Album Review: Retirement Party – “Somewhat Literate”

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Let’s get straight to the point, we all know reviews are always about how many adjectives a writer can pack into one piece to entice readers. However, I don’t need to spout a thesaurus in order to get you to listen to Something Literate, if you’ve listened to any of the singles you already know it’s (as the teens would say) a “straight up banger”. Sorry if this is too casual, but it feels impossible to put into words how impressive this debut record is.

For those who are just tuning in, Retirement Party is a three piece power-pop-punk trio from Chicago. Usually I try to refrain from using the term “pop punk” to describe bands who aren’t a group of dudes screaming about their ex-girlfriends, but this band is full of fun, pop riffs with an underlying punk beat. This is their first full length album, and it shows a crisper, more polished side in relation to their debut EP Strictly Speaking. Released through Counter Intuitive Records, and set to tour this summer, they are about to make a huge splash in the scene.

Right out of the gate, the tone is set with lead single, “That’s How People Die”. As with the rest of the album, it is an extremely personal narrative that discusses feelings of anxiety and uncertainness. An ode to mental health, matched with shrieking guitars and filled with passionate, bubbly riffs.

The first line vocalist, Avery Springer juts out, “I think cancer’s gonna kill me/Cause I got a real bad sunburn when I was 13” a lamenting start to the record that is evidence of the utterly direct nature of the album. The track also introduces various narratives that are recalled throughout the rest of the LP. Springer exclaims, “maybe I should just be a little more kind” a verse that reappears on various other tracks. Cementing the distressed but hopeful nature of their chronicles, Springer eloquently describes what it feels like to be in a constant battle with mental health.

Growing up and coming to terms with fitting in is a difficult life transition that Springer is able to personalize throughout the album. Very self-aware, the first four tracks are all singles that had exceedingly high reviews from critics and fans alike. Tracks like, “Shoulder It” and “Scene 48” create a strong A-side to say the least. It’s about a journey of questioning everything and struggling to be taken seriously.

Guitarist, Nick Cartwright, builds up a reverberate wall of sound that makes listeners feel like they are on a rollercoaster ride of emotion, soundtracked by mathy riffs. With a strong backbeat and heavy drums, the first half of the album, especially seen in “Passion Fruit Tea”, sounds like the music you might expect a fun house venue to play in between sets if the owners listened to Green Day and Swearin’ in high school.

While at times, the album can feel a bit self-deprecating, Springer always reflects a somewhat hopeful demeanor. “Are You My Mother?” is a great example of this. Many who struggle with mental health are familiar with the classic, “depression meal”. The hits-too-close-to-home introduction of the song, “cheez-itz stuck in my teeth and I haven’t seen the light of day in like 24 hours” paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to be wrapped within yourself. A portrait of being young, broke, and trying your best. Once again, Springer sings, “maybe I should just be a little more kind”. Echoing a theme of prosperity in the world, even when one feels hopeless.

As the album progresses, it slows down subtly. Cartwright creates a more melancholy tone that reflects the nature of Springer’s revelations. This is seen particularly in tracks, “Jericho” and “Grand Am”. Once again, Springer is able to paint vivid details for listeners to consume. With pronounced vocals, fans are welcomed to engage with the work and tackle their own inner struggles alongside the band.

Closing the album, “Seams” ties everything up and calls back to the opening track. Springer struggles to find a sense of inner balance and peace throughout the work. Grappling with anxiety and learning to come to terms with getting older and finding a place in the world, the album is more than just another coming-of-age novelty. Going full circle, listeners are left with closing line, “At the end of the day maybe it’s cancer that’s gonna kill me.

Now more than ever, discussing mental health and unpacking what it feels like to be struggling is extremely important. Retirement Party was able to create an album that didn’t glamorize anxiety or depression, but instead opened up the conversation to allow others to feel understood. The album is out now via Counter Intuitive Records. Make sure to catch them on tour this summer.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great Phenomenal

Emily Kitchin | @deathnap4cutie

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