by Marco Ovies
One immediate question came to mind when I got the notification that half alive’s new album “The Conditions Of A Punk” came out today, what are the conditions of a punk? half alive seems to have an answer to this question, and it’s wearing your heart on your sleeve. This new album from the band strays from their dance-y roots from “Now, Not Yet” and instead the band delivers something much more emotional.
Despite its name, this album is not the gritty punk-rock album I thought it would be. Instead of grunge guitar and distorted lyrics, the best way to describe this album sonically is as “glittery.” half alive also seems to be rewriting the definition of a punk that I had learnt in high school. Instead of the reclusive emo haircut guy who screams at his mom that “it’s not a phase,” being a punk seems to mean being more in tune with your emotions.
There is plenty to enjoy in this album with plenty of complex vocal harmonies mixed with autotune and electronic sounds along with snappy drum patterns, and of course, their signature disco-inspired “get up off your feet and dance” sound.
Despite my increasing desire to dance the more I listened to the album, it feels more stripped back than their previous works, and also more experimental. There aren’t many huge anthem showstopper moments in the album. Instead, the album focuses on their strong melodic ability with their unique electronic noises built onto the already stable indie band formula they’ve developed. They have the singer-songwriter folk-inspired complex lyrics mixed in with soaring synths that made others like Maggie Rogers blow up with her single “Alaska” (and what made Pharrell like her so much, what happened to that guy anyways?).
There are other obvious influences on this album from other hard-hitting indie bands. “Back Around” was an obvious ode to everyone’s favourite 2016 indie-pop band The 1975. “I’ll Stop” felt similar to “Bubbles” by Hippo Campus and I also can’t help but compare “Call Back” to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” (email me and tell me I’m wrong I dare you). This isn’t to say that bands aren’t allowed to influence each other, but it’s interesting to note and think of what may have influenced a band’s sound.
However, there are exceptions to what I said (like everything in life). “Move Me’ is a quick personal favourite and the transition from verse to chorus left me with goosebumps. The playful piano that transitions into the electronic vocal harmonies was beautiful, and then the transition from there into that soaring guitar solo was amazing. I was always told that to make it in the music journalism industry I was not allowed to be a “fan” of who I was covering, but I can full-heartedly admit I’m a fan of half alive and their perfectly executed vision for this album,
Coming at a whopping 55 minutes, the album does feel a little stagnant at times with songs not really standing out and sounding repetitive. I can’t help but compare their album to their initial “Now, Not Yet” which had so many hard hitters and a genre transition halfway through that kept me interested. But perhaps that’s just a return to the common theme throughout of what the Conditions of a Punk are. Half alive isn’t hiding behind glimmering synths and loud anthems but instead wearing their heart on their sleeve.
Plus, it’s important to note that half alive is more than just their music. Their live performances are electric with choreographed dances and frontman Josh Taylor’s film school credentials bring a unique (and mesmerizing) quality to their music videos. What’s great about this album is that you know it’ll be a constantly evolving and growing thing, and I’m excited to see what the band has planned for the future of this album.
Overall, the album is definitely worth the listen and shows a new, more emotionally deep and complex side to the band. If this is any indication of the future of half alive, I’d say it’s promising and full of possibilities.