I like change. I like when one day is beautiful and sunny, the next is dark and gloomy, and I’m left waiting for the storm. For me, change keeps things interesting when there isn’t much going on in general. Musically, I like change too, but more often than not, when a band decides to change their sound, it’s usually a hit or miss. Names like Cartel and The Academy Is… come to mind when I think of times a band has tried to progress musically but subsequently failed to deliver. On the other hand, New Found Glory’s Coming Homewas able to possess a sound that was different from their usual work yet still accessible to their fan base (for the most part, anyway). Back in 2006, Cute Is What We Aim For released The Same Old Blood Rush With a New Touch, their label debut done by pop-aficionado Matt Squire, and although it was the soundtrack of my Summer, it came with mixed reviews; much of which I agreed with despite liking the record so much. Filled with cliched one-liners, grating vocals, and predictable instrumentation, it was a magnet for hate. However, none of this bothered me; I loved that album for sole purpose of making me feel good with its catchy melodies and the fact that I could listen over and over again without getting sick of it. With that said, Cute Is What We Aim For avoids the dreaded “sophomore slump” with their new album Rotation by making a record that is a vast improvement musically and vocally from their previous effort.
Opener and first single “Practice Makes Perfect” displays just how much the band has changed over the past two years. After expecting an upbeat and poppy anthem, I received almost the complete opposite, and couldn’t really wrap my head around the fact that this was the same band. Producer John Feldmann makes his presence extremely well-noticeable on this record. If I never knew who produced Rotation, it’d be pretty easy to guess Feldmann anyway. On the second track “Doctor,” it’s as if some parts (and more throughout the album) came straight out of The Used’s discography (all of which Feldmann has produced) by the way it features brief and random screams that are ever so present in Used songs. Never did I think that I would ever say that a Cute song had influences of The Used in it.
If anyone thought Cute Is What We Aim For did a complete 180 judging by the first two tracks on the record, they’ll realize that they still possess some of the same qualities they did two years ago on “Navigate Me,” which shows the band still struggles to produce any quality lyrics. Throughout listening to the album I found myself asking, “…What did he just say?” at times instead of usually singing along to the catchy chorus. Despite Rotation’s poor lyrics, they’re not something that ruins the album for me as I am still able to enjoy all of the tracks immensely. Rotation’s stand-out and potential single, “Loser,” is a straight-to-point jam that is most likely a song someone would have found on The Same Old Blood Rush. It starts off right with a memorable chorus and is the upbeat number that I was hoping to find three songs ago. The deeper I get into the album, the more I hear how the band has strayed away from their older sound. “Hollywood” is probably the band’s most diverse song to date, including horns and even a rap-like verse in the bridge. “Marriage to Millions” is another favorite of mine and is the track I always find myself going back to when I’m not playing the record in its entirety. “Miss Sobriety” has an ending that is almost identical to “Doctor” and is the second song that sounds heavily influenced in Feldmann’s previous work in production with The Used, while the closer “Time” has a much more laid back sound and could be compared to Blood Rush’s “Lyrical Lies.”
Love’em or hate’em, Cute Is What We Aim For has displayed their ability to improve in most aspects in which they lacked on their last record. Rotation is a giant step-up and even though it doesn’t go without its much noticeable flaws, they’ve created an album that will win over haters, garner new fans, and have me listening as I wait for the next storm to arrive.