Barely Civil
I’d Say I’m Not Fine

The third studio album from Barely Civil, called I’d Say I’m Not Fine, takes a dramatic leap in their artistic growth and highlights the young band’s ability to fully realize their vision for their music. When I last caught up with the band to discuss the new record, they explained that the title of the record, and the song titles themselves, complete the statement of “I’d say I’m…” This creative approach to each of the tracks connects the LP in a way that is sure to keep longtime fans of the band engaged, and for new fans to discover one of the best albums to be released this year. I’d Say I’m Not Fine is a gripping listening experience, it takes listeners on a thrilling ride, and still leaves plenty of room for people to make their own interpretations on these songs. While Barely Civil did an outstanding job of paying homage to the artists they were influenced by on their sophomore record, I’ll Figure This Out, this album blows away all expectations from this talented band and cements them as one of the marquee acts in the emo scene.

The album opens up with a blistering attack of wailing guitars, impeccable drumming by Isaac Marquardt, and gang vocals on “I’d Say I’m…” that blends well into “Floating Again.” Lead singer Connor Erickson sings on the first verse, “For the first time in the new year / I can breathe again / I hope that it sticks til I find my way back to your house / If it’s a bad thing I can take that but I won’t inhale / I’m killing myself just to wake up and do it all again / I’m finding new ways to say, “Hey, dear, I’m floating again” / A constant reminder that I am what my dad made me / What my mom made me,” and paints a vivid picture of his past. The song also features some gang vocals in the verses, paired with an anthemic hook in the chorus that lofts the track to new heights.

Lead single, “Coasting, Mostly” is reminiscent of the starts & stops of classic emo bands like Saves The Day, American Football, and The Promise Ring, while still feeling like a true Barely Civil song through and through. The opening line of, “You feel so small, it almost feels like you’re not there at all” really stuck with me, and it is repeated at several key moments in the song to make sure it’s a constant reminder for the listener. “Shifting Blame” begins to explore the atmospheric blend of picturesque guitar sounds, paired with the smooth vocal delivery from Erickson, to continue the band’s artistic growth. The song picks its spots strategically on when to be more aggressive in its tempo, while the verses steady the overall vision.

”Not Fine” follows in the sequencing with a well-timed ballad that unfolds with electric guitars after the first chorus. The bridge of, “I’m learning to speak in tongues again / I’m burning the candle at both ends / I swear I can hear it in the whispers in town,’That building was purged, now it’s coming down,” is well thought out lyrical wordplay, and it’s truly magnificent to see the band evolve in this way.

My favorite song in the set, “Better Now,” is not only the best song on the album, it may be one of my favorite songs to come out of this entire decade. It features a steady drumbeat, paired with a pulsating bassline, and is mixed incredibly well by producer Chris Teti to pick the spots on when the band should explode into a different gear. The brilliant chorus of, “I’m sorry all I wanna do is speak but I can’t / (Are you better now?) / These nights all I wanna do is sleep but I can’t / (Are you better now?),” is pure, emo bliss that takes the band into the next echelon of artists that deserve more praise.

The brooding song called “Dwindling” takes a moment for the audience to breathe in everything that has come before them, while still looking forward to the thrilling conclusion that follows. The in and outs of the noise level feels like Barely Civil inhaling and exhaling as they gear up for the next phase. “Finding Time” kicks the doors right off the hinges from the first riff, and is arguably one of the heaviest songs the band has written to date. “Invading Space” is an introspective song that still looks to the outside world for answers to the biggest questions. The second verse of, “We’re killing God and starting wars / The only things that we’re good for / Fracking oil to tame the poor / Dissolving hope and keeping score,” is a great encapsulation of the state of the world today, and these observations are not taken lightly. The final song of “Closing Doors” leaves the listener with a haunting final lyric of, “Burn down the house, make a fire to keep me warm / If I could say anything, I don’t know anymore / I’m supposed to go, but I won’t.”

I’d Say I’m Not Fine is the runaway favorite of mine of the albums to come out thus far in 2024. It captures so many emotions in a brief, ten-song frame that is sure to make anyone who takes the time to listen to it feel a little less alone. Barely Civil are pretty damn good at telling a story from start to finish and this record will likely ascend them into an upper echelon of bands that are ready for the biggest of stages. Not many bands get a chance to make an album that defines them for the foreseeable future, but Barely Civil have done just that with I’d Say I’m Not Fine. I’d say I’m…impressed.