If you like pop-punk taken to a new level, you’ll love this album.
Illinois pop-punk outfit Real Friends have released their new studio album Composure via Fearless Records last week. The follow up to previous albums Maybe This Place Is The Same and We’re Just Changing (2014), and The Home Inside My Head (2016), the band play at their strength for this one as well – tugging at your heartstrings, writing lyrics that feel like someone opened your brain and looked inside and huge choruses for days.
Bassist Kyle Fasel explains about the record: “We have never put this much time and effort into a record. Composure is everything we’ve always come up short on. We focused more on melodies than ever before. We focused more on the overall emotional climate of each song than ever before. I truly think that every song on the record stands on its own. But when all the songs come together it creates our best effort to date.”
Me First is not just a great album opener for the obvious reason of its title but the track kicks off bare vocals on a sparse guitar background and feels very early 00’s pop-punk when it then kicks into full gear with the full band. Impeccably produced by Mike Green, the record really brings out Dan Lambton’s vocals on every track and the urgency and despair it carries. Across 10 tracks, Real Friends cover important topics like addiction and mental health, all delivered with a sense of realness bedded on an airy, up-beat sound.
From The Outside and Smiling On The Surface dive especially deep into these themes of anxiety and depression with lyrics like “Anxiety holds my hand when life gets hopeless” as well as “From the outside I seem fine, on the inside I’m still sick. The pill is a temporary fix”. It is commendable that bands like Real Friends and As It Is take on these issues and get real with their fans about not only maybe feeling the same way, but more so understanding exactly how it feels and giving them a safe space. And all the while doing it in a manner that isn’t over- or under-played, but that comes from a real place.
Unconditional Love shines with its classic pop-punk elements in its slow and sombre verse and a chorus that packs a punch and pulls at your heart strings. Title track Composure is definitely one of the strongest tracks on the album not just melodically but lyrically, making the listener feel that we are all a little broken (“The walls were built so high, but couldn’t keep their words out. The shelter they provide only houses self doubt.”) but that we’re all working on getting better.
Album closer Take A Hint is mellow enough to not leave you with an unhealthy heart rate but addictive enough to have you hit repeat on this record immediately. Composure is most definitely a career-defining album for Real Friends. They have clearly grown as a band and their songwriting is at its most polished yet. And none of that growth will alienate their dedicated fans as they still delivery relatable and beautifully crafted lyrics.
Composure will have fans, old and new, fall in love at first listen because Real Friends manage to capture the listeners attention and their need to feel safe and understood in the music and lyrics.