Stay The Course, The Composure‘s follow-up to their debut Strings Attached, is twenty-one minutes flat of great songwriting in pop-rock form. Full of interesting textures, fun riffs and fills, and catchy melodies, these songs improve upon the foundation of quality music that was laid on Strings Attached and takes it to another level through expansion of their familiar sound and exploration of new territory without breaking away from the key elements that make the band unique.
The EP opens with “Stay Away From Me,” with its energetic intro, more reserved verses, and huge chorus. From the get-go, it’s clear that the band brought their A-game in the instrumentals section, as the song’s full of great riffs, fills, and interesting textures. More than just fun parts, though, the track is really, really tight in terms of how well everything fits together as Paul Menotiades expresses his lack of interest in coming back into contact with someone who’s done him wrong. In a considerable change of pace from the opener, “The One,” the band slows the tempo down just a bit and turns around with a love song. The instrumental parts continue to be varied, with each member grabbing the spotlight in different spots. The harmonies in the chorus are fantastic, and the guitar solo’s a lot of fun. The lyrics might be a little cliche, but the other elements of the song make up for it.
“Out To Dry” brings the pop-punk back to the forefront, with guitar parts that are reminiscent of the 90’s and lyrics that return to the idea of being alone. This song gives Seth Milly the focus for a bit, which provides a nice contrast to Menotiades’s vocals. The chorus is catchy, and the band manages to fit a lot into such a short song. “Break Before I Bend” starts off with a driving drum beat that’s soon joined by guitar parts that are begging to be moshed to. This track’s full of great fills and interesting rhythmic parts, and has plenty of singalong sections. The layering of the vocals in the last chorus is one of my favorite parts of the EP, and the song’s sure to be a highlight of their live shows for years to come.
Slightly more pop-focused, “Bridges” continues to bring out the fun guitar parts and vocal melodies. The chorus has a great hook, and the drums in the intro and verses are fantastic. The call-and-response vocals between Milly and Menotiades work well, and the layering in the middle section is flawless. The quieter portion that fades out at the end is also a nice touch. Stay The Course closes with “Satan,” which is an upbeat acoustic-based pop song that’s full of handclaps, bouncy piano, and my favorite vocal parts of the EP. The last minute or so is pure gold, with the horns, emphasized first line of the chorus, building vocals, and flawless ending. This is the sort of song that’s going to be perfect to drive around to this summer, and it closes the EP on just the right note.
I’ve always thought of The Composure as Punchline‘s little brother, more rock-focused and a bit more serious. While Stay The Course doesn’t necessarily clash with that description, it certainly helps set them apart for me in terms of being their own entity. There are elements throughout this EP that are really exciting, and the songwriting brings them together to make a wide variety of pop-rock-based sounds work seamlessly. The six tracks on Stay The Course definitely live up to Modern Short Stories’s mission to only release songs they love, and the quality has certainly improved since The Composure’s debut. If you like rock, this is an EP you should really enjoy and, if you’re like me, you’ll be eagerly awaiting whatever this band does next.