Breathe a sigh of relief, eager fans.
Movements’ 2016 'Outgrown Things' EP was an incredibly powerful collection of songs for a debut release and threw the band on an immediate upward trajectory, with media and punters alike taking swift notice. Their blend of traditional emo elements with dashes of melodic hardcore and spoken word was geared to hit as hard as possible with an ear for melody and intensely personal lyricism. Since before the Southern California quartet’s full-length debut was even announced, I was waiting with bated breath regarding said obviously coming record; anxious to see how they would translate the sound and approach they established on their EP into a cohesive, engaging LP. Writing a handful of catchy sad songs is a very different thing to constructing an entire forty minute experience.
To my great relief and excitement, Movements have taken all the positive elements of their prior releases and refined them, while also moving forwards and developing their sound. One of the things I was worried about was getting "Outgrown Things 2.0", which I’m sure would have done just fine amongst the die-hards, but I wanted to see that the band had more to say than what they managed within those twenty minutes. And thank God, they’ve well and truly delivered on the expectations they built with their EP!
The things that were great about that EP are still here; at the forefront of every track is Patrick Miranda, whose voice invariably takes the spotlight. So often you hear emo records fronted by someone that is okay vocally but really relies on their lyrics and intensity to mainly carry their performance. However, Miranda really is the full package, having those things in spades but more importantly a damn fine set of pipes. Purely from a sonic point of view, you can listen to 'Feel Something' as a backdrop for an impassioned, pained and absolutely riveting vocal performance from someone absolutely on top of their game. Lyrically, this is also a refinement of their previous work. They immediately make it obvious that this is no longer the same band they were at the beginning of 2016 and are pushing forwards into the future, but are self-reflexive enough to acknowledge the fact that some things will never change. Case in point, Miranda sings “I’m tearing apart at the seams/still trying to mend these holes in my jeans” over the opening riff of 'Full Circle', a reference to the way his attempts to run away from his shame “ended with nothing but holes in my jeans” on their song 'Worst Wishes'.
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As I got deeper and deeper into the record I realised that this wasn’t going to be the standard lyrical affair of metaphors and euphemisms to represent some vague melancholia that bands often throw out there aimlessly; expecting people to connect to it just because it sounds sad. Yet here, each song is sharply focused on a specific idea, situation or theme, never meandering or slipping in its intentionality. Not only this but the retrospectively one-note lyrical approach of 'Outgrown Things' has been shed for a more outward facing and reflective collection of songs. The highlight of the album for me is 'Daylily', and with the opening declaration of being “outside for the first time in a long time / lose yourself sinking to the sunlight” the cloudy haze of melancholy gives way to the euphoria of a summer’s day stung with the lethargy of late February. This song could easily have been another cheap “it will get better” moment from a no-name emo band, but they crafted something that matches the mood of the album while managing to convey the rare but precious moment of complete optimism and the desire to share with everyone. The shift from self-examination and degradation to a plea for a loved one to find their love of life again is indicative of the forward momentum of 'Feel Something', and it is this ability of Miranda as a lyricist to pull outside of himself and let himself pull apart his feelings from all different angles that makes it such a joy (figuratively speaking) to listen to.
Following 'Daylily' is 'Deadly Dull', an emotionally crushing tale of learning to deal with seeing a loved one suffer slowly at the hands of Alzheimer’s, not able to remember his own wife’s death to the same disease. It is the painfully specific details across the runtime that make this record so powerful; “They break the news a few times a week/And every time it’s followed by the same thing/He sits outside and stays quiet for a while/And forgets and goes to sleep”. 'Fever Dream' shifts back to introspection, the refrain of “goodbye” floating on and on like a train of thought over railroad tracks of brooding acoustic guitar and spacey electric guitar. They boldly chose not to let the song bloom into an over-emotional coda with drums and loud guitars, and the result is a creeping mood that bleeds over into the opening notes of 'Suffer Through', the most 'Outgrown Things' track on the album.
In terms of the compositions, Movements continue to navigate their way through their music giving breathing room to all the instruments, something I appreciate greatly. The guitar inhabits mostly the mid-high registers, letting the bass stand out and dodging the muddy low-end so common to the genre. The drumming from Spencer York is outstanding; tight and groovy, locking in with Austin Cressey’s solid bass playing. I always say that good bass playing is like a pair of eyebrows – you only notice them when they're gone – but the bass playing along with the guitar and drums deserves a listen under the sole focus of the listener. There is also a larger focus on singing, with significantly less screaming and spoken word passages. I think this actually works in the band’s favour – lines like “I said I loved you but I lied” on 'Under The Gun' hit much harder than if screaming was utilised with the same frequency as their early 'Protection' single or 'Outgrown Things', and as I’ve already said Miranda has a stunning singing voice so it’s nice to see that take more of the spotlight on this record.
Movements have delivered the goods in a huge way on their debut full-length release. Some might take issue in the overly and intentionally emotional songwriting, but as I mentioned earlier, the band's super specific lyricism elevates it well above the rest of the bargain bin. I really wanted to find something wrong with this album, but instead, I only found a scarily solid platform for a young band to build upon with future releases. 'Feel Something' is a major improvement on Movements earlier work while keeping sight of what launched them into the public eye in the first place. 'Feel Something' will definitely be in my albums of the year list, and it will surely make you feel a whole lot more than just "something".
Under The Gun
'Feel Something' is out now.