Music, Singles

Track of the Week II: Touché Amoré Fight Stagnation with Death on “Just Exist”

By Jack Evans

One more, because we missed last week!

Despite hitting all the right notes, Touché Amoré’s sophomore album, 2011’s excellent Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, could have put the band in an unfortunate conundrum. It undeniably had its successes, offering 13 short, lyrically poetic bursts of melodic post-hardcore rife with earworm guitar riffs and vocal deliveries never lacking in conviction. But even though Parting the Sea saw the LA-based quintet incorporating some slightly less conventional elements – most memorably, Jeremy Bolm’s screams over bare instruments on multiple songs – the fact that the tracks were all so short and all made with the same few tools of a potentially diverse toolkit could have made it easy for Touché Amoré to paint themselves into a corner for their forthcoming album, Is Survived By.

Fortunately for them, even though it’s still distinctively Touché Amoré, “Just Exist,” the first single from Is Survived By, at least hints at some progression. There’s the track’s length: at 2:18, it’d be short for most bands, but it’s longer than all but one of Parting the Sea’s songs (this also coming after their contribution to a split with Pianos Become the Teeth earlier this year clocked in at a whopping 4+ minutes!). There’s the production: courtesy of Brad Wood, who’s known for his work with mewithoutYou and Sunny Day Real Estate, the guitars are thicker and the rhythm section more buoyant than on the Ed Rose-produced predecessor. And then there’s the composition: like many bands in their field, Touché Amoré have flirted with post-rock before, but they’ve rarely drawn from it as heavily as they do for “Just Exist”’s recurring guitar riff. That theme is bisected by one of the band’s heaviest sections, anchored by Elliot Babin’s borderline-blast-beat drumming.

That juxtaposition reflects Bolm’s lyrics, an angst-ridden and resigned but slightly hopeful and welcomely unmorbid take on death and legacy. It’s more about overall impression, as the words themselves sometimes lack the vibrancy and thoughtfulness of Bolm’s best work (case in point: he critiques his use of a cliché, only to use the phrase “scare me half to death” in the next verse). But he manages to skirt a potentially awkward vocal phrasing in the first verse, and the song closes on a lyrical gem that makes Bolm’s point more pointedly than the rest of the song’s dull slant-rhymes: “Leaving your mark is just too much to ask. I’ll just bow my head and leave out the back.”

Touché Amoré’s third album, Is Survived By, is out September 24 via Deathwish Inc.

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