ARTIST: LIVING WITH LIONS

TITLE: ISLAND

LABEL: REDFIELD RECORDS

RATING: 6 /10 

WORDS: SARAH SHODIPE

Five years is a long time for any band to not release music. But the Canadian four-piece Living With Lions, their difficulties stand out more than most. In the years since their last full-length release, they’ve had members leave, including their vocalist, and all manner of external strain. Nevertheless, ‘Island’, the band’s third studio album comes off as a perfect snapshot of all the band has learned since their last release. After all, in the words of Drummer Loren Legare, “Creativity never really leaves you”, and ‘Island’ goes a long way in proving that.

We get an authentic start for the album in the form of ‘All The Same (Intro)’ . Those kicking yet steady guitars serves as a heart-warming opening to the record. Right after that though, we get Second Narrow, a track that punches from the off. The up-tempo guitars and melodic riffs scream ‘classic’ pop-punk. But the song also marks the introduction of some more personal themes on the album, in the form of those infamous ‘Hometown Blues’.  The honesty that bleeds though the song, and the entire album lends a new level of authenticity for the fourpiece.

“The honesty that bleeds though the song, and the entire album lends a new level of authenticity for the fourpiece…”

This record is also our first taste of the charismatic vocals courtesy of lead vocalist’s Chase Brenneman. From the off, Brenneman’s vocals ooze self-confidence and passion for tracks like ‘On A Rope’ or Dusty Record’. It’s difficult to deliver an upbeat tone with downbeat lyrics, but Brenneman tackles it well.

Over the album’s course, it’s clear the band set out to make what’s considered a ‘classic’ pop-punk album, with over-familiar riffs and atypical themes like summer and friendship. On one hand, leaning into the genre’s tropes works to their advantage, like on the undeniably catchy ‘Tidal Wave’. On the other, the recycled chord progressions we’ve heard a hundred times over the last ten years leaves something to be desired.  The obvious talent and skill of Living With Lions is evident throughout the album. But that just leaves a desire for the band to use that talent and experience to push the envelope a little further.

“The obvious talent and skill of Living With Lions is evident throughout the album.”

There are still charming moments on the album, as the title track is the most melodically intricate and interesting offering on the tracklist. Plus, while the record tends to ebb and flow in tone, Island is a surprisingly well-structured album. For instance, ‘Interlude’ continues the stylistic flow the Intro had. The mixing of the vocals is rather immersive at times. Not to mention the drums with their steady and enthusiastic quality drive the heart of this record on songs like “Plastic Flowers” or “Another Ordinary Summer”.

Island was always going to be an important album for Living with Lions. Not only did they have to prove to themselves and everyone else that they still have something worth saying, but there’s the added challenge of not getting lost in the fray of newer bands doing the same thing. But Island is a decent effort at re-establishing themselves and proves that the numerous lineup changes and side projects helped the band in their endeavour to keep up. Only time will tell if it’s enough.

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