Enter 2007 – The Graduate comes out of a nowhere town in Illinois to release a critically celebrated debut and play a slew of festivals including Warped Tour and Lollapalooza. Then in 2008, their label folds, leaving them without a paddle on sophomore-album-creek. Not many bands get a second chance at major label distribution, let alone a first – but sure enough, Razor & Tie snapped up The Graduate just in time for a summer release and a triumphant return. The Graduate’s Only Every Time comes out on August 31 and as it turns out, the two year break may have been just what the band needed. That kind of downtime allowed The Graduate to pay special attention to detail on their newest release, and it’s the intricacies of Only Every Time that make it great.
Only Every Time is a unique listen – it is equal parts music and atmosphere. Because of its ambiance, The Graduate’s sophomore release is likely to appeal to the same demographic that listens to groups in the vein of Circa Survive. Only Every Time’s atmospheric feel also boosts its replay value, because several listens in, you’ll still be noticing something new in nearly every song. Songs like “Siren” and “Stuck (Inside My Head)” combine infectious choruses with spacey verses and more musical depth than most indie groups can fathom to create a truly refreshing contrast. The highlight track, “Pull Me In,” is a definitive summer anthem – an uplifting track laced with reverb and echoing piano lines, and complete with a set of gang vocal “woah-oh”’s that are nearly impossible to resist singing along to. The Graduate treats silence like an artist treats space – they fill nearly every second of each song with music, but no song feels cluttered.
A major strength of The Graduate’s latest is that it is pieced together in a way that benefits the album as a whole. There is contrast between each, so the songs on Only Every Time don’t blend together when listened to. A common issue with other ambient bands is that the songs are lost in the atmosphere, but every song on the album is memorable. Instrumentally, Only Every Time displays a higher-caliber band. Tim Moore’s drumming is especially notable on tracks like “Stuck (Inside My Head)” and “Halfway There.” His fills are tasteful, but complex and exciting (Bloc Party’s Matt Tong comes to mind). Corey Warning is definitely pushing his vocals to the next level on this release – his range is far more impressive than Anhedonia let on. Max Sauer and Matt Kennedy have definitely found their sweet spots as far as guitar playing goes, in that their lines work with the songs instead of against them in creating atmosphere. As songwriters, the band has yet again expanded. “Permanent Tourists,” an electronic excursion of sorts, displays the greatest variation from the other songs in feel, instrumentation, and structure without sounding out of place. “End of the World Delight” is fervent and moving without seeming illegitimate. It couldn’t be argued that The Graduate haven’t progressed as songwriters and musicians since their debut.
Only Every Time has but three drawbacks. Amusing alliteration aside, the opening track “Don’t Die Digging” wasn’t the best choice for an album opener. The song is solid and the verse is actually pretty good, but the chorus is just too generic. They could have done better to open the album with something else (May I humbly suggest “Siren”?). Lyrically, Only Every Time is thought-provoking… mostly. The choruses of a few songs rely on clichéd lyrics for pop appeal (If I hear the line “just give me something to believe” in another song, I’m liable to have a breakdown.), instead of relying on their already-present infectious melodies. Apart from “Permanent Tourists” and “For the Missing,” the songs on The Graduate’s sophomore release follow a similar structure, which almost makes some of them predictable.
However, the quality of the songs on Only Every Time, and their un-paralleled use of ambiance are enough to make any shortcoming forgivable. If you hadn’t heard of The Graduate back in 2007, here’s a promise – you’ll be hearing a lot more of them come August.