Signals Midwest - At This Age (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Signals Midwest

At This Age (2016)

tiny engines

Signals Midwest's fourth album feels like their most emotionally worn and tremendously weary album to date. And I mean that in a good way. That's just me trying to come up with something other than 'they've matured'. At This Age as a record title speaks for itself as the band evolves their angst and torment from those coming-of-age days into the pressures of adulthood. It attempts to answer the questions we ask when we're mid-journey in life, looking back at where we came from and then trying to anticipate what's coming down the line. From pop-punk to now, a full-blown indie-emo act (with tinges of punk), they've definitely produced one of the best albums of 2015.

From the time I heard Evan Weiss was laying hands on the production I was sold. Over the course of eight years, I could sense the shifting sound and it's no surprise to see their vibe align with the likes of label-mates such as The Hotelier and Annabel. Quite a bit of SM's recent tracks have a lot more melodic rhythm to them, tons of intertwining guitars wrapping around each other to form comforting emo melodies and yet still, whatever emerges manages to burst at the seams with big choruses. With consummate ease at that. "You're Gonna Be Golden" and "Should Have Been A Painter" open upon up on these notes. Riffy at times, three-chord simple structures at others and then careening into start-stop change of beats. They vary their tempos so well throughout. "At This Age" starts off as a slow burner and then dives into more aggressive territory as well with the twinklier side of "Alchemy Hour" paying homage to the likes of Jimmy Eat World and Small Brown Bike. Other bands such as Donor and Sorority Noise come to mind as well. There's a lot for all fans of rock and roll here, contemporary or vintage. 

In terms of ramped up pop-punk, diehards would really dig "Autumn Breaks" which mixes up their old style with the new. Bassist Loren Shumaker cuts loose here and mostly on the second half of the record along with drummer Steve Gibson. They shine as they come to the forefront more, letting Max Stern's vocals stretch past the usual. Is it just me or does he sound like Mark Hoppus doing the emo thing? Well, either way, as Stern caves in on the acoustic cameo and the more vulnerable dimensions to close proceedings, all I can say is that I appreciate every word and every ounce of energy put in. They've crafted one of the most reflective, charming pieces of indie-emo and rock music in general this year... and well, all I can say is, at this age...I guess this is growing up.