Throughout most of the new Ceres album, Drag It Down on You, vocalist Tom Lanyon sounds pissed. Not pissed in the way that The Story So Far’s Parker Cannon sounds pissed, not the kind of pissed that makes you want to punch your bedroom wall, but the kind of pissed that makes you want to punch yourself. See, Lanyon and the rest of Ceres have done a lot of growing up since 2014’s remarkable debut, I Don’t Want to Be Anywhere But Here, and the result of that growth is the band’s sophomore album, which will go down as one of the best albums in an absolutely stacked year.
A big part of that is Lanyon’s lyrics. Like I said, he’s done a lot of growing, and on this album he lays that all out. From his childhood home to the deaths of old friends, even to the times when he’s been unequivocally in the wrong — he runs through all the things that make him who he is. It’s one of the most honest and self-aware albums I’ve heard all year, not to mention one of the most mature. It’s easy to lash out when you mess up and even easier to just pass the blame. Lanyon takes the high road on Drag It Down on You, accepting his mistakes for what they are, whether he’s declaring himself “such a piece of shit” on “’91, Your House,” or condemning his past controlling behavior on “Baby’s Breath.” The final verse of that song, especially, is one of the most sincere apologies I’ve heard in song form. I mean, read it yourself:
Who am I to tell you how to feel your pain?
Like relief lives inside both your parents names
Losing one but gaining one to blame
I know you’re not me, I’ll learn that one day
I know, I’m sorry
Missing a lot of things
Lanyon called Drag It Down on You the “darkest stuff I’ve got out into songs,” and I think he says it better there than I could. Musically, though, the album is a bit lighter. For instance, the album’s first full track, “Happy in Your Head,” is more or less a fuzzy power-pop song. The band does get darker on a few tracks, and unsurprisingly, these are by and large the album’s best. “Baby’s Breath,” both a lyrical and musical highlight, is probably the most aggressive song, building from one distorted riff to a cacophony of feedback at the end of the song. Now, the start-quiet-end-loud structure certainly isn’t unique to Ceres, but they play around with it enough to make it feel like a distinctly-Ceres style.
Songs like “Talking” and “Okay” ebb and flow naturally, toying with listener expectations, building and dropping out unexpectedly. “Okay,” the opener, literally drops out, cutting off Lanyon mid-sentence. A bit jarring on first listen, maybe, but it’s a clever way for the song itself to mimic its themes, and it flows into “Happy” pretty well. “Choke” is another song that inverts this structure, building up for a minute to explode into an absolutely massive song, and then, as the song should hit its peak, ending with an intimate, beautiful string outro. The pieces combine into not only the best track Ceres has ever written, but one of the most exciting songs you’ll hear all year.
And that’s just the thing — Drag It Down on You is exciting. There are flashes of all sorts of bands here and there – immediate comparisons to The Hotelier, Born Without Bones, The Sidekicks, and The Get Up Kids – but at the same time the whole album feels fresh in a way that most similar albums don’t. Maybe that feeling’s just the feeling of honesty and necessity behind every word and every note. I’m not sure. But I’m sure that Ceres has delivered one of the best albums of the year, and I’m sure you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t check them out now before they become one of 2017’s breakout bands.