With the release of You Love It. You Hate It. You Want It. last January, we got to hear how the addition of Daniel Lancaster to Select Start sounded. The two songs on that release sounded not unlike a continuation of Stages & Stereos with a second vocalist and some synth thrown into the mix; I was instantly more excited to hear more from the band, and The New Atlantic is the first chance to do so. While anticipating more songs in the vein of the two already released with the current lineup, I was taken aback by what I heard when I hit play. Rather than the upbeat pop-punk that I expected, the band had taken a turn a la Panic! At The Disco or Hellogoodbye and completely changed their style, favoring acoustic and clean guitars, newfound six-part harmonies, and different instruments over the synth and traditional rock instruments that dominated their previous work. However, despite my initial surprise and distaste over the first listens, the new sound (reminiscent of later You, Me, And Everyone We Know) on this EP does not disappoint, as the heart still remains despite the stylistic change.
The EP opens with “A Man Amongst Gentlemen,” a song that begins with some simple ukulele strumming and a harmonized catchy melody before Joe Guerra sings the song’s hook and a multitude of instruments join in, creating a bigger sound with a nostalgic feel. Guerra takes vocal duties for most of the song, with the exception of Lancaster’s contributions on the second and third choruses. While it’s definitely not what was expected, it’s a summery song that sets the tone for the rest of the EP. “Hands To The Ceiling” shows off the boasted six-part harmonies and finds a more comfortable balance between Guerra and Lancaster. A little more in the vein of You Love It. You Hate It. You Want It. while still retaining the summery aspects of the first track, this is an upbeat jam that is quite dance-able.
“Hold Your Ground” is a somewhat slower song with strummed chords throughout the verses as Guerra and Lancaster trade lines. The main highlights of this track are the harmonized acapella portion in the middle and the outro, which just has a great feel about it. “Only You” features some interesting acoustic guitar parts and well-placed string and piano portions. The band’s vocals shine on this track with the lead vocalists capturing attention on the verses and the harmonized choruses showing off the abilities of the entire band. The song has a very warm and intimate sound, especially in comparison to others on the EP. Though “Read Black & White” opens with what sounds like a whimsical childhood melody, the track is the closest thing to a traditional rock song to be found here, while still maintaining elements from the rest of the EP, most notably the harmonies right before the second chorus. Overall, the song sounds not unlike something that might have been written by The Composure, perhaps with the exception of the chaotic bridge and aforementioned portion before the second chorus.
The opening of “So Far” starts with nearly forty-five seconds of harmonized “ooh”‘s before Guerra begins singing the verse on his own, soon to be joined by more “oohs” in the background. The chorus finds even more harmonies before Lancaster sings his own verse. The track ends with another chorus that flows into harmonized “ah”‘s. With the exception of a single strum of an acoustic guitar at the beginning of the song, “So Far So Good” is entirely acapella, something that’s rarely seen today, and stands as a testament to exactly how talented this group of guys is.
“The (Pretty) Good Life” is a feel-good track with great lyrics that begins with some nice guitar noodling and a catchy melody sung by Guerra before going into a chorus that is somehow even catchier than the verse. The second verse shows off even more harmonies. The track ends with simple guitar strums and group vocals that give the feeling that the band is sitting in a room with you, inviting you to sing along. For an EP with so many great vocal harmonies, it gives the EP a sense of completion.
If I had to use one word to describe this EP besides “surprising,” “different,” or “unexpected,” it would have to be “deliberate.” Though not polished by any means, it gives the feeling that it is exactly what the band wanted it to be. The diversity of instruments and use of six-part vocal harmonies should be proof enough of that. Though it’s unlike their previous work, it’s easy to get over the unexpected change with the level of sincerity and musicianship throughout. Despite the fact that their previous record leads me to doubt that they’ll stick with this sound past this EP, a full-length in a similar style would be more than welcomed and The New Atlantic is a strong contender for my favorite EP so far this year.