Green Bay-based Stalgic may have been around for only a few years now, but they’ve certainly been a staple in the scene, playing alongside fellow emo/post-hardcore act Bottom of the Lake, regular frequenting Jambalaya, and releasing EPs and splits in various shapes. Needless to say, they’ve keep an indomitable pace and assimilated well into the larger scene for alternative and emo. They’ve managed to outgrow a local audience and even get national, and international, attention via playlists like Dreambound.
While Stalgic has been known for their high-energy shows and somber lyrics, they’ve typically been on the “lighter” side of punk-adjacent genres. Not so on The Better Way Home, a release that feels appropriately encapsulated in the description of melodic hardcore. The classic chunky basslines and spiraling The Receiving End of Sirens-esque guitar lines are back in full force, but there are pockets of screaming and spoken word that add some more depth to Stalgic’s sound.
Tom Zwicker’s voice is eerily familiar to that of The Republic of Wolves’ Mason Maggio, though certainly of a deeper timbre. This isn’t to detriment whatsoever; in a genre that thrives off good cop-bad cop vocals of high tenors and the low growls of chain smokers, this down-to-earth baritone tone is refreshing and sits well in the overall mix. It feels genuine and earnestly carries the lyrical content across.
Kristian Pearson and Brent Harkonen are in full force, interweaving dual guitar parts with the utmost intricacy. Stalgic thrives on melodic integrity, and that’s certainly in no short supply on this release. Of course, there’s a bit of dropped-tuning chugs as well. Imagine 2006-era post-hardcore and you’ll get the idea. It’s a sound that is somewhat retired at this point but isn’t quite ready to hang up the hat.
Cooper Miller’s drumming is non-intrusive, providing a solid glue for the rest of the band. It’d appropriately dynamic, with plenty of tight tom work throughout the album.
The Better Way Home is undeniably a brief release – its nine tracks sit shy of half an hour, with two interlude-type tracks sprinkled in. Even so, there’s a lot packed into each of these tracks. Fans of Pianos Become the Teeth and So Soon, The Truth will immediately feel at home, those this is just a particular subset of would-be comparisons. Case and point, it’s fast, emotive, perhaps even dizzying.
The band is unfortunately challenged by an oversaturated genre that has stagnated somewhat for almost two decades. It’s evident they’re trying to break the mold, especially with some of the heavier portions or mathier types riffs. However, it’s a task that feels so insurmountable – it’s hard not to feel like Sorority Noise, The Hotelier, and similar acts have already marked their initials over this sonic space to some degree. And even if a band manages to expand on this sound in one way or another, it’s bound to feel derivative to some degree.
Even so, they make good use of their resources. Again, Tom Zwicker’s voice is a key defining element. The guitars, at their most melodic points, are beyond impressive. The stripped-down “Where I Stand” is a nice change of pace, even if it’s a bit more forgettable than some of its counterparts. Overlaying vocal parts and harmonies here and there are a nice touch. For the most part, Stalgic makes strong use of dynamic elements.
The Better Way Home shows a pretty neat advancement in Stalgic’s sound and the fact they’ve managed to garner a larger audience is admirable. This is a not release without some of the clichés of emo and adjacent forms of punk, and things do feel a bit too homogenous at times – but the discerning ear will appreciate some of the intricate details that set Stalgic apart from their peers. This band is still young and they’re progressing as they shape their sound. Only time will tell what they’ll do next.