After being the sole operator of his side project debut Southern Weather, Aaron Gillespie expanded his solo effort into a full band deal, which may explain the increase of variety in The Almost’s second album, Monster Monster.
Monster Monster retains the aggressiveness that Southern Weather possessed while diversifying the tempos and compositions as well. Produced by Aaron Sprinkle, Gillespie’s voice has never sounded stronger. Musically, Monster Monster twists and turns, sometimes severely. In fact, Monster Monster channels Foo Fighters a lot more than it does its scene contemporaries.
The title track kicks off the album with driving, dirty guitar chords and a quick tempo, courtesy of Gillespie, who always manned the drums. Immediately you can hear Gillespie owning the album with his voice. While the nasally delivery may put off some, there is no denying the energy and passion behind it. “Lonely Wheel” has radio potential with its catchy chorus, while “No I Don’t” slows the album down a bit, as it captures some Relient K in its melody. Once again Gillespie’s vocals shine, especially on the chorus.
First single, “Hands,” is incredibly delightful. Hand claps, scant yet piercing piano keys, and gang vocals are the key ingredients in this vibrant rocker. “Young Again” may be the most aggressive song that The Almost has written. The guitar work from Jay Vilardi and Dusty Redmon provide the backbone for this track, while Gillespie gives his most assertive vocals yet.
The classic rock feel of “Summer Summer” and the folksy “Hand Grenade” give Monster Monster some of that diversity the debut was lacking. Some of the later tracks don’t stack up to the first half of the album, but “Get Through” breathes some life back into the album with its quirky, distorted riffs. The vulnerable “Monster” is a beautiful closer. Paced by a simple acoustic chord, it is only fitting that Gillespie’s voice would highlight the final track. Monster Monster proves that Gillespie is not just a capable front man, but quickly turning into one of the best.
Monster Monster is definitely a more complete and finished product than its predecessor, Southern Weather, was. Working with a complete band this time helped in creating the variety heard throughout the album, as each member was able to contribute different ideas to the record. Lyrically, Gillespie’s words are filled with just as much urgency as his vocals, giving the album that emotional punch all pop-rock records need to remain in regular rotation. Granted the album has its flaws, as it alters a bit during the second half. But Monster Monster definitely lives up to its name, as The Almost has created a beast of a pop-rock record.