Diverse and genuine – Composure lets you know why you should be listening to Real Friends.
With nearly half a million monthly listeners on Spotify, Real Friends’ accession to pop-punk stardom has been a meteoric one. Their 2013 EP Put Yourself Back Together propelled the band into the spotlight, sporting huge singles such as Late Nights in My Car and Lost Boy. From here, the band have outdone themselves with each of their albums. Both 2014’s Maybe This Place is the Same and We’re Just… and 2016’s The Home Inside My Head have seen the band perfect their sound and grow as musicians. Real Friends have an almost cult-like following with their lyrics being quoted on t-shirts and used to caption dark, profound Instagram posts. I was very keen to get my teeth into Composure after the sheer quality of the singles that have been released by the band in its run-up. With the impetus seemingly changing, the band’s sound seemed to have evolved more than ever before.
Get By and From The Outside are both singles that I have written some words about for WaveByte before. With Get By being released late last year, its addition to this album came as a bit of a surprise to me. However, this doesn’t mean that I am not a fan of the choice to place it in this release. This single is huge, and I have been continuously listening to it for the past 7 months or so. From The Outside was released a little more recently and it shares one key quality with Get By – it is a banger. As I stated in my single review, this track is an upbeat, catchy bop which works perfectly as a single. The singles that the band chose to release reflect the nature of the album perfectly. In a similar vein, Unconditional Love has very recently been showcased as a single to promote the album. This song starts in a rather soft manner, but once again bursts into life with the chorus. The track continually flits between moments of delicate solace which are decorated with softer vocals and a punchy chorus. This track encompasses the light and dark of the album and is yet again, a fantastic choice of single.
Much like Mokena from the band’s previous album, Me First struck me as an immediate sing-a-long Real Friends classic. The first thing that hit me with this track was that Dan Lambton’s vocal delivery and range has certainly improved. From the dancing notes in the chorus to the screams in the breakdown, his voice has cemented itself to be a focal point of their songwriting process. The benevolent feel of Me First is carried into Stand Steady. The opening notes feel gentle and warm. However, the band quickly bring the song up to speed, thrashing through the opening verses into the chorus. Once again, the chorus blends the vocal diversity of Lambton wonderfully. As a listener, you feel genuinely unsure of where the track is going to go next. The fast-paced drums and bassline keep the energy of the song up between these chorus’. Mixed with the odd pick-slide, you are left with a lovely summer jam. The delivery of the last few lyrics, in an overtly aggressive fashion, give you a little teaser of what the band might have in store for the rest of the album.
Smiling On The Surface opens with some gravelly vocals. By balancing these with the backing “aaahhhs”, it makes for a refreshing listen. The softly delivered lyrics in the pre-chorus, again, balance with the more intense efforts seen as the song develops. This track does a little bit of everything and I am sure it will find its way into the band’s live set. Other than the singles, I reckon my favourite track on the album is Composure. It starts as it means to go on. The lyrics of this one are textbook Real Friends, with labours such as “the shelter they provide only houses self-doubt” being delivered in their typical, off-beat style. This is what makes Real Friends unique. The breakdown of this track sees the band play with timing and the drums keep chopping the song in different directions. I feel as though this song is placed perfectly between Unconditional Love and Get By, showcasing that this album is strong even towards its conclusion. Unfortunately, for me, Hear What You Want falls a little flat. Whether it suffers from coming after a string of hits or is meant to bring the tone of the album back down. I feel as though Unconditional Love is the perfect moment of reflection and deems Hear What You Want a little redundant – it is a little stuck between the bangers and the beauty. Whilst the hook is quite infectious, the song struggles to stick with you after one listen.
Ripcord and Take A Hint bring the album to a close. The first of the duo is another strong effort. It has a bite to it that gives it character. The vocals are as integral as ever. They pulse as the song builds, most expertly in the breakdown. His voice stretches until it almost screams for help. This song is an interesting listen. Whilst instrumentally, it doesn’t particularly slap, the vocals marry up perfectly with the rest of the band to put some meat on the song’s bones. Take A Hint is a great ending to a great album. It showcases a feature, which on reflection makes this album what it is, an incredible experimentation with melodies. This album is different and this song highlights that perfectly. As the shortest song on the LP, Take A Hint does a lot of work in a short period of time, however, leaves a lasting impression ringing in your ears.
Composure is a great statement of intent from the band. They are one of the most genuine outfits in the pop-punk genre and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. In some of their past releases, I have been a little irked by the ‘filler’ tracks that have held their releases back. However, I feel as though their latest effort has been constructed as a complete work, with time taken to measure the strengths of each track in the running order. Real Friends have been very vocal about the importance of taking care of yourself and the dangers of self-medicating, after withdrawing from some tours in 2016 due to Lambton’s health. For me, this just makes this release even more important – its message is honest and heartfelt. This album is a refreshing take on holding yourself together when everything goes wrong.