Nostalgia can have a funny way of bringing back a flood of memories, whether they be for good or bad. Story of the Year do a great job of honing in on the positive memories of their platinum-certified debut LP, Page Avenue, into a re-imagined version of this sound found on their sixth studio album called Tear Me To Pieces. From the similar cover art, to the references of a familiar time on the song “2005,” Story of the Year embrace their past while still looking towards the future. Tear Me To Pieces features a more polished version of themselves that they hinted at on Wolves, and probably wish they had the poise to create back in 2003. This album is a solid collection of songs that hit hard from front to back, and still leave the door wide open to where they could take their sound next. With themes ranging from self-doubt, anxiety, and meaningful relationships, Story of the Year’s return to the music scene couldn’t have come at a better time.
The record opens cautiously with an acoustic guitar as vocalist Dan Marsala sings the title track’s chorus before the electric guitars kick in to get more into the comfort zone of the band. Marsala explains his mental state on the first verse of, “Flying through the static / Like a bat out of the hell in me / 30 seconds longer till this / Medication dies on me / I can’t see the end / These voices don’t make sense / I can’t fall asleep please help me.” His vulnerability makes him relatable, and the band’s powerful backing sound makes this a great introductory song to launch into. “Real Life” was the first single to be released from the set, and it builds to a great, anthemic chorus. I found the second verse of, “You said, “this hurts too much, I don’t wanna stay” / Find a nice rich man / Give you everything / But nobody else / Makes you feel this way / Like a drug, like a drug / That you love to take,” to be particularly powerful in explaining the way fractured relationships can make it feel like we’re being ripped ti shreds.
”Afterglow” follows with some more incredible guitar work from Ryan Phillips, who’s presence is felt far and wide on this record. The chorus of, “I can barely feel the pain / When I’m staring at you / Every time my life explodes / You’re the perfect afterglow / I can barely feel the pain / When I’m staring at you / Every time my life explodes / You’re the perfect afterglow,” before cutting away the last note to remind the listener that almost nothing can be perfect. “Dead and Gone” is a frenetic punk rock song that is layered with great drumming from Josh Wills to make each Marsala vocal punch in with authority. The bridge of, “Why does it feel so good to let you go? / This is the death of something beautiful,” features a refrain of a backing chorus to leave the lyrics as a haunting warning of what can happen when our relationships take a turn for the worst.
”War” highlights some cool guitar riffing by Phillips paired with a pulsating bass line from Adam Russell to keep things interesting. While “Can’t Save You” rips the door wide open with its heavier-toned guitar riffs and near-shouted vocals remind the audience of the hard-nosed material Story of the Year are plenty capable of crafting. “2005” reminisces over the vocal croon of Marsala about the peak of the emo/punk genre, as well as the origins of the band into a cleverly constructed track.
”Sorry About Me” finds Marsala doubting himself and his mental well-being on the second verse as he ponders, “I think I need help / Cause lately I’m so unwell / From diamonds to dust that could be us / If I could just change myself / In a city broken like me / Every nightmare started out a good dream / I just need to tell you before I go.” There are always key moments in any relationship where we begin to doubt our self-worth and make sure we’re putting our best forward more often than not, and the band recognizes this dynamic gracefully.
Other key standouts like “Take the Ride” find Story of the Year at their most catchy, with a brilliant blast of pop-punk spirit as they sing along, “Let go of the wheel and I shut my eyes / I wanna feel something before I die / Fuck all the red flags / I don’t know where I’m going.” Sometimes the scariest thing in the world is realizing we’re not in control of our own destiny and life, and the lyrics bring up this exact situation. The closing duo of the aggressive-sounding “Knives Out” contrasted with the vulnerable ballad of “Use Me” define an incredible chapter in this band’s sound and career, and will likely make longtime fans of Story of the Year hope that they don’t have to wait another six years for more music from this talented band. By remaining a relatable beacon of light through their meaningful lyrics, this artist makes Tear Me To Pieces a memorable section of their own story.