This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on December 19th, 2016. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.
This is an album I really never thought we would be getting. A new Acceptance album basically a decade after the last one. I’ve spent quite a while listening to this one now, maybe 6 or 8 full listens (and I’ve had some of the songs unfinished for quite a while and had played them many, many times), so I’ll try and offer a little of that context with the first listen as well. I really do think that this album is best listened to three or four times before having too many thoughts on it. I think this for a few reasons:
- I think that following up a loved album 10 years later is going to be impossible. Expectations on the band and what the listener thinks the music should be or sound like take some time to shake off and really listen to what the album itself is.
- It’s a different vibe of an album as a whole. It’s … slower? more melodic … more Coldplay, Young the Giant, Tears for Fears, Mutemath at times, some early JEW sort of stuff going on. It’s a very layered album that is thick, lush, and has a sound that sounds, to me, like the band had made three albums during the last 10 years and this is the progression that comes out at the end. Basically, there’s a big leap from what Phantoms was to this. It’s not Phantoms part 2.
- The songs find their own footing with more listens. They separate themselves and you can appreciate the small details and what the band was going for and how they really did put a lot of thought and intentionality into this album.
- I liked a lot of these songs on first listen, loved a couple, but it really did take me listening to the album as a whole multiple times for me to really sink into this release and discover how much I really do love it.
Basic thoughts: I really like this one and think it’s a very solid album. I think it’s going to be met with some criticism from long time fans at first because they won’t really be expecting this kind of album right away. That said, this is very much a me album — big layers, huge melodies, great vocals, lush, thick, and emotional. I live for this kinda stuff and I’ve loved playing it over and over again here as snow comes down.
As always, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future, this isn’t really a review as much as it is just me listening to the album, writing some thoughts down, and speaking off the cuff about what I like, don’t like, and the over all impression the album gives me.
Feel free to jump in either nor or later with questions or anything you’d like to know more on, I can always expand and offer more thoughts and such.
(Also, sorry for taking about a week too long to get this out, stupid case of random vertigo hit me last week and it pushed so much of what I had planned back … super obnoxious.)
Diagram of a Simple Man
6:36pmhis is the song they already released, to mixed reaction, but I do get why they released it first — it does set expectations and the tone of the album. That said, I would have switched track 1 and 2 to get the album off to a little faster pace. This song is good, I like it more each time I hear it, but it is an interesting choice to lead the album and to have people hear right away.
You can hear a lot of what’s in this album though in this song. The over all “feel” is here. Jason’s vocals, the instrument and how they wax and wane into and out of the track. The huge sound here is really indicative of the album.
6:37pmI really love these verses. Not big on the color/black and white chorus. Those drums in the verses though I am all about.
cracking open a beer
6:39pmTonight it’s a Deschutes River Ale. It’s cold as anti-hell here this week. Fire’s on in the background, lights are set to mood lighting. Just me and beer and the cats.
I think this song works much better when it’s followed by the rest of the album, so I get some of the complaints of hearing it on it’s own … but it does a pretty good job of setting up the album. It’s not my favorite on here by far though.
6:41pmHowever, the second song on the album is an instant favorite and an instant new classic Acceptance song in my mind.
Colliding by Design
6:41pmAs I said, I think I would have opened with this one. It’s just got that it factor to me.
“Can’t stop, can’t stop, colliding by design.”
The way Jason sings that is everything I’ve ever liked about how he sings. He pauses perfectly.
6:43pmThere’s a little more Switchfoot feel in the verses here, but it’s also very Acceptance to me, it feels like a combo of Phantoms and those leaked demos turned to 11. More exploratory, very pop, a definite highlight for me.
Nice little guitar work in the bridge.
6:44pmThey really let these songs breathe and come into themselves. It’s the little flourishes of a synth or extra guitar part that brings it all together.
I think for listeners as they get into this one they’ll get a good feel of how the album is going to sound. That this is very much a grown up contemporary pop album. It’s not tied to the “scene” very much at all. So don’t expect something that sounds like 2005 again. This sounds like those guys continued listening to music for 10 years and they have their natural knack for music and songwriting combined with all the things they’ve done since.
We Can Escape
6:45pmI think this may have been one of the first “new” songs I heard almost a year or something ago now. I’ve been obsessed with it. It opens with a little Jason vocal choir thingy, and then starts building … I love the huge sounds they’ve got swirling in the background of this one … it’s Aaron Sprinkle doing Aaron Sprinkle things. He’s good.
6:48pmIt’s a clever chorus. Effects all over the vocals and not what you’re expecting. The subversion of expectations works really well here.
6:50pmThe little flourishes of acoustic guitar are great.
Again, this is … mid-tempo … it’s right in this sweet spot the album finds. On my first listen, I was worried that the songs all being around the same pace (roughly) was causing them to bleed together for me and all sound the same, but after about the third listen or so I started really seeing them as more individual tracks that do make up the album as a whole. It all works together and it really helps to become familiar with the songs.
6:52pmAnother track I may have overplayed for myself over the last year. Haha, but hearing it here in final form is a real treat. I kinda wish they would release this one for people to hear. It’s very vibe-y. Slow building. Jason vocals just layered all over the place on top of each other building these huge harmonies.
Love the instrumentation here. Hard not to tap your foot.
“Keep getting closer … keep getting closer … keep getting closer …”
6:54pmJason’s vocals were very missed.
6:56pmSo, by this point in the album you really do have a good feel for where they’re going. For what the band sounds like in 2017. It’s got a very Acceptance feel to it while sounding surprisingly fresh and new. To some, that may be a turnoff. If you’re wanting something that sounds more like a rock band in 2005, I get that. But I can’t help but love what they’ve done with this album as they crafted something distinctly new.
That said, this has a very big Acceptance in 2005 vibe.
6:58pmThe way Jason repeats lines, “I could take another minute, take, take another minute” is very Phantoms-esque in delivery. It’s also got a much faster chorus than the previous songs. It pushes upward instead of slowing down for it. It’s a nice change of pace. I bet this is a fan favorite.
“You got me breathing, breathing heavy all the time, you got me thinking, thinking I could be out of line….”
Out of context a tad creepy as I type that.
6:59pmI can’t tell if the back half of the record is my favorite because I’ve had so much time with the first 5 songs or so and they are all more “new” to me, or if I think they’re stronger songs. But, we’re about to get to my favorite stretch.
The bridge is very vintage Aaron Sprinkle IMO. He’s so damn underrated as a song writer and producer.
“I’m paralyzed, if I ever hear you say, goodbye goodbye goodbye, goodbye goodbye goodbye.”
7:01pmFive minute track in the middle of the album. It’s got a slow, building, brooding feel to it.
7:03pmSitting here half in the dark with a beer as it rains outside … really takes this one to a new level though. As Jason builds into the chorus you can hear where he’s about to go, and him belting, “I’m still here,” is one of the more rewarding moments.
7:04pmGod damn his upper register control though.
I feel like I could give this album to quite a few people in my life, casual music fans, and they would really like it. It’s very accessible in that regard. It’s got that kind of sound to it that I always thought Acceptance were under appreciated for being able to do … something that sounded oddly mainstream while also always having a little something that kept it footed in our world. The idea that this band in another life is as big as Coldplay, but are also a little secret.
7:06pmLast 43 seconds or so is a brooding little soundscape.
Fire and Rain
7:07pmI think … maybe … maybe I’d call this my favorite song on the album right now.
It starts with this big fanfare, big drums, big strums. Really good driving beat to it.
7:09pmThe chorus is probably their best on this album … the way they build into it with the harmonizing vocals is the kinda thing you just shake your head at how good it sounds. The little “ha ha ha” part into the second verse reminds me of something JEW would do, in the best way.
You could soundtrack a montage to a hip teen movie with this for sure.
The bridge is really great.
7:15pm”She’s a saint, she’s everything, she’s everything I ain’t.”
There’s times where you really can see how this is the same band that wrote Phantoms, or at least Jason’s distinct writing style makes its mark. He carries lines in very specific ways that not many people do. And it’s songs like this that make me really hope people give this album a chance. Because it’s here, as we move into the final four songs, that I think the album elevates to something special. It’s where the subsequent plays pay off and the enjoyment from the first part of the album turns into a real love for me.
“All this time I’ve wasted on you, and I can’t take this game you run me through … ”
7:16pmThe rest of the band really sound like they’ve honed their skills for a decade. Haha, they’re just good at their instruments and all the little flourishes they add strengthens the song. The guitar and percussion especially stands out to me.
7:21pmIn another world this gets some radio play somewhere. It’s got the chorus for it (would need to be edited down, but I think it coulda worked). Catchy. Kinda reminds me of Some Nights-era Fun. in there … there’s a few times I wish they took it up even more and it feels held back a tad. But I find myself forgetting this one and then remember how much I like the chorus when it comes back around.
When I Was Cursed
7:25pmSynthy atmospheric opening? ✓
Big time ballad with harmonizing female guest vocals? ✓
Some electronic sounding vocal effects? ✓
“Keeps me … hanging on, hanging on, hanging on … feels like I’ve got nothing to lose … something, lose something, holding forever, will I lose something, lose something….”
This song has this melodic pull to it. At first I wondered if it was more of an interlude, but then it starts to pick up …
7:31pmA song that arrives around the 44 minute mark, but for some reason this last better part of an hour has felt like it’s flown by. The song is a slow burner that uses basically everything the previous have introduced. All the elements are there in full-force.
The outro of this song is pure bliss.
7:53pmI’m not really sure what else to say about this one. It at times makes me feel let down because … I dunno, maybe I expect something way more from the final song? But at the same time it’s a really good closer. It’s inspiring and creative, but it’s not a song that I think I would come back to by itself. I think it works best with the proceeding to see them almost as one song, as a way to close the album, more so than anything else.
And that’s the album. It’s an interesting one, because there’s so many emotions at work at the same time: expectations of what you want the album to be, what it is, and how those mix. Feelings of finally getting to hear new Acceptance music and hear Jason Vena and the rest of the band back in action. Feelings of wondering what the albums in between Phantoms and this would have sounded like if the band never broke up. Would they be revered like JEW for their pop-rock prowess? What would they be seen as? But what we have is a band’s second full length that almost no matter what couldn’t live up to many expectations, but I find myself absolutely drawn to and happy with. It feels like a progression in sound that also does feel very Acceptance. But, it’s kind of like you ran into an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, and they’ve changed their haircut, wear different clothes, are older, have life behind their eyes, and you recognize them while also realizing you’ve been out of touch wth them for so long you have to relearn who they are. That’s this album for me. It’s undeniably Acceptance, but with 10 years of life behind its eyes. And I want to take the time to get to know this version. It’s meeting that old friend and wanting to catch up, become better friends again … and realize you have a lot in common still! That you have both grown and changed in certain ways but there’s still a common bond between you that leads to friendship.
It’s a good album, at times flawed, and at times it still mixes together a little too much or me. But it’s still something I find myself wanting to actively seek out and listen to. Something that definitely works to put on after Phantoms when in an Acceptance mood. I don’t know if it’ll go down as a cult classic in the same way, but I’m glad it exists. I’m glad I have these songs to listen to whenever I want, and I hope we get more music from these guys in the near future. They’re too talented to go away again and they seem on the cusp of really expanding and exploring their sound and how they make music together.
Basically, I give the album my recommendation and I really hope people go into it looking to spend some time with it and get lost in the soundscape and “big”-ness of the album.