Let’s take a quick trip back to 2003, shall we? If you’re reading this review, I’m sure that for many of you, like me, Story of the Year’s Page Avenue was one of your staple emo-rock (Remember the days when “emo” wasn’t a despised term?) albums back in high school. The kids were using Limewire to get their music illegally, Three Days Grace’s “I Hate Everything About You” was your anthem of choice every time you broke up with the love of your life, and Fuse was the amazing new go-to channel for all the coolest new music videos. Amazing what changes in only ten years, isn’t it?
When Story of the Year announced that they would be releasing an acoustic version of their beloved debut album, no doubt some people were thinking it would just be another remake where the band slows the songs down, plays acoustic guitar, throws in a few drum sections here and there and calls it an album. You can lay those fears to rest, because the St. Louis quintet went all out in experimenting and changing these songs around to make many of them sound almost brand new. In fact, forget the word “acoustic”, as “experimental” is a much better word to describe this record.
Opener “And the Hero Will Drown” is only recognizable by its lyrics as it starts off with some lovely rhythmic piano and Dan Marsala’s crooning vocals for the verses. But it’s when the second chorus arrives that you realize just how different Ten Years and Counting will be, as Josh Wills’ slow but massive-sounding drumming and some strings come in and show the song’s beautiful orchestral structure. The fan-favorite singles “Until the Day I Die” and “Anthem of Our Dying Day” follow in a similar fashion, with the latter in particular coming dangerously close to topping its already-stellar original version.
One important note for the die-hard fans of the original Page Avenue: the screams of Marsala that you know and love so well are largely non-existent on this album, with the only exceptions being “In the Shadows” and “Divide and Conquer”. “In the Shadows” takes a sharp left turn from the first three songs, driven by heavy synths rather than the piano – and actually sounding like a 3oh!3 song at times – with a very poppy chorus. Unfortunately it doesn’t touch the original, but props to the band for experimenting and having some fun with it. “Divide and Conquer” is drastically changed as well, slightly slowed down and turned into an almost-theatrical song, and it works perfectly. The vocal interplay between Marsala and Phil Sneed is the best part, though, as Sneed’s vocals are much more pronounced in several of these songs.
Other highlights include “Sidewalks” and “Dive Right In”, with both songs sounding so stunning that you almost feel these versions are how they were always meant to be heard. “Sidewalks” (along with “Anthem of Our Dying Day”) shows that the band chose to ignore all conventions for making an acoustic album as axeman Ryan Phillips provides two sensational electric guitar solos, both of which feel perfectly placed within their respective songs.
It’s clear that the band put a lot of time and thought into this remake, making a mockery of the typical “acoustic album” outputs from so many other bands. The best aspect of Ten Years and Counting is that it almost sounds like a whole new album while also reminding you why you fell in love with Page Avenue ten years ago. Whether you’re a longtime Story of the Year fan or just looking for some unique and creative new music, Ten Years and Counting is absolutely worth adding to your collection.