Good Old War - Only Way to Be Alone (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Good Old War

Only Way to Be Alone (2008)

Sargent House

Good Old War boast two former members of dreamy, progressive emo-pop act Days Away, an arguably underrated act who improved with every following release. Though Days Away officially parted ways earlier this year, Only Way to Be Alone continues this quality-based upward climb.

Good Old War go a decidedly more folk-based route than Days Away, a direction likely familiar to anyone who's followed Matt Pryor's career. But because a lush, laid-back nature was an institution in Days Away's sound for so long, their moods and textures definitely persist throughout Only Way to Be Alone. The lyrics take that same direction as well, with plenty of plain-worded narratives about mere observation of the world or heartfelt admissions regarding love or relationships.

Though the band's arrangements are arguably overshadowed a bit by Anthony Green's stunning voice on his recent effort, Avalon (GOW backs him up on the disc), here they're able to shine on their own merits. Layers of pristine acoustics create a sparkling interplay, laying the groundwork for the vocals of Keith Goodwin and Tim Arnold to plead earnestly over it without overbearing, a character exemplified best on tracks like "Coney Island," "Looking for Shelter" and "Tell Me."

Elsewhere, the band offer more porch-based shuffles, but with a minimal twang to it all. On "Weak Man," they amble along on a relaxed pace, with Green actually coming in for a wonderful guest spot. "We've Come a Long Way" can be shockingly shimmering, with Goodwin's voice set to the background a little more for effect. "Window" thumps along dependent on lots of able harmonizing.

One admirable thing about the liner notes is that the band include the actual sheet music with the notes and lyrics so you can follow along properly. A neat thing for listeners and some evidence that these are proud and passionate musicians.

From the clean recording to the earthy packaging, Only Way to Be Alone is a solid, presentable debut for the Philadelphia trio, steeped in both tradition and modern styles and successful all the same.

Coney Island
Just Another Day
Looking for Shelter
Weak Man

We've Come a Long Way
That's What's Wrong
Tell Me

Stay by My Side