Itís a funny thing how different events are wired into our memories in entirely different ways. With so many of lifeís events, being reminded of how many years have passed is a bit of a surprise: could it really have been that long? Yet other situations--even those that occurred the same number of years ago--feel like an eternity away.
Nine years is hardly an eternity, but it does feel like a significant amount of time has passed since the Jealous Soundís last full-length, 2003ís Kill Them With Kindness. A long break between albums creates several problems with producing a follow-up: there is more time for expectations to build up, listeners begin to feel nostalgic about the previous album and the band often has to avoid sounding dated in a music scene that has continued to exist and change while the band's been dormant. So, how did the Jealous Sound fare?
It sounds like the band didnít miss a step, really.
The aptly named A Gentle Reminder picks up where Kill Them With Kindness left off, not straying too far from the Midwest emo/indie sound that defined the band on their debut full-length but still refining it along the way. As one might expect from a group that has aged nine years, the band has lost a portion of its aggression and anger, settling for a perhaps calmer disposition and outlook. Gone are songs like ďNaÔveĒ and ďDoes That Make SenseĒ where frontman Blair Shehanís voice seemed to hurl itself at the microphone, replaced by more of the tempered, contained tunes and vocals found on the band's 2008 EP Got Friends.
Shehanís lyrics are as deceptively simple as ever, offering colorful descriptions and wonderful imagery as he softly sings lines like "It was a beautiful morning / I got stuck in my driveway / My breath condensed on the window / I wrote a message to myself that only I would know" on the opening track ďBeautiful Morning.Ē Many of the lyrics on this album are, as one might expect, not-so-subtle nods to the bandís downtime and the decision to return to recording and touring. The positivity and optimism of these songs is conveyed not only by lyrics, but also in the sharp, sunny melodies that pervade the disc.
Though the album certainly meets expectations, a minor flaw of the disc is that it meets them a bit too well. Even though it sounds like the band hasnít missed a step, it also sounds almost too similar to previous efforts. Really, a lot of these songs sound as if they were a sort of middle ground between Kill Them With Kindness and the poppier, lighter Got Friends. Still, itís difficult to criticize the familiarity of A Gentle Reminder when itís one of the things that makes it so instantly endearing, and when so few bands can do it this well.