It's a treat to hear a band genuinely progress with each release, and after a couple of solid EPs Scream Hello appear to have hit their stride with the debut full-length, Everything Is Always Still Happening, a record full of emotive moments on opposite ends of the spectrum, intricate texturing and a certain relatable quality that's lost on many other 'emotional rock' records.
The soaring guitar work of opening track "35 Plums," from the huge introductory riff to the solo in the bridge really gets things off to a rousing start, and the vocal performance of James Caverly just seeps emotion and earnestness, but not in a way that's whiny or grating. The band utilizes the quieter/louder dynamic to near-perfection on "Gilmore Girls" ode "You Have Good Taste" -- the group vocals in the first line of the chorus are a nice touch, and the guitar work here is as equally stellar as that of the aforementioned opening track.
The 52-second "Business Ethics" has an almost melodic hardcore vibe to it that somewhat harkens back to the band's 2006 EP, The Infinite Son. Yes, it's brief, but they do it well. That song serves as the unofficial intro to "The Kicker," a sweeping six-minute opus that begins with rolling drums and subdued guitars before ascending into a huge, riff-heavy rock anthem complete with group 'la la's and a slow, droning bridge where Caverly makes known the unique lyrical perspective of the song: "But here's the kicker: I don't know anyone to sing this song to / Can't think of anyone to have written this for / So listeners, I give this song to you / Until I find someone I adore."
Scream Hello get downright visceral on "Bullets", the growled vocals and heavy, driving guitars coming as a surprise, but not an unwelcome one. More group vocals are employed in the infectious chorus of "Golden Anniversary" and the group chant of "'It's the beginning of the end" that closes the song shouldn't be as catchy as it is, considering the possibly negative connotations of a line like that -- in my mind, I picture a basement full of sweaty people with cathartic smiles on their faces, screaming that line like it's the last thing they'll ever do. "Cocoon" has a nice buildup that really pays off when the guitars begin to duel -- and as is the case in any duel of axes, we the listeners are the real winners.
The nearly eight-minute, seven-course meal of an epic "We Don't Exist" is, well, existential, with rapid-fire spoken word verses heavy on vague philosophical wordplay, juxtaposed with other verses reliant on intensity and more growling vocals. Musically, it's the most downbeat track here, with a ton of low-end, blues chord progressions. It's not a bad song per se, it just seems a tad out of place here.
Everything Is Always Still Happening ends almost jaw-droppingly well, as Scream Hello really save their best for last. "Vinegar & Baking Soda," reworked and shortened here from the version found on the band's Smart & Stupid EP, is just as effective here abridged as it was at closing that EP, the monstrous guitar riffs and soaring vocal performance by Caverly really shining with the improved production. The record comes to a close with the year-end mixtape worthy "20/21," a song with intricate guitar playing and an upbeat message Caverly communicates perfectly through his rangy singing: "We all want an adventure with meaning / So go and get it, if you want it. / It's there."
Everything Is Always Still Happening is not just a serious contender for debut of the year, but for record of the year outright. In a perfect world, this release would put Scream Hello on the map as a genuine force to be reckoned with in the scene. Poorly written conclusions aside, this record is really great and worth your time.