In which I post my first review because I realized “Idle Ages” by Junior Battles is the album of my 2011 summer

Listening to: “Idle Ages” by Junior Battles

I’m not much of a reviewer because I’m not very good at it.  And since reviews are my weak point, I’m not really keen on them.  It’s like one of those vicious cycle things.  Journalism I enjoy, editorials too, but critiques–not my thing.  But I’m going to try it anyway, because this is an album that deserves it.  Hopefully I’ll do it justice.

ON PAPER THE DISTANCE DOESN’T SEEM THAT BAD

On the bus home from work today with my headphones tuned into the aforementioned album, I was thinking about a different topic I planned to be writing about for this entry.  That’s when I realized “Idle Ages” has become the album of my summer.

It was surprising because I put together mixes filled with songs by other bands just for this summer.  I predicted other albums by other bands would become my summer anthems.  And the first few times I listened to “Idle Ages” I was disappointed because I thought Junior Battles’ self-titled EP was the one of the best pop-punk albums since The Queers put out “Summer Hits No. 1.”  But the day before on the bus home I had been listening to Lucero’s “1372 Overton Park” and I realized that album, no matter how summery it sounds to my ears, will forever be a winter album in my brain.  Today’s bus ride gave me the revelation that “Idle Ages” is the same way, but tied to the summer.

ARM IN ARM IN ARM IN ARM

A lot of times people listen to a song and think it must’ve been written for them because it describes their lives so exactly.  I’m no exemption, but I’m realistic enough to know the music probably wasn’t actually written about my life no matter how much it parallels it.  But “Idle Ages” manages this freakishly well for where I am in life right now.

The first three tracks on the album are called “Seventeen,” “Twenty Five” and “Nostalgia at 23.”  Aside from the fact that I’m nearly smack-dab in the middle of those ages–and that lately I’ve been noticing a surprisingly large number of bands have songs about being 25–the nostalgia that “Seventeen” and “23” evoke is impossible for me not to relate to. All the songs contain that same feeling of growing up and not knowing what the hell you’re doing, but somehow getting through it and trying to have as much damn fun as possible anyway.  In fact, that’s how the entire album feels.  Pop punk is definitely a good genre to pull that that off, but way too many pop punk bands don’t get that right.

The best seriously summery albums also make good use of what I like to call the “hopeful chords,” or what Hot Water Music refers to as “Trusty Chords” (I think HWM would concur with me on this one).  “Idle Ages” is filled with these chords without being overloaded.  The band slows things down with “Architecture,” a short 46-second track that serves as a kind of intermission.  It’s the type of song 16-year-old me would’ve skipped over for being too slow, but now it just feels beautiful.  And not in a corny way, even though I know that’s exactly how that sounds as I type it.

Plus, horns.  I’m a sucker for bands that stick a horn section or even just a horn solo into their music.  The track “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” has a horn solo towards the end.  I’m thinking it’s sax, but I can’t be positive because for all the love I have for the instruments, I can’t really for the life of me distinguish between them by sound alone.  Still, that solo rounds out the song, ending a great track with a truly relatable message on a striking note.

WE’LL STILL HAVE OURSELVES WHEN WE DON’T OWN ANYTHING ELSE

The parallels for my 2011 summer go on and on with this album. Losing touch with friends, wanting to fix that, but not knowing how is the theme of “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t have bouts of feeling that way year round, but this summer especially has been one of ruminating on lost and distanced friendships.

Then there’s also moving into a new apartment, participating (read: getting thrown into) adult life/the real world/real life/whatever else you want to call it and just trying to wing it.  This is one of these parts of life that I think pretty much everyone goes through but only some people are able to write successful songs about.  It makes me wonder if I’d feel the same way about this album if I first heard it at age 15 or 30, but that’s something I probably won’t ever know.

THE CLOCK SAYS IT’S 2 AM, WE WAKE UP AT 4

I stole the titles for all the sections in this entry from Junior Battles’ lyrics on “Idle Ages.”  This one is appropriate because I’ll be waking up at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow for work. Is this song about me or what?

Also, drop me a line–is this “review” any good? Should I quit trying the review game and stick to commentary? Or is it even a review at all?  Comments appreciated!

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    • Yonkles
    • August 9th, 2011

    This is a great posting. I wouldn’t call it a review, but a song-by song commentary, which is also just as important. And, I’m going to check out this album tomorrow, so maybe you accomplished the goal of a review?

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