Album Review: Real Friends – ‘Composure’

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When I got the chance to check out the new Real Friends LP, Composure, I was surprised by how much I really got into it. My experience with Real Friends was pretty minimal. I had always connected their rise to stereotypical pop punk, so I didn’t jam them too much. But since I received the new record, I think I’ve listened to this album at least once a day.

Why the change in perspective? The band has developed quite a bit since their previous release, The Home Inside My Head, and it shows in vocalist Dan Lambton’s more dynamic delivery. The opener track, “Me First,” is definitely my favorite of the record, as Lambton’s gritty harmonies layer in very well with the melody. It’s a good first step into the group’s new style, which I think has matured in the three years between projects from a niche pop punk, to a more subtle pop rock.

Despite the shift, they still have the catchy, more pop than punk/rock songs that they’re known for, like the two singles, “From The Outside,” and “Smiling On The Surface.” The lyrical content covers self-help and growth in a very healthy way, which isn’t beating you over the head with the blatant message, but is nuanced into the album’s hooks.

While I applaud Lambton for the maturation in vocals and lyricism (see ‘sleepy eyes’ for example), the instrumentation on the album becomes a bit forgettable as the it draws toward the end. There are a few gems, like the nice, crunchy riff that leads into “Get By,” but the complete work lacks in an instrumental diversity that I think was overlooked in favor of the melodies. The choruses are head-turning and layered well, but the music doesn’t push the boundaries that have landlocked pop punk and pop rock bands into such a niche genre.

The band doesn’t rely on contrite leads, or lean on triplets to convey that “this is the aggressive song,” which is a ray of sunshine in the great pool of generic pop rock, given the amount of bands that play it. However, I’d love to see the group focus on really testing the limits of their efforts in instrumentation for the next release, while Lambton continues to grow on the progress he’s made in vocals with this record.

My praise on this album lies with the way that it surprised me. I came into it skeptical, but I was already warming up to the theme by the end of the first song. I think the group is developing their own sound and that this album is approaching the peak of their new and improved musical style. They’re not there just yet, but this record is pretty close and well worth the listen.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

You can purchase Composure from Fearless Records, and catch them on the final cross country Warped Tour.

Luciano Ferrara // @LucianoRFerrara

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