Open Letters – ’10-23′ Review

Posted: by Riley

10-23 is an album comprised of imperfect performances; there are flat notes, sloppy yelps and clumsy chords. That being said, it is one of the best pop-punk records I’ve heard in the past couple of years. Pop-punk – and emotive rock of its nature – thrives on imperfection. These mishaps are bridges of communication and solidarity between bands and their listeners, but also function as purveyors of the overwhelming emotional ground covered and the group’s authentic despair – like an overflowing cup. Open Letters – a pop-punk flavored trio from Vancouver – find solace in the genre’s tropes; on 10-23, spirited fits of disdain and frustration breed borderline irrational claims. The band’s debut LP basks in emotional recklessness, but never completely derails, despite several close encounters.

I call Open Letters a pop-punk band because it’s pretty accurate when separated from the connotations of modern “pop-punk” – the same way I can call Joyce Manor or Japandroids pop-punk bands, but know that they draw influence from pretty much everything but the slew of Warped Tour loyals we’ve christened as “pop-punk.” 10-23 is a melting pot; the band’s emotionally-driven clean vocals are as much indebted to early 2000’s post-hardcore as they are to Stephen Malkmus and Jeff Mangum. These vocals are supplemented by (at times underwhelming) throaty shouts akin to Fucked Up or TWIABP’s early releases. These signifiers are swirled together and tied to snappy punk songs, paced with patient pseudo-ballads that function as more than just sonic breaks from the usual frenzy. The Vancouver trio know how to write more than just one type of song; in fact, despite pop-punk’s emblematic monotony, they’ve crafted a terrifically diverse project here.

As far as band names go, Open Letters did a hell of a job. The group’s songs are much like candid diary entries penned by seriously tortured individuals – individuals that are prone to temper tantrums and hyperbole. In order for music of this nature to inspire, there is a desired level of authenticity required to validate these frenetic lyrical punches.  10-23 is packed with brash energy that does not feel at all removed from the incident which provoked it; emotion isn’t a tool that the band utilizes to craft their material, it is the fuel and the fire for it entirely.  Thematically, anguish and self-destruction run rampant throughout the LP – the latter is so prevalent that it burrows its way into other aspects of the release. The band attempts to dilute the seriousness of their own work with goofy, self-deprecating song titles. Luckily, their attempts are unsuccessful – in a way, they actually legitimize the extent of the emotional trouble ingrained in 10-23.  Even facing their own adversity, the band spawns a tremendous album full of genre-bending heartache. Open Letters’ songs are problem-solving – they aren’t writing these songs because they want to, they’re writing them because they have to.

Score: 8.8/10

Pick up the album here:

All bandcamp pay-what-you-want proceeds go to the Wish Drop In Centre Society (

FFO: Cursive, Microwave, Joyce Manor, early Saosin

Essential Tracks: ‘Walk Towards The Light (Rock),’ ‘Drugs Will Tear Us Apart,’ ‘Pity Party (No Moms Allowed)’