To be honest, 2012 has been a somewhat disappointing year for me as far as music is concerned. Though a few select bands, including Every Time I Die, Whitechapel and The Chariot, have pleasantly surprised me with the best albums of their respective careers, I haven’t been overwhelmed by many new bands. With the exception of Daytrader, Wolves At The Gate, and a couple others, I’ve been bored with up-and-coming artists.
This was before Abel came along and changed all of that.
Abel aren’t rookies in the music scene. They previously had one album out: 2010’s Lesser Men. Though it featured a nice slew of songs, it wasn’t Album of the Year material. They then left Come&Live Records and went independent, following up their debut with a record that slapped me right in the face. I asked myself, “How is this the same band that made Lesser Men?”
Ladies and gentlemen, my pessimistic attitude towards music in 2012 has evaporated into thin air, and that’s all thanks to Abel’s fantastic sophomore release, Make It Right. If you like Brand New or Manchester Orchestra, you’ll love this album. But even if you don’t like those two bands, you’re still bound to fall head over heels after hearing this record. Twisting together melodic alt-punk with elements of indie and wispy anthemic rock, Abel have configured a sound that is not only fresh, but powerful too. The quartet has crafted a memoir of their spiritual lives; Make It Right is practically a living, breathing soul, and it’s quite the spectacle, too.
Right from track one, “I’ll Be Waiting,” the band strikes the listener with an array of cathartic melodies and brisk riffage. Kevin Kneifel is screaming for his life throughout the track, and the band profess a sense of urgency and aggression that I didn’t know they had in them. The following song, “Fire Walk With Me,” aptly continues Kneifel’s faith-based journey. The track looks and feels like a worship tune, but it’s far from predictable. Vibrant guitars and raw, staunch lyricism power the song, and a mix of slow and heavy instrumentation allows it to be both intense and immense. “An Ultimatum” and “Fine Lines” find the band continuing to define an identity that wasn’t quite found on Lesser Men. The latter is probably the best example of the kind of band that Abel have become; they’ve turned into a rugged, honest and intimate rock group that also tends to be quite catchy.
The emotions sculpted on this record are so tangible and so defined that the listener can almost reach out and grasp them. Make It Right feels like a series of journal entries, each song bringing with it different feelings, hopes, and prayers. While some of the slower tracks, including the Jimmy Eat World-esque closer, “Comfort and Truth,” are some of the more relieving tracks in the bunch, the more up-tempo ones bring the most grit and angst – that is, without the band sacrificing polish or quality. Songs like “Fifteen Years” and “Come Home” reassure that this album is one of the most well-written and tightly-constructed albums of the year. Likewise, it’s songs like “An Ultimatum” and “Daughter” that demonstrate an effective correlation between songwriting and instrumentation. This correlation utilizes itself at the most dazzling times, providing the album with prudent direction and pungency.
Make It Right is a visage of memorable, hearty alternative rock. You can hear the musical determination and organized emotions of Manchester Orchestra’s I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child, feel the bite of newer Taking Back Sunday and Brand New, and taste the dreamy flavors of contemporary alternative and indie. Though these comparisons may make listeners feel right at home with Abel’s sophomore effort, remember one thing: this album still retains originality. It doesn’t feel recycled. It doesn’t fuel itself off the energy of other bands. This record is real – it’s Abel through and through. And thanks to Make It Right’s meshing of vitality, distress, sincerity and controlled rigidness, it seats itself among 2012’s best albums.