Review: With or Without by Overslept

FFO: tasty math rock riffs, pop rock vocals, immaculate rhythm sections

Technically-inclined music has typically distanced itself from its catchy indie-pop cousin. They’ve largely coexisted like high school cliques, shooting glances across the room to acknowledge the other exists, though this exchange is nothing more than minutia in the majority of cases. Most artists would have you believe that songwriting lives in this kind of binary; riff-driven songs engulfed in poetic lyrics face off against catchy, carefree songs you can’t wait to show your friends. There will be blood. Tickets on sale now starting at $10.

Actually, let me back up a bit. It would seem that some bands have a knack for carefully balancing these competing elements. It’s a strange process of musical osmosis whereby one extreme is diluted a bit but neither part is sacrificed. It’s the sort of mood that bands like TTNG and Anathallo carry with them, but even these bands have largely been constrained to specific circles of fans.

Denver-based Overslept seem to have found a rare place in modern music on With or Without, their 2019 sophomore LP. While it’s, at least in some respect, a heavier record than its predecessor, it’s an incredibly balanced set of songs. Beyond the aforementioned technical and pop-friendly elements, Overslept show their aptitude for diversity in other respects: loud and soft, energetic and tired, retrospective and hopeful, lament and laughter. It’s a record that reads like the human experience – it never dwells too much on any given feeling, but at the same time, it’s undeniably cohesive.

Some of the cohesion sits on the lyrical side. The album’s title is referenced several times (“Thirteen Thirty One”, “Anhedonia”, and the powerhouse title track) and it’s phrase met with different instrumentation each time. There’s also a subtle nod to touring partners Father Mountain on “Anhedonia” that only a handful of listeners will catch. Ultimately, the lyrics are very strong and the album certainly has a narrative played out through joy, doubt, pain, loss, and redemption.

However, it’s ultimately the context of the lyrics that makes With or Without such a strong album. Frontman Elias Armao’s delivery is excellent. Armao has one of the more unique voices in the indie rock genre, with a soulful elegance you’d find from Hotel of the Laughing Tree. It’s impassioned and earnest, yet there’s a radio-friendly quality all the same. This time around, he’s joined by fellow guitarist/vocalist Mickey Postilion who works in some harmonies and vocal trade-offs.

It wouldn’t be too unfair to call this a math-rock album. As such, the riffs are in no short supply and there are plenty of moments where a guitar part is just as catchy as a vocal chorus. Drums and bass aren’t given an easy job by any stretch, but the pocket never lets up for even a moment.

Without or Without is an amalgamation of the good things in life. It’s a music cookie-brownie that takes the strengths of competing dynamics and synergizes them. You’ll be belting out the lyrics one moment and having an internal heart-to-heart in the next. It’s a high-energy, pop-friendly album made by serious musicians with something to say, and that alone distinguishes Overslept from their peers. You may have overslept on this album, but it’s definitely worth your time.

Our Rating: 8.0 (Best New Music)

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