By Ethan Cook
I view music through a qualitative lense, rather than a quantitative one. Qualitative and quantitative are big words that get tossed around a lot in STEM classes that involve a lot of technical writing, but the TLDR is that I don’t think music is a competition, so I won’t be attaching a rating of any sort to my review. Anyway, let’s get to it.
It’s early September, the first hints of fall are just starting to show themselves, a welcome relief coming out of the hot and hazy days of August. The new semester has arrived, and students everywhere mourn the end of another summer, a summer that felt endless. Everything is the Worst, the newest EP from Cedarsmoke, captures this early fall-melancholy vibe perfectly for me. To be sure, the band is not trying to hide their collective ennui in this EP; from songs titles (“Feel Bad Hit of Summer”), to lyrics (“Buried under paperwork / I used to know nothing, now I know less than that”), and guitar lines reminiscent of pop-punk and grunge; it’s clear that Cedarsmoke is documenting a particular feeling of everyday malaise that many of us can identify with in our current pandemic- and politically- addled society. I’ve had this EP on repeat for the past month to get me through the Dog Days of Summer, and help me transition into my moody indie-boy self just in time for the fall. You already know I’m unpacking my sweaters, Docs, and beanies with glee.
My personal favorite track off the EP is “Local Anesthetic,” so next I want to take a closer look at this particular song. It starts off simply; a guitar and piano play wavering chords in tandem, a echoing drum keeps a simple, thumping beat. Then, 15 seconds in, the lead guitar enters with the main riff, a rolling lick with emotional, ripping distortion as it builds, and then fades away to make room for the vocals. To me, the vocals and guitar have a similar quality. Both carry a mostly clean tone, like someone barely holding in their emotions as they talk. Together the guitar and vocals crack and break up as they crescendo to a sorrowful chorus filled with longing, as if they are saying “I can’t believe what my life has come to.” The lyrics of the song are filled with a similar theme. In the verse, “15 milligrams make you lively as a stone / Polyester girls, zombie checks their phones / Waiting for another hit of dopamine to unfurl and unfold,” we see a particular dejection, the lyrics critical of modern society and pandering the ills of a superficial world. These feelings are not unique to Cedarsmoke, but what is unique is how aptly they manage to capture and transmit these sentiments through their lyrics, rhythms and the world they build with their music. The remaining tracks build around a similar theme. “Pure Heroin” bemoans the hopelessness of love, “The Grim Reaper’s Song” is told from the point of view of Death, and “Keep Passing The Open Windows” opens with a pop-punk riff and a chorus that says “It’s a long way down so, I’ve been told.” And that’s the ethos of this EP for me; standing at the edge of autumn and another semester, saying, “It’s a long way down.”
Cedarsmoke have yet to release a full-length album, “Everything is the Worst” being their fourth EP in the past four years. In my opinion, the band is at its best when they build around prominent guitar parts and roomy drum beats, allowing the riffs and vocals to shine through. Their songs can tend towards wordiness, which can cause a muddy sound when the guitars are heavily layered in the background. Of course, I’m a sucker for a good guitar riff, but I think they have more tweaking to do in order to perfect the ‘soundscape’ style guitar parts. Overall, this is a solid release from Cedarsmoke, but there’s room to grow. I anxiously await their next release.
If you like this EP and want to explore more content in a similar vein, I’ve included a “Further Exploration” list below. I’m a big fan of multi-media “playlists,” so the list contains music, art, movies, memes, etc.
- Stand By Me: Coming-of-age movie based on a Stephen King story?? Watch it (bonus points for watching The Goonies, too).
- Mentally I’m here
- Calvin is all of us right now:
- Beetlejuice: Wacky Halloween classic ft. goth Winona Ryder. 10/10 content.
- Levi’s Vintage Clothing Fall/Winter 2020 Collection: Based on the 80’s underground scene in Louisville. C’mon guys, we all wish we were this cool.
- Color Theory by Soccer Mommy: My favorite rainy-day album that I can think of right now