The road to Unimagined Bridges has been a long journey, to say the least. Driver Friendly’s newest full-length comes 12 years after the band’s inception, six years after they self-released Chase The White Whale and essentially broke-up, two years since a reinvigorated band rallied and put out the phenomenal Bury A Dream, two years since signing to heavyweight record label Hopeless Records, and one year since the Peaks + Valleys EP introduced a whole new audience to their infectious pop-rock sound. And while the process has been lengthy, the result certainly makes it all worth it. Unimagined Bridges is the bombastic culmination of that journey, and should garner the band the attention and recognition that they whole-heartedly deserve.
Musically, Unimagined Bridges never truly settles on a specific sound, instead bouncing among multiple, never letting it get stale or curse the listener with the boredom that is fairly common among more pop-oriented rock. Opener “The Game (This Won’t Hurt)” morphs from slow burning ambiance to screeching full throttle jam effortlessly, while “What A Predicament!” brings about an airy, bouncy feel tailor-made to get you dancing, and the interlude-esque “The Conversation” adds spacey atmosphere into the mix. The horns that have become ingrained with the band’s sound are still ever-present, but in unique ways. Often they are used to create an ambient texture, functioning almost like a synth, but giving its own twist. The excellent “Deconstruct You” finds itself much more down the middle, void of any frills, allowing the brilliant chorus to carry the song to amazing heights without anything weighing it down. In fact, it is the choruses that lift the record to the heights it reaches. There has not been a record this year that hits every chorus out of the park with the consistency that Driver Friendly does on Unimagined Bridges, an astounding feat that highlights its overall brilliance.
The strength of the choruses is not to say the band has lost any of their aggressiveness, proven by album standout, and possibly one of the best tracks of 2014, “Twenty Centuries Of Sleep”, an upbeat track featuring walls of unrelenting guitars and urgency tinged vocals that drip emotion and bleed exuberance. “Undone”, with its thunderous gang vocal refrain of “We’re not alright”, is sure to become a staple of the band’s notoriously high-energy live show, while closer “Bridges” brushes with the more straight-forward pop-punk sound, and brings imagery used on the previous EP full circle, further accentuating messages of hope and overcoming that fill the record. The band does not seem interested in simply delivering mindless hooks over superior instrumentation, as there are a plethora of themes explored across the duration of the record, something that really boosts Unimagined Bridges ahead of many of its pop rock adversaries.
Driver Friendly have never been ones to shy away from their unabashed love of pop, but Unimagined Bridges really piles it on, in the best possible fashion. Every track is packed to the brim with gleaming pop hooks that will instantaneously burrow themselves deep within your brain and never leave. The booming “Everything Gold” teams crushing bursts of guitar with soaring “Ay Oh”s, and showcases the chemistry in the dual vocals instituted by frontman Tyler Welsh and guitarist Andy Lane. Their voices compliment each other incredibly well throughout the record, intertwining and bringing out the best of both. Single “Stand So Tall”, which features The Wonder Years singer/pop-punk king Dan “Soupy” Campbell, is far and away the most infectious of the multitude of hooks present on Unimagined Bridges, with it’s bouncy rhythm section and sing-along refrain, while “Bad Way” implements a more conservative approach, but sacrifices none of the aforementioned pop tendencies. The pop aspects are a common thread that can be traced throughout the record, even among all the stylistic shifts that litter it. No matter what is going on around them, every track is shimmering pop down to its core.
“I Believe In Driver Friendly” has been a rallying call of sorts for this band. That belief pushed them to begin again. That belief drove them into the consciousness of more and more listeners. That belief ignited them to create a true pop rock gem in Unimagined Bridges, stuffed with towering hooks and extraordinary heart. That belief has brought them to the precipice of becoming one of the giants of the genre. I believe in Driver Friendly. And now it’s time for the rest of the world to follow.