Every once in a while I come across an album so refreshing that it cleanses my musical palette, acting as the Q-Tip that dislodges the crud from inside my ears and reminds me that there are still musicians out there who strive to be unique and break from the stale clichés and popular trends so abundant today. Please Remain Calm, Hostage Calm’s sophomore album on Run for Cover records, is the Q-Tip to your dirt-filled ears, a bright light that reminds us that there is not only hope for independent music, but hope for life in general.
To categorize this album would be superfluous; if anything it is an amalgam, a carefully blended combination of so many genres, periods and musical techniques that to classify it as just punk or just indie or just new wave would diminish its splendor.
The album opens with the upbeat and hook-laden track “On Both Eyes” that sets the tone of the album as frantic and urgent, yet somehow hopeful. Suddenly the previously upbeat tempo falls off and vocalist Chris Martin, backed by a single guitar, wearily sings the line “Between loneliness and torn broken love / I choose none of the above” before the song kicks back into gear, representing the only real pause in the first three tracks.
Like any good album, Please Remain Calm is a journey in itself, and develops as such. After the first three tracks the album settles into what is arguably the strongest song on the LP, “Woke Up Next to a Body,” which opens with subtle acoustic guitar and then crashes into a hanging anthem-like tune. Equipped with the ever-so-catchy chorus of “I woke up next to a body / That didn’t belong to me / You had me feeling like a sinner on Sunday / You had me feeling like your father would hate me.” This song makes for an instant classic with catchy riffs, yet driving and at times pounding drums laid underneath, not to mention the tasteful use of two vocalists playing to their strengths and creating a truly special work of music.
Fast forward to track eight and what, at first glance, seems like an oddly placed song in the context of the rest of the album, but as I mentioned earlier, this album is not restrained by the conventions of “normal” music. Hostage Calm are comfortable enough in their own talents that they’re willing to take the risks that make great albums and the A cappella track “Patriot,” which utilizes vocal harmonies reminiscent of barbershop and doo-wop, is a perfect example of that. Creating a smart and sardonic lament for their own personal American love affair gone sour, the band uses witty wordplay and finally flourishes when the entire group joins in to cap off this captivating song in a burst of sizzling electric guitars that hail back to Chuck Berry. While this style of music will be almost alien to many modern day listeners, it works because of the pure talent in Hostage Calm, who seem to have the skill to make anything accessible to their audience.
Please Remain Calm may not fit in with the types of music I normally listen to, and it lacks the visceral nature of the hardcore scene I so often find myself identifying with. However, it doesn’t have to fit into my mould of preferred music, or yours for that matter, because at the end of the day good music is good music, regardless of how it is being made. This album by Hostage Calm far exceeds the understated category of “good,” rather elevating itself into the ranks of best albums of the year.