Blue October is a special kind of band for me. I’ve never considered them to be my favorite band, but have always been more than willing to shell out money for their albums. There’s a certain sense of the dramatic in nearly all of their songs, which manages to be emotional and intimate without being over the top, despite the “real” manner in which vocalist Justin Furstenfeld writes his lyrics. I’ve just always connected with his vocal tone, and am a huge sucker for strings, so the band has stuck with me in the five years since I first listened to Foiled. That said, I have not been following them as closely as I should, and was pleasantly surprised when I found out that they would be releasing a new album this August and had just released the music video for their second single. I quickly clicked on the link and prepared to see where the past two years had taken their sound.
Lead single “The Chills” has a title that seems to fit very well with song titles from the band’s past, but a sound that bears some contrast in a sense. The track’s introduction took me a bit by surprise on the first listen, since the upbeat vocals are not typical Blue October. That said, it’s good to see them exploring new things, and the sound is still unmistakably theirs, mostly thanks to Justin Furstenfeld’s distinct tone. The verse is trademark Blue October, with emotional lyrics and somewhat sparse instrumentation, but is also driven by a constant beat on the bass drum, keeping the track focused as it leads into one of the band’s biggest choruses to date.
The second verse features some nice distorted guitar accents to break up the instrumentation some and to keep listeners interested. All in all, there’s no reason that this song couldn’t or shouldn’t do very well on the radio, since the chorus is so catchy, well-written, and, above all, honest. Though a little different from the typical Blue October song, all of the key elements that make them unique are still in place, and it’s easy to see why this would be the lead single for Any Man In America.
Remember what I said about “The Chills” being a different take on the band’s sound and how it took me somewhat by surprise? “The Feel Again (Stay)” is an example of exactly what should be expected from a classic Blue October song. With quieter instrumentation than the lead single, Justin’s voice is able to capture attention even more effectively and his lyrics come across very, very well. If there’s one thing that I’ve noticed from the two tracks released from Any Man In America thus far, it’s that he’s been able to stretch his voice to new extremes and has explored a wide variety of tones, from the intimate almost-whisper to the near-scream, and each is as good as the last.
Aside from the vocals, the guitar, bass, and drum parts provide a great atmosphere that’s easy to get lost in. When the violin comes in at the second verse, one of my favorite pieces of the Blue October puzzle comes into play, and it’s difficult for me to contain exactly how excited that makes me. The instrument plays a huge role in the bridge, and is a great example of how well the band is able to create something that sounds fresh, unique, and truly theirs in a musical environment that only rarely experiences such a feeling. Clocking in at over six minutes, the track seems an odd choice for a music video. That said, the song never drags on, but allows the band to explore their ideas to the fullest potential.
If these songs are any indication of what’s to come on Any Man In America, the album might be Blue October’s best release thus far. These tracks seem to further push the band’s boundaries while still maintaining the elements that make them great. Be on the lookout for a full review of the album in the coming months, and be sure to check out the band if their tour comes to your city this summer.