On October 19th 2012 something magical happened on Twitter. No, people didn’t start spelling things correctly and employing proper grammar and punctuation, but the event was magical nonetheless.
Californian post-hardcore five-piece Finch, who have twice gone on hiatus in the past six years, posted an update letting the world know that they would be reuniting for the ten-year anniversary of their debut album What It Is To Burn, and that they’ll be playing the album in its entirety on February 1st, 2013 at The Glasshouse in Pomona, CA with their original line-up, as well as a London date in March. The band’s Facebook and Wikipedia pages have since backed the claim up, so basically, fuck yeah dude, it’s for real.
This is tremendous news, as I am a huge fan of the band, and hopefully this will lead to a new release. However, given that I consider What It Is To Burn to be only their second greatest outing, I’ll be showing my excitement through a fond retrospective of their follow-up Say Hello To Sunshine (the last album they released before their break-up); An album that, in my opinion has had few rivals to date: Say Hello To Sunshine.
Released in 2005, Say Hello To Sunshine was the band’s second and final album. A huge part of why it is so great is the pacing; straight out of the gate it’s clear that each song has been meticulously crafted and polished, with acute awareness of its position relative to those surrounding it. It’s decorated throughout with subtle, interesting effects and ambience that give a sort of prismatic depth when combined with the clear, sharp writing and deftly performed composition.
While complex and varied, it maintains a strong and consistent mood as it unfolds over the course of its fourteen songs. At no point does it feel lazy, underwritten, or in the least bit ambivalent, which is a strong selling point considering even the best of albums usually drag for at least a song or two, making Say Hello To Sunshine’s overall congruence of tone and quality that much more impressive.
Lyrically, the album is contemplative, dark, and undoubtedly somewhat brooding, although not to a degree that lends itself to mockery or derision. Each song tells a strange, vivid tale through an intense personal perspective, weaving bleak, poetic musings with cryptic introspective revelations to paint an unsettling portrait of a frenzied, yet eerily visceral individual.
An important note is that prior to releasing Say Hello To Sunshine, Finch’s lyrics were decidedly more emotionally vulnerable, and would’ve been forgivably classified as ‘emo’ by some, making the inclusion of raw, unrestrained ire on this album somewhat jarring, but also rather refreshing – as well as a notable stepping stone for the band in a similarly gloomy yet significantly more mature direction.
Vocally, this album is an absolute masterpiece. Whether you subscribe to this particular style of singing or not, it’s impossible to hear Nate Barcalow’s confident, accomplished voice and not recognize it as one of the most prominent, unique talents of our time. Each melody has been perfected and refined to a relentless degree, and every layer and harmony is chosen tastefully and executed with staggering aplomb. The attack and delivery of both the harsh and clean vocals perfectly mirrors the frantic, dishevelled tone of the album, and adds an invaluable pillar of infectious, addictive hooks and style to the experience.
The guitar work is equally impressive, delving much deeper into progressive, exploratory directions than previous efforts and taking more risks, with a much bigger pay-off. The leads are clear and incredibly unique, shifting with the musical tides from low, sludgy static to hushed, gentle, almost playful motions. The rhythm progresses with fluidic grace in and out of violent jolts and powerful muted bracing, keeping in line with the mood of each respective song. It crashes like an abominable monster through genres, touching on punk, hardcore, metal, prog, indie, and stoner rock, to name a few, all while maintaining a signature sound that acknowledges its influences while fearlessly carving its own mark.
As far as the drums are concerned, they comprise a great deal of Say Hello To Sunshine‘s attitude and aforementioned pace. The fills stay clear of cliché and add a certain clever aside, slipping nearly unnoticed beneath the changes and transitions. The timings they chose for this album are innovative and ridiculously catchy, giving the songs an unbreakable foundation upon which to build and expand, which they do marvellously.
The mixing and production here are nothing short of fucking beautiful. Everything is exactly where it should be, prominent in its regard, but blended and controlled alongside everything else. It should be the go-to standard for how to produce a record. The man behind this shining example of clarity and equalization should be given a Mercedes, several thousand handshakes, and a bacon cheeseburger. It’s incredibly rare to hear something so well rounded, seamlessly levelled, and just generally audible, and it plays a grand role in why Say Hello To Sunshine is an album I hold in such high regards.
Normally, this is where I’d pick out some highlights and list the noteworthy songs that I’d recommend. If you’re curious to see if this is the kind of music you’d be into, check out ‘A Man Alone’ and ‘The Casket Of Roderick Usher’ to get a taste of the aggressive side of the band, and ‘Ink’ or ‘Fireflies’ for their more subdued, somber aspects, but honestly, just listen to all of them. Front to back. Just throw it on and let it play; I guarantee it won’t disappoint you. Give this band fifty minutes and seventeen seconds of your time and watch what they can do with it. From the time of its release to the time of this writing it has not left my personal playlist and will most likely always be my all-time favourite collection of music to blast at unreasonable volume and scream along to at the top of my lungs, and really, what more can you ask for from an album?
Say Hello To Sunshine is a landmark album that showcased a band that were far ahead of their time, which made their subsequent break-up all the more painful. We can only hope their reunion will become fruitful enough to yield material even half as good as their previous output.