Fantasy indie rockers, The Afraid Brigade, have released their latest EP If I Ever See the Stars Again back in June of this year, and it has become one of my favorite indie records of 2017. The 4-piece band from Woodbridge, New Jersey have crafted a diverse record filled with excellent songwriting, infectious choruses and melodies, and a theatrical story that takes the listener on a wonderful journey throughout its 6 songs, but is sadly over far too soon.
Consisting of lead singer Joe Ruff, guitarist Tyler Boland, bassist Ben Lander, and drummer Zach Lander, The Afraid Brigade is a group of very talented musicians who understand their inspirations well. Personally, I got a sort of Manchester Orchestra meets Modest Mouse sort of vibe from the band, but they cite mewithoutYou, Band of Horses, and Iron & Wine as main influences. It’s refined indie pop-rock filled to the brim with over the top emotion and attitude and everything about it just feels so right.
If I Ever See the Stars Again contains 6 very unique tracks that all come together to tell a cohesive tale of a weary space traveler experiencing some difficult situations. From the seamless transitions between songs that sound nothing alike to the deliberate choice of instrumentation to convey setting and atmosphere, everything about this record feels polished and well thought out making for an unexpected, but truly awesome journey. It also helps that these songs are really, really good. Nothing ever overstays its welcome on this record, in fact a lot of songs could have stayed a little longer (I’m looking at you, beautiful intro track).
Clocking in at roughly 16 minutes, this space voyage is over before you realize it, and leaves the listener wanting more. Check out the tracklist below!
The album kicks off with literally an intro track, but it honestly is one of my favorite songs off the record. It’s only about a minute long, but the sense of space and loneliness it conveys is some of the most impactful material on the album. “Stars Intro” is really only comprised of 4 things: a bit of sound effects, a droning synth, a piano for subtle melodic effect, and Ruff’s vocal out in the forefront all by itself. The vocal on this track is the most vulnerable vocal throughout the entire record and it instantly hooks the listener in, which is perfect because this track smoothly leads into the second song “The World Don’t Want You.”
This sort of anthemic emo song kicks off with a solid guitar hook and incredibly well-done harmonies to perfectly offset the depressed, solitary mood of the intro track. The stars of this song (no pun intended) are undoubtedly Boland’s unbelievably sick guitar work, which kind of feel just like a solo jam for almost 3 minutes, and Ruff’s vocals which come off as desperate in the best way possible.
The next track, “Nothing Good” can be seen as the pop-punk song off the record. Chugging rhythm guitars, mixed with driving beats are met with a lead guitar track that cuts through it all to give it a sense of attitude. A bridge that calms everything down only to come back up to a climax in the song is about as pop-punk as it gets. Once again however, Ruff shows just how versatile his vocal can be as he attacks these quick, syncopated lines with precision and tenacity. This is a hard-hitting track that somehow hits all the right notes despite its short run time.
“I’m in Hell”, the next song off the album, is arguably the most different sounding song on the entire record. It’s a very early Beatles-esque vibe mixed with a sort of classic 50’s love song. This track comes fully equipped with a frilly piano that drives the whole thing, a whistle part to connect different parts, a horn section to serve as a call and response, and of course a key change. It’s all pretty intoxicating to be honest, and I couldn’t help but fall for the undeniable charm that came with everything. Through all of that throwback goodness though, my favorite part of the recording is actually the gang vocals. They purvey a real sense of camaraderie that make me feel like this band is having a lot of fun with what they are doing. It’s a subtle thing, but one I don’t hear a lot of anymore.
“Dead Wrong” is about as Modest Mouse as it gets for me. It’s a pop-oriented song that’s led by an off-kilter guitar and intentionally pitchy vocals to convey as much emotion as possible. Somehow The Afraid Brigade make it all work so well without ever sounding like some cheesy knock-off which is truly a testament to just how malleable this band truly is.
Finally, If I Ever See the Stars Again reaches its finale with “Let’s Die Alone Together.” It’s a beautiful rock ballad with extremely big choruses and Queen inspired guitar solos that ebb and flow until it all just eventually fades away. It’s as fitting an end to a record as any I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to give anything away, but I highly recommend putting this album on ‘repeat’.
The Afraid Brigade deserve every ounce of praise, respect, and support they get for If I Ever See the Stars Again.
This record feels so thought out, and so professional, as if it came from a much more established band that’s been around for at least a decade. It’s such a fantastic EP that I really think everyone should listen to, and since it’s such a quick listen there’s really no excuse not to. Although I wish there were more to it, I really can’t find a single thing wrong with this record, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this band.
The Afraid Brigade: Facebook // Bandcamp // Official Site // YouTube