Courtesy Drop - Songs to Drive To; Cry, and Make Love To (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Courtesy Drop

Songs to Drive To; Cry, and Make Love To (2013)

Animal Style

Courtesy Drop are posited in press materials as taking influence from a fairly wide array of artists–Cursive, Envy, Mineral and Björk–that would lead you to believe they're some sort of genre-defying, musically transcendent act in the wildest of ways. As tends to be the case with these things, Courtesy Drop are not really that sort of act. In fact, they just sound a lot like Small Brown Bike (although, admittedly, "Science Is a Liar Sometimes" clearly tips its hat to Cursive, particularly the era that they released that split with SBB, and "Mineral Extracts" is self-explanatory). That being said, they are really fucking good at it. Like, in spite of titling their album as if it came from some poorly written, grossly misinformed Saturday Night Live skit from 2002 on "emo music," Songs to Drive To; Cry, and Make Love To is arguably as strong as anything that came from that aforementioned band's catalog, even as it noticeably borrows some of its foundational elements.

Songs to Drive To; Cry, and Make Love To is steered by plaintive vocals delivering deathly serious, ideally therapeutic musings, and a deceptively dynamic musical backdrop to carry it all. That means there's lots of self-loathing, of course, whether it be personal crises of complacency ("Dormant Dreams") or imbalanced relationships ("Stranger Than Fiction"). Their sad-bastard emoting might be predictably pitying, but somehow, it's warm and immersive, especially due to how well the band craft an ebb and flow with alternately rugged and twinkling guitars, showing restraint when necessary and subtly turning up the aggression when it's called for (the impressive crescendo that shuts the whole thing down on closer "Superbook"). No matter the act of self-loathing or broader observation, Courtesy Drop's discomfort is comforting.

At a runtime of nearly 46 minutes, there has to be some sort of variety here to maintain interest, and Courtesy Drop heed that need. "Appleseeds from Ash Night" closes with an organ-emphasized waltz emitting a dim light of queasy optimism, while the acoustic "Truck Jamz Vol 1" finishes the third quarter with a slow crescendo that moves from just above a murmur to a howled hook. The comparatively balladic "Fork in the Road" is a beautiful co-ed-sung chapter. The aforementioned "Science Is a Liar Sometimes" initiates with an almost post-metal-esque rumble, while "Stranger Than Fiction" feels like the band's most standard, stripped-down version of a rough-and-tumble melodic punk song–but even its last moments reel off some playful, lighthearted guitar work.

The risks on Songs to Drive To; Cry, and Make Love To are small, but they all pay off. When Courtesy Drop play it "safe," it's perfectly okay, as they've nailed down the style's hallmarks quite well, creating an experience ideal for anyone who finds themselves getting older but only grumpier and more angsty.