comes back.
I can only describe the payoff to this build as a burst of sound and emotion, like the saturation of an image was suddenly dialed up. I hate the cliché, but it was exactly like a firework show in the slow anticipation, until finally the payoff of this explosive wave of emotion. Every time I listen to the emotional transition, I can physically feel my heart ache in the best way. This song is a great start to the album. Every time I reach the line “cause I don’t think you wanna stay at all” I find myself singing along. I think it totally catches the almost paranoid feelings of self-doubt that can creep in and hurt a relationship.
Track 2: Midnight (3:24)
There’s a ramp up in intensity in this piece without seeming overly startling. Now, to reiterate, I believe even though BOF is a pop-punk band, they definitely have a metal influence on their sound. I love it as a tonal effect – this track is an example of the lyrics getting lost in the screaming for me.
I don’t think this is an issue of mixing or even an untrained ear. I think it’s due to the vocalist’s tendency to slur words together as if the words got smudged together. Which is a shame, because if my favourite line “Take away everything that I hold close as you place the dirt over my bones. I’ll always just remain a ghost to you” is anything to go by, this song has some beautiful poetic, gothic lines.
At least it’s only a problem at the start of the song, and this isn’t an issue during my favourite line of this song.
Track 3: Worth it (3:53)
This song began with a piano line, which caught me off guard but I was definitely here for it! I’m not used to this band in particular utilizing the piano, but it worked as an instant draw with the perky melody line.
The guitar quickly follows, imitating the piano melody with a couple of flourishes. This became an instant favourite track for me. I can nod my head along to it steadily yet the lyrics were painful in a bitter way. “Was it worth it? Tell me please. Cause giving up it never seemed so easy to me” Such a gorgeous section. That said, I’ll mainly be coming back to it for the beginning piano, and the bridge’s drumline since even with the lyricism, I think the vocals in this track serve as backup to the instrumental at times, rather than the typical formula of instrumental backing the vocals. This song felt like the anger stage, as if the singer is more confused about the course the relationship has taken and channeling that confusion into anger.
Track 4-Mad Sad (3:18)
This song was the only one that I didn’t love right away, only because I found it fairly forgettable.
I think the intro was just so close to the intro for ‘Bad Company’ (another BOF song I’ve listened to frequently), both rhythmically and melodically, that it threw me off. I didn’t find anything that made this song stand out compared to the rest of what was on the album. I like the unity between these pieces, but at this point I would have tried to shake things up a little.
The song also drags a bit, maybe it would have been more effective if they cut it down. This song seems to be like one side of the anger stage, but I think ‘Little Disaster’ captures the anger better (and was mixed better). In this track the vocal line is turned down too low to hear much of anything during the pre chorus.
Track 5: Little Disaster (3:16)
This song begins like it wants to nudge you to move and get doing something or go somewhere. It sounds upbeat, betraying the anger and pain in the starting lines. “I feel hate slowly crawling its way through my veins. I suffer into silence and that’s my mistake.”
It’s easy to hum along to, and the guitar solo makes it a fun song. I think it would be something that would play with the main character in a movie where someone starts getting themselves together and moves on from a breakup. Still has the same issue as ‘Mad Sad’ though – I would have liked to shake things up sooner than this.
I think this definitely falls into the bargaining stage, like the person is asking what they could have done differently and if they can still do those things – especially with the final line “Where did we go wrong?” I will admit it’s in that halfway point between anger and bargaining, since the words sound so bitter in a vindictive way.
Track 6: Rain (2:26)
The first slower song on the album begins with an almost lofi sound quality to it since it starts off muffled.
It’s early December, a time when the sky becomes overcast and dull for a fair part of the day unless you’re awake before double digits. Exam season is drawing near, everyone’s tired, and with the COVID restrictions in place many people are likely experiencing a unique wave of seasonal depression.
This song is perfect for those kinds of days when all you want to do is lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, just contemplating things. I’m sad it’s the shortest song on the album because it’s an instant favourite, and each time I loop the song there’s a split second of silence I could do without.
Catching the specific lyrics is a bonus since they add to the overall lonely, sad atmosphere of the song, particularly when he repeats “I’m so lost. So lost. So lost.” But I think the vocalist serves more as a pleasant layer of sound unifying the instrumental music, rather than a focal point.
Easily another favourite track on this album for me. For reasons I hope are obvious from what I said earlier about seasonal depression, this song feels like the more depressive stage which is what I think is mainly explored for the remaining tracks.
Track 7: Heavy Hearts (3:33)
The transition to this song from ‘Rain’ was seamless, and goes back to the typical sound from tracks 1-5.
However, I’m much more forgiving of this track because it ties back in with ‘Rain’ lyrically by using the outro of ‘Rain’ as the bones for the chorus of ‘Heavy Hearts’. ‘Rain’ also provided an interlude from the usual sound, thus ‘Heavy Hearts’ doesn’t feel less repetitive compared to the earlier tracks. This track also doesn’t feel as long as it is – upon nearly each listen of the song I was surprised when the song ended because I felt there should have been more.
I wasn’t a fan of the outro for this one, though, since when they faded out the instrumental, they faded out the vocals too. I would have liked the fade-out effect better if they faded the screams after the instrumentals were already silent.
Track 8: False Love (3:41)
This song was more melodic than the other tracks on the album. The overall sound of this one is gentler too, but unlike ‘Rain’ it’s not quite as muted. While ‘Rain’ is more like hearing someone quietly crying through a door, ‘False Love’ is like being in the room with them. ‘False Love’ also features a beautiful guitar solo, and kicks up their sound for a bit.
At the beginning, it’s like entering this room with someone else quietly crying, and you’re behind a glass pane just watching. As the song progresses, it’s like the person is crying and they’re still getting it out but it’s not all of it, like they’ve held themselves back. The song falls quiet, and there’s an instant of silence as if the person almost has it together.
Until, just like ‘Distance’, there’s a satisfying emotional payoff and the song explodes as the person falls to their knees and finally let’s themselves break. It’s such a stunning piece, and again for me this song is strong mainly because of it’s tonality and less because of the poetic lyrics.
Track 9: Overthinking (3:15)
The rhythm of the vocals at the very beginning reminded me a lot of the beginning of ‘Starboy’ by the Weeknd, but the rest of the song doesn’t sound anything like it.
The band released a “quarantine music video” for this song back in May, with shots of the artists walking their dogs and playing the song in their homes. I don’t find it as forgettable as ‘Mad Sad’, because it’s easier to pick out the lyrics and really listen to them. However, I’ll admit, it could be because the audio for this track was technically released in May so I’ve had more time to listen to it.
A few lines make me think of an abusive relationship, or the residual feelings of guilt and anger after fighting with a significant other – especially with the lines like “I’m a mess and that’s nothing new to you, break my neck from all the stress you fucking put me through.” I adore the chorus, it’s so catchy and I’m definitely going to be singing it in the shower the next few days.
Sorry not sorry neighbours.
Track 10: Closure (3:30)
I instantly loved the acoustic guitar intro. My whole heart and body went YES. This is my number one favourite track on this entire album. If ‘Rain’ and ‘False Love’ are good for a wallowing or broody kind of mood, this is exactly the kind of pick me up I want afterward.
The sound of this song is mellowed out in a way that doesn’t demand energy to be enjoyed, yet upbeat enough that it doesn’t bring the overall mood down. I don’t think you’ll understand when I say I’m obsessed with this song. The lyrics are resigned, and have a sort of acceptance in them.
It’s a big part of why I think the album (as a whole) is at least partly exploring the grief of an ending relationship. After the emotional turmoil expressed in the earlier parts of the album, this song is like a soothing balm and bandage wrapped around a raw wound. The lyrics also present an interesting juxtaposition in the artist accepting that while they won’t get closure, they have found a different kind of closure.
Overall, I think Distance was a good album. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but anyone looking for something new to listen to will likely enjoy at least something on this album.
I think since a lot of the lyrics seem to be communicating a breakup and its aftermath, I understand the choice to keep their slower music closer to the end as we move toward an acceptance in the grieving process and in the end I admire that.
However, I still think ‘Mad Sad’ could have used just a touch more time and attention to make it stand out more amid the earlier tracks.
I’ll be listening to the album all at once again in the near future, since I like how unified it is. It sounds like a comprehensive album that’s actually meant to go together and not just a random collection of songs by the same artist.
I said earlier that I wasn’t totally sure of how I felt about the album, but I’m much more certain, now that Distance is another favourite album I’ve added to my Spotify list.