Awake & Dreaming - Awake & Dreaming (Cover Artwork)

Awake & Dreaming

Awake & Dreaming (2005)


I'm one of those people who's addicted to the high that (good) live music can cause, and being in the midst of a bunch of sweaty kids singing as loud as the person on stage is the only time I've ever felt anything like what people describe as having a spiritual experience. So when I pull myself away from the albums of the bands that I've sung along with from the middle of one of my spiritual mosh pits to listen to something new, I do so in hope of hearing something that tells of the high I would get from seeing the band live. I don't want to listen to music that was obviously produced just for the sake of record sales, but music that has that sound to it that swears that the band is living the music with the same intensity as the kids who listen to it and sing along.

The self-titled EP from Canadian band Awake & Dreaming suggests a good live show, but the record falls short in the experience that it creates for listening to the songs through headphones. The lyrical content and styles of the seven songs place them in the emo category, but this is not the emo of the verging-on-screamo vein -- or black eyeliner and hair dye; in the midst of the references to death and heartache in the lyrics, Awake & Dreaming has a pop-punk quality to its sound. Although the songs offer plenty of lines of the emo-cliché variety, the lyrics do have moments of originality, particularly in the song "Betrayal Etiquette." Rather than sticking to the typical rant against the heartbreaker, this song allows the one who did the chest-stabbing to speak. Some interesting sonic moments come in the lyrical delivery when guitarist Cam Roberts is joined in vocals by bassist Brian Brown; the overlapping of their voices creates a pain-infused harmony. When singing alone, Roberts is competent at portraying the desperation and despair of his lyrics, but I was distracted by his delivery. Rather than catering changes in his voice to the emotion conveyed by the words in a song, it's as if he made changes based on where words were at in a line, creating a sort of structure-over-substance quality. Although this aspect of his singing bothered me, Roberts' voice does work for both a raw conveyance of despair and the pop-punkness that arises out of sing-along choruses and shifts into faster tempos.

The songs travel between moments that would beg the kids in a crowd to sing from their own broken hearts and moments that should prompt some jumping, hands in the air, etc. Overall, Awake & Dreaming has room for evolution into a more self-aware sound, but is earning the right to have people listen while it's getting there; I just hope that the members of the band will do more justice to their moments of originality and not fall victim to conforming to cliché.

Despite, or perhaps a bit because of, the flaws in this release, I found myself to be kind of charmed by Awake & Dreaming. The songs aren't perfect, but fine -- at least that lets me know these guys are putting out a record that is an honest reflection of a young band instead of coming across as the product of a made-to-order band for the wet dreams of pop radio. Yeah, when I listen to Awake & Dreaming I know that I've heard better and more polished songs, but I keep listening, because they offer just enough of an indication that Awake & Dreaming puts on a live show worth seeing; I'm already singing along to some of the songs. At a show, these are songs that the band and the other kids who keep listening can sing together, with neither sounding perfect. But perfection isn't necessary for my spiritual mosh pit -- the sweat is, on stage and in the crowd.