Getting this in the mail was a strange experience. It took me back to my first Razorcake summer, to seeing these guys live in L.A., buying an EP, and submitting it in my first batch of reviews. I spent a week listening to all my AJJ material before opening this. In other words, I was able to put it into a sort of context as a definite fan. They slow down the tempo here and, while on some songs like “Reign on Me,” it takes them to a perfect place; on others they just get stuck somewhere in the middle. There’s a strange grey area in between folk music and straightforward rock songs where a few of these tracks reside. It’s also kind of long. The track “Sad Song (Intermission),” sounds so much like Bright Eyes it just blows my mind, though I must note I’m only referring to the actual recorded versions. Live, it’s a whole different experience, as AJJ mostly tour as a duo and take the songs back to their bare bones, for better or worse. To be quite honest, I didn’t really dig the production on this. It’s one thing to have a well-produced album with a full rock band instead of the usual acoustics (Can’t Maintain) and quite another to have one with songs that seem to reach for REM greatness via over-instrumentation and constant sound clips (this one). There are gems here, but there is also coal, which has never been the case with this band, as far as I’m concerned, so I am a bit bummed.
–Rene Navarro (Asian Man)