While it's difficult for any band to find their niche, a band with the unfortunate"emo" stigma attached to their sound may as well call it a day and form solo projects. With the popularity explosion in the last half decade or so that has turned what once was a respected genre of music into a throwaway term to describe whatever your little sister listens to, many bands have formed simply to try ride the wave of success before it breaks, and in doing that have saturated the scene with a lot of un-listenable, disingenuous garbage that kids inexplicably fawn over.
With that said, it's refreshing when a band comes along that actually does it right. A band content to take chances in their songwriting instead of taking the easy way out and penning a dozen three-minute jangly pop tunes. Today that band is Makeout Party, and their full-length Lengths and Limits is a pleasantly diverse collection that conjures up memories of years gone by, when emo was legitimately emotional.
The somber piano and lush string arrangements that accompany opening track "Sparks" do a nice job of building tension, helped along by Carmen Cirignano's passionate vocals. Following it is "Back To Your Ways," a track that's structured like a conventional rock song but played like anything but -- the drum fills, though sounding a little busy at times aren't overly distracting, and the positively ambient guitar tones in the verses segue nicely into a huge, sweeping chorus. The vocal harmonies in "Conditional Needs" in the final lines before the chorus are a nice touch, and when the band rocks the fuck out for the last minute or so of the song, those same harmonies sound at home juxtaposed with crashing drums and searing guitars.
For the record's title track, the band starts unplugged with Cirignano's raw vocals over an acoustic guitar that give the first half of the song a folky feel. Soon drums kick in to fill out the sound and eventually, the band plugs in their instruments and an electric freakout commences, complete with a three-part vocal harmony that's goosebump-inducing. It would almost sound like two different songs if the transition weren't so seamless.
"Cut Two Years" is made by the vocal interplay in the chorus, with the whoa-ohs serving as the real hook while Cirignano croons, "If you had time to ask yourself, was it worth it to shut me out? / Then we could both be on our way." And again, the last minute or so of the song is loud and epic, recalling a sound employed to perfection by bands such as Rainer Maria and (early) Jimmy Eat World. The unique lead guitar parts and distorted background vocals in "Are We Sinking?" are reminiscent of a more contemporary band like Look Mexico. The minimal electronic elements in "When You Find It, Let Me Know" are a nice touch, allowing the vocals to rightfully be the main focus.
"11/97" closes Lengths and Limits on a dramatic note. The song starts much in the same folky manner as the aforementioned "Lengths and Limits" before crescendoing into a dramatic ending complete with horns, strings and choral background noise before a minute of easy-listening style rain sounds bookend the song.
With Lengths and Limits, Makeout Party have made a name for themselves in the ever-shrinking world of contemporary emo. It's nice to hear a band trying to keep the movement alive, and doing a fantastic job at it.