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Album Review: Touche Amore - 'Is Survived By'

7 October 2013 | 6:45 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

The flagbearers of modern emotive hardcore deliver their finest work to date.

Touché Amoré have always been a band that have done things their own way. Since 2007, the Californian outfit have crafted dynamic, emotive post-hardcore that felt decidedly impassioned while avoiding sliding to the melodramatic side. A refreshing kick in the teeth of modern hardcore, the band's presence was felt across punk circles globally, influencing a crop of new acts despite what feels like such a relatively short period of time. With new album 'Is Survived By', the band delivers their most fully realised album thus far, refined and visceral in equal measures.

Frontman Jeremy Bolm is typically sincere on album three. More honest, and unquestionably more introspective than ever before, there's a dichotomy to be found in Bolm's proud, assured confidence placed side by side with a sense of fragile vulnerability. "I was once asked how I'd like to remembered,” opens Bolm on first track 'Just Exist'. “I simply smiled and said, "I'd rather stay forever." As the title suggests, 'Is Survived By' is an exploration of life and death, as Bolm reflects on his past while coming to terms with letting it go; understanding the person he's becoming and questioning the sort of legacy he'll leave in his wake. “Sweat poured down and it blinded me / myself exposed for everyone to see” sings Bolm on “Praise/Love”, a nod to the confessional songwriting that has earmarked the band since their inception.

Musically, this is the Los Angeles quintet's most ambitious and sonically diverse work to date. Less savage and urgent than debut '...To the Beat of a Dead Horse', more expansive than 'Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me', the album goes well beyond cliches of the genre. The band construct vivid backgrounds that work in tandem with the lyrics to create fully fleshed out environments and moods that evolve from the “short outbursts of aggression” model that can plague this style of music. There's inventive dynamics on tracks like 'DNA' and 'Kerosene'. There's noodly, technical guitar lines on 'To Write Content'. There's the post-rock atmospherics of 'Non-Fiction'. The melodic edge is punctuated by a tight, creative rhythm section – drummer Elliot Babin provides a flawless performance behind the kit.

The album leads out with a title track that closes the album expertly, encapsulating Touché Amoré's entire ethos with grace. Bolm answers the question of lasting memory asked in the album's opener - “This is survived by who held me up. / This is survived by who sang the song. / And that sense of purpose has made it all worth it.” Bittersweet guitars ring out as Bolm encourages with earnestness - "Write a song that everyone can sing along to / So when you’re gone you can live on, they won’t forget you.

'Is Survived By' is a stunning, mature record that demands personal reflection. Heart-on-sleeve, Bolm's search for clarity in his understanding of himself is both deeply personal and incredibly relatable. That these themes are explored alongside the bold, inventive musicianship and songwriting ingenuity featured on 'Is Survived By' turns the record into an instant classic.

1. Just Exist

2. To Write Content

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3. Praise / Love

4. Anyone / Anything

5. DNA

6. Harbor

7. Kerosene

8. Blue Angel

9. Social Caterpillar

10. Non Fiction

11. Steps

12. Is Survived By