Outside influences make an impact in any kind of musical project you come across. Some bands fold their influences into their sound in a subtle, nuanced fashion. Some bands boast their influences proudly on their sleeve. Whatever the case may be, the music that surrounds a musician’s life will ultimately seep its way into their work. For California’s Souvenirs, the influence of ’90s emo unabashedly shines on their stellar sophomore EP Tired of Defending You.
A quick look at the band’s Facebook page reveals influences including The Promise Ring, Mineral, and Braid, and their description simply reads, “we listen to 90s emo music.” Released in June of last year, Tired of Defending You blends all of those influences into an aggressively dreary sound all its own. “Port Authority” kicks things off, beginning with a delicately strummed guitar over soft, nearly inaudible vocals. Pounding drums shatter the silence, accompanied with a soaring, haunting vocal refrain, which then turns into the band at their most aggressive. This track specifically shows the range of sound Souvenirs is capable of achieving, starting from an ambient near-silence and ending with roaring guitars and screams. “Sucker” has the bass line playing a big role in propelling the song through sonic and tempo changes, and it helps create an aura of despair.
The band doesn’t really follow any traditional song formats, forgoing choruses and hooks and instead utilizing small refrains such as the scathing “I don’t know you/ cause you don’t know yourself.” This minimalist approach lyric-wise allows for the music to create more of a story, and gives the lyrics more of a hard-hitting feel to them. “Sinker” follows, and features the strongest vocal performance here, while also including beautifully shimmering guitars over driving percussion. It also has a dark, low-end sound that carries over more prominently into the next song, “Mary’s Friends,” where it is met with the most forceful and biting vocals on the album, snidely exclaiming “cut my name out of your vocabulary/ as if I disappeared/ cause all you ever wanted was someone to drink with/ for that, among other reasons/ you won’t be missed.” On display here is Souvenirs’ ability to shift musically in the middle of songs, and it becomes one of the most compelling aspects of this record.
Nearly every song ends somewhere completely different from where it began. The album closes with “How to Sleep,” an upbeat track packed to the brim with passion. The vocals weave from soft croon to powerful howl, cutting through a dense fog of distortion while dripping with sentiment and sincerity, and the track ends the album with just as much power as it began.
Tired of Defending You has Souvenirs creating a dense, emotion-filled record that doesn’t feel forced or heavy-handed. With its raw nature and minimalist approach, it lets the music shine through and evoke feeling in the listener, something that is always welcome in the music scene.