On Shuffle: Blue of Colors’s “Your Face”
Posted: by The Editor
Graphic by Madison Van Houten
On Shuffle is a weekly column dictated by a combination of computerized chance and personal history. Every week, I’ll put my iTunes library—which I’ve been cultivating in some form since at least 2007—on shuffle and I’ll write about whatever song comes up first. All of these are songs that I’ve added to my library over the last 15 years, so all of them have a reason for being there. I may or may not remember what that was. To read more about why I’m doing this, check out this intro post.
This week on shuffle: “Your Face” by Blue of Colors
Now this is what I’m talking about! This week, shuffle came through with a 2012 side project to a band that was very important to me in the late aughts. A song I haven’t thought about in years that I’m very glad to hear again now. It’s like going home and bumping into somebody you used to know in high school but with whom you’re amazingly glad to catch up. That’s how “Your Face” by Blue of Colors resonates with me on this first listen.
Compared to last week’s track, “Your Face” might be a little more niche. Blue of Colors is the solo project of Steve Soboslai, whose main gig for many years has been as the (usual) lead singer of the rock band Punchline. Punchline, for the uninitiated, started in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania (about an hour outside of Pittsburgh) as a scrappy punk band comprised of high schoolers Chris Fafalios, PJ Caruso, and Soboslai. They’d tighten up their sound and make a couple of really great pop-punk records for Fueled By Ramen before going independent, simultaneously shifting through a few distinct eras of guitar/vocalists—Paul Menotiades, Greg Wood, John Belan, Paul Menotiades again—before finally settling on a lineup of Soboslai, Fafalios, Trevor Leonard, and Cory Muro for the last 6ish years.
All of this member stuff might seem a little inside baseball for a lot of people reading this, but I wanted to give a little rundown of that whole situation because Punchline was almost certainly the first band I knew any history or extraneous information about. Punchline was the first band I looked into beyond a passing glance, probably the first band I really, really loved in the way that I would come to kind of live for.
So because of this…I know a lot of extra details about this band’s career, especially from like 2006 to around 2010. I know by heart the score that AbsolutePunk gave their 2008 record Just Say Yes (87%, a review by Chris Fallon I believe). I know they had a very bizarre feud with the crunkcore band Brokencyde in the early 2010s. I know that in 2008 they won a contest through Heavy.com (which was, as far as I can tell, some kind of youtube/media company and is now a news aggregator) for their collection of band videos. I’ve seen all of those videos (I think most of them were tour diary-type things, I remember watching all of them on my parents’ computer one day while I was home sick from school). I’m sure I have a bunch of b-sides and demos in my library that might show up in this column some day. I was really all in.
The point is that Punchline was the first time I realized that loving a band could be an archival project if you wanted to do the digging, that there was more to do with a band than just listen to the songs 200 times each (which I probably also did) and say that you liked them or didn’t like them. And here we are now.
I have a ton to say about Punchline, but this week we’re specifically talking about Blue of Colors, which Soboslai worked on most significantly in the long gap between Punchline’s 2010 record Delightfully Pleased and their 2015 indie-pop comeback Thrilled. Punknews reported the project’s debut in June 2011 with the release of a few singles, and that’s the way I remember the band existing for the first few years—Soboslai poking his head out to release a song or two every once in a while up until the debut full-length Small Little Pieces came out in 2013.
The version of “Your Face” that shuffle gave me this week is actually from an album I have labeled 2012 that is marked as coming out in 2011 and just has a promo photo of Soboslai as the cover art. I am not sure if this was the format that they were released in (an EP by that name does not appear on Bandcamp or anything like that) or if I was just compiling one-off singles into one album as they came out. Regardless, the track seems identical to the version that later appeared on Small Little Pieces.
Not sure where this album came from tbh but here it is
“Your Face” is a really lovely tune, built on a (slightly cheesy) ‘80s-nostalgic synth line that, when mixed together with the blindsided breakup subject matter and the groovy indie rock tendencies of the early 2010s, sounds like it might fit in perfectly fine alongside the very particularly stylized soundtrack of something like…say (500) Days of Summer. I feel like this comparison might not be taken the way I want it to be, so let me be clear—that means I think it’s really good, if not wholly of its time.
Truth be told, I am not sure if “Your Face” really sounds all that much like a “Sweet Disposition” or whatever else, but I do think that Small Little Pieces came out around the time this style of music was starting to be of interest to me (in the first year or two of college, of course). Your Belle & Sebastians and your Simon & Garfunkels and your She & Hims. All your & bands. At the time, this kind of music would have read as “mature” to me (leave me alone), and Soboslai’s turn toward more muted indie rock (particularly after the sugary, free-wheeling pop punk of Delightfully Pleased) fit in nicely with this progression.
According to the 8/10 AbsolutePunk user review of Small Little Pieces that I have salvaged on my hard drive (not for public consumption sorry), I did quite like this record when it came out—but “Your Face” is not a song that I had a lot to say about back then, nor is it one that I’ve returned to much in subsequent years. For me, the apex of Soboslai’s work with this band comes in the form of “Coordinates,” a luminescent and frankly gorgeous piece of work that Soboslai recorded with the Magik*Magik Orchestra.
In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Soboslai talked about how Blue of Colors was his way of coping with losing a job, getting kicked out of an apartment, and being broken up with all at the same time. Despite my (maybe involuntary) (500) Days of Summer association with the album, Small Little Pieces never read to me as overly heartache-y, and I think “Your Face” really solidifies this sentiment—while clearly about a breakup, “Your Face” sounds more bewildered than scorned, Soboslai’s voice steady instead of wounded.
One of my favorite things about Soboslai as a songwriter is the way he builds these very catchy lines with these kind of run-on sentences, punctuating them at strange intervals to twist the thought into an unexpected direction. He uses that trick very well on the opening and closing verses, that delivery of “I never thought this could be any bit different than the last mystery…” being the most distinct part of the song.
While Soboslai has played shows as Blue of Colors over the years, he has yet to release a proper follow-up to Small Little Pieces. A lot of the Big Indie styles that he played with on “Your Face” and other Blue of Colors songs eventually got folded into Punchline’s Thrilled, his more subtle, chilled out songwriting soaked in lucious synth-pop for “Tell Me How You Sleep” or stripped back to bare bones on the piano ballad “Green Hills.”
Blue of Colors did return in February with a remix of another Small Little Pieces track “They Always Come Back” along with a promise of more to come, but nothing has materialized quite yet. But revisiting Small Little Pieces and “Your Face” has reminded me how good it can feel to reconnect with a good song after so much time apart. So if Blue of Colors does come back this year, I’m sure I’ll be stoked to hear it.
A note from the writer:
I started this week’s column on Thursday last week and I finished drafting it yesterday afternoon. As it turns out, Blue of Colors was absolutely planning to release new music this year…today in fact. This morning. For the first time in…at least five or six years? I had no idea about any of this. Did shuffle know? Who can say. Anyway, check out the newly released Blue of Colors song “Come Back,” which has a really great post-2003 Death Cab vibe. I really like the way it kind of falls apart at the end, and those thick crunchy guitars that break through. It’s a new sound for them, and I was right—I am stoked to hear it.
Youtube comments on shuffle:
- From 7 years ago: “Awesome! I’m so glad I found Steve/Blue of Colors. “Your Face” has got such a catchy hook; I can’t get it out of my head. Better than Right Said Fred by a long shot — LOL!” I cannot imagine why this niche indie rock tune from 2012 is being compared to this europop writing duo but here we are.
Live videos on shuffle:
- I quite like this earlier live version from 2012, which has a lengthier instrumental intro groove:
Tweets on shuffle:
- Good color coordination tbh:
— Jordy Walsh (@Jordalsh) July 9, 2013
Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh
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