ISSUES – Headspace (Album Review)

Let’s break down the first song, “The Realist” which is the first song off Issues’ sophomore album, Headspace. There’s a funky bass line by Skyler Acord and stop-start rifts from AJ” Rebollo. Then interwoven between the percussion grove of drummer Josh Manuel, you have the mixture of clean and unclean vocals of Michael Bohn and Tyler Carter. You can listen to this song five times and pick up on something different regarding song arrangement. There’s scratching and even a synthesizer jam at the end of the song that would make Roger & Zapp proud.  Some bands tend to go the safe route with their sophomore album, willing to build upon the previous audience that they built. With Headspace, Issues drew from each and every influence they had and made a piece of work that is truly not able to be classified. Sure, there are some metal-core elements that serve as the base of the bands’ foundation, but they are not afraid to literally grab from every genre that they see fit. You could imagine that a recording session would be one of the most flexible there is. The mixture works so well in cases that what you would consider the straightforward “core” songs pale in comparison to the experimentation to what the band can do.

Another example of a song that seems to be a perfect marriage of two is “Young & Dum” which features country singer Jonathan Langston. There’s a pop-punk cadence mixed with violins – who would have thought that a song with unclean vocals could go so well with country style vocals? Listening to this album will have you rooting for the band to make mix genres together to see what they can come up with. Often you have to play it careful because often these collaborations can sound disjointed, but Issues makes it sound natural. There’s a purpose within what they are trying to accomplish. In “Home Soon”, it may sound like a conventional song with crashing guitars and percussion, but because the band’s personnel is so versatile, it allows for the slower tempo changes to occur. “Flojo,” one of the most musically inclined songs on the record makes use of a guitar rift that sounds inspired from swing and then switches from a driving timing signature once you hit the chorus.

The album does take on some heavy subject matter within a few songs, mainly “Lost-n-Found” (chronicles Carter’s encounter with an homeless teen in an LGBT youth center), “Blue Wall (tackles the subject of police brutality) , and “Someone Who Does” (a song in reference to Michael Bohn’s parents). Vocally, Bohn has grown to utilize both his vocal styles to complement Carter’s melodic rhythms. “Hero” where both vocalists use their clean vocals shows that both can exist while sounding that they are not competing each other for space.

Headspace could be jarring as a first listen to the untrained ear because it is so all over the place musically. Variety is a good thing, but for those who are looking for a straightforward listen, this might not be the album for you for the most part. Will Issues make a uniform album one day? It may not be in the band’s DNA to follow the lead of others.  That being said, it’s far from being generic. This album defines a band that dared to push themselves to the extent of their musical appetite to create something that will draw looks from all different genres of music.

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