Troubled Coast are on the rise, and with them is the continuing growth of their niche of new wave hardcore. Awake and Empty shows the group making the enormous strides their EP I’ve Been Thinking About Leaving You foreshadowed but didn’t quite make ultimately. The melodies hit harder, the breakdowns are more ferocious than ever before, and their sound still has that loose feel but holds the proverbial glue that defines their angst-ridden songs.
“Brother” breaks off with an abrupt start as tremolo-laced guitars sonically fill the spectrum from left to right around your ears; the words “I’ve been thinking about you since July/And I’m feeling less and less” cut through the air like a hot knife through butter amidst the feedback. “Winter” roars with an anthemic approach from the start, and you’ll feel the intense motifs of desperation and hopelessness through each shouted phrase. The production this time around is also an improvement, cleaning up some of the mess of the previously aforementioned EP. “Confidence” is led by a stirring bass line and strong emphasis on clean vocals, coming off slightly more reserved than the previous two songs, but I feel it is one of the very few weak tracks on this record, and by weak I use that term lightly – it’s still a rousing track.
One of the things TC have grown into is their ability to convey stark grit in their songwriting, as evidenced by “1967” and “Missoula_Big Sur,” both containing some of the best choruses (I mean, they’re all good but these in particular stand out). The latter also utilizes an interesting instrumental break at the end, harmonizing multiple guitar lines to provide a contrasting calm to the terrifying anger felt in the earlier sections. If you can identify with bands like Touché Amoré, La Dispute, Defeater, and many others, this band will hit right at home.
The ebb and flow of intensity continues reaching peak with “Signals,” a non-stop monster that ends with one of TC’s most absolutely breathtaking moments as a band. After the shivers from that track end, they will continue all the way through closer “Lonely States.” The intro doesn’t indicate it as a rager but it’s cleverly deceiving. As the soaring clean vocal harmonies ring around you and the polarizing words of “I am alone/you are alone/and this is the end” make you shake, you’ll instantly know the place of this band within the scene. They’re here to stay and this record proves it.
As I sit and hope that the rise of this style of hardcore in the past couple years doesn’t become another soulless trend, it’s bands like Troubled Coast that reiterate the importance of emotionally charged music. It has dipped in and out of the music scene in the past two decades, becoming more prominent in today’s culture because of the ever-growing relatable tests of society. More people can relate than ever before, and when your band’s music is filled with as much angst, anger, hopelessness, and sadness as theirs, you understand as a listener your own place within the scene. Just like with their music, there is a bond that keeps it, and us as listeners, all together, developing our scenes and keeping music alive when I firmly believe that music has been lost among a lot of people in today’s society. Awake and Empty is a shining light, and it couldn’t have been more appropriately titled for that is one feeling many of us can identify with the most.