A few years ago, a lot of positive reviews for pop-punk records talked about how the record in question was a change of pace; a break from the then-unfortunate norm of neon clothes and auto-tune. That tone began to change – slowly at first, then with increasing speed. Something of a “golden age” emerged, and whether you want to thank Run For Cover and No Sleep Records or any of the other numerous amazing independent labels that have been the behind-the-scenes faces of this movement is your call. But my point remains: For avid music listeners, for the users on this website, and for the college-aged generation across the country, these record labels and a tight-knit scene of bands stretching from Gainesville to Boston to Los Angeles to, um, Oregon, loomed into the spotlight. Their shadows overtook and made irrelevant the neon and the auto-tune.
Transit is certainly one of the bands that rose up in that crop. Since they made a splash onto the scene with their Stay Home EP years ago, the band has improved immensely from release to release. Their sophomore full length on Run For Cover, Keep This To Yourself, received rave reviews, and the following Something Left Behind and Promise Nothing EPs provided a rare opportunity for listeners to watch a band grow before their very ears. There haven’t been many instances where bands have put out that many releases, so close together, where fans have quite literally been able to trace their musical progression. A lot of this current generation has physically and emotionally grown up with Transit over the last few years.
It’s almost not surprising at all that Transit has released their best record in 2011. With many of their peers unveiling albums, this year has been busy churning out quality release after quality release. Listen & Forgive, the group’s first effort for Oregon-based Rise Records, is an immediately nostalgic take on 90s emo-tainted pop-punk. Many will expect even more of a shift toward that emo sound, as was foreshadowed by the two songs on Promise Nothing, but Transit does a solid job of combining that extreme with their already-loved brand of callous punk rock.
The first song released from the album, “Long Lost Friends,” does a pretty good job of showing just that. Delicate verses precede a chorus that rides high on vocalist Joe Boynton’s calls of “Lately, you been looking at me / Like you’ve seen a ghost / And isn’t it obvious / Who’s been missing who the most?” If those lyrics don’t reveal it enough already, Listen & Forgive is most certainly a breakup record – and while breakup records can come across as one-dimensional, this one proves to have staying power upon (at least 60) repeat listens. Opener “You Can’t Miss It (It’s Everywhere)” follows the same stylistic design as “Long Lost Friends,” and Boynton hits another home run in the one-liner category: “And it seems / I only have two speeds / Too much too soon, or not enough.” Good luck not making that your Facebook status when you’re trying to get some work done during the winter months.
I could probably list one-liners like courtesy of every track (“You only need to see fireworks once a year” from the title track; “Those left with heavy hearts are only left to sink / You left me to sink” from “I Think I Know You”), but that would probably get tiresome pretty quickly. Instead, it’s perhaps easier to focus on the highlights, like the jumpy, guitar-centered, sure-to-be-old-fan-favorite “Cutting Corners” or the blunt, pounding “Over Your Head.” Maybe it’s worth another paragraph to describe in detail Listen & Forgive’s standout, the scathing “All Your Heart,” featuring Patrick Stump. That track also features Boynton’s best lyrical performance on the album with, “You made me into a monster / So I made you into art / And I gave it to the world / To rip and tear apart.”
The re-recorded “1978” will polarize fans; while many may prefer the older version, there’s no question the new version flows better throughout the course of the record. Closer “The Answer Comes In Time” would be the best track here if it wasn’t for “All Your Heart,” and it might be the most ideal fusion of Transit’s past releases and current aim.
But while this is Transit’s most impressive release, there are certain flaws on Listen & Forgive. Like I said, this is very clearly a breakup record – as a result, the way listeners interpret these lyrics might change on a week-to-week basis. After all, we are the angsty youths of America. This album might not have for some the lasting power it has for others. While the album is diverse, from the upbeat jams to the acoustic “Skipping Stone,” Boynton’s vocals are so consistent that there is an underlying sameness to these tracks. The record never becomes repetitive at all, but it teeters close to that point.
There are other missteps here, but it’s the sort of situation where we might pretend to not notice. The poppy, almost dance-oriented chorus of “Don’t Make A Sound” might be one to forget, but the rest of the track is good enough to look past that part. Ironically, that’s the track where we see the most of the unsung hero of Listen & Forgive in guitarist Tim Landers. The guitar work is thrust into the forefront throughout the record, but Landers’ backup vocals are where he provides that glue around the edges of Transit’s sound.
Listen & Forgive is another stage in Transit’s phenomenal progression, but it is one where they took a leap or a bound rather than a small step. This album will be a critical darling, but more than many other records released this year, it has the chance to impact listeners right away, without losing relevancy after a numerous spins. The phrase I used earlier, “immediately nostalgic,” might express that thought a bit more coherently – you might not know where, but you’ve heard Listen & Forgive before.
Maybe it was taken from bits and parts of your favorite records from earlier years; maybe it comes from the lyricism and how it reminds you of something from your past; maybe the phrase deja entendu is a little more relevant here than I’d like to lead on, in more ways than one. One thing is certain – Transit took the best of an expanding genre and blended it with equal parts passion and innovation, and they created a hell of a memorable record.