album review: everything seems like yesterday

The Frights are well established, but still young in their lives and musical careers. Yet, they are a staple to the surviving alternative rock scene in Southern California. They formed the band spontaneously after one night of performing together and have been putting out music consistently for the past seven years. Their signature sound has been kept up for the most part throughout their past albums: dirty doo-wop, upstrokes on the guitar, pumped up vocals, distortive effects. However, the new record, Everything Seems Like Yesterday, is none of that. It’s not what fans ever cherished about the Frights. And it’s phenomenal.

It seems that after seven years, it’s only appropriate to allow a band to grow out the angsty songs they were writing as teenagers. Artists have more to express than what can be pushed out of overdrive pedals. Mikey Carnevale knew what he was doing when he decided to do a solo tour early 2019. Because it was only his name on the marquee, these songs were safe to share. These deeply personal tracks were only ever meant to be under his name, until his bandmates heard them. They believed in his songwriting so much that they wanted to put the whole band name on the record despite the risks. That boldness is the crowning achievement of the album. It’s more punk of them to produce this LP than to continue to put out the same material that most wannabe surf rock bands have been recycling for years.

However, the album does have one thing in common with old Fright’s material: coming of age. The new album is exceptional at keeping this theme direct and hard-hitting. Everything Seems Like Yesterday confronts tainted nostalgia – moments in life that need closure in order to move on. Musically, of course, is where the material strays from traditional. It’s stripped down to be as close to Mikey’s original performances as possible while getting the rest of the band involved. The main focus of each track is his voice, his guitar and the ambient sounds of life happening around him. 

The album opens up with the track “24,” titled after Mikey’s 24th birthday on August 24th, 2018: the release of Hypochondriac. This song sets the pace for the record: upbeat, yet gentle, and introducing this era of Carnevale’s life. The atmosphere is built up around the sounds of the recording studio and finds its energy in the percussive nature of the acoustic guitar. Lyrically, the song makes excuses for the singer’s lack of social etiquette that result in his isolation and missed relationships. The song ends with a snippet, presumably from one of his solo shows, where someone in the crowd cheers Mikey on. Maybe this can be seen as the encouragement Carnevale needed to explore his new sound.

“Kicking Cans” is one of the more innovative tracks on the record. It welcomes odd recordings to become a part of the song’s structure. Footsteps, sweeping, and metallic clamoring are amongst the sounds that are used to build a percussive energy that keeps the song light and bouncy. The layering of vocals is infectious as they bring a lightheartedness to an otherwise sad song. The instruments then suddenly drop off to leave Mikey’s voice singing “it’s all the same, yeah i’m to blame,” accepting responsibility in the narrative that the album follows. The next song, “Simple and Strange,” seems to revolve around blame as well, surveying a relationship that had its flame burn out long before either individual could recognize it. It loops around and around, reflecting on whether it’s either of their responsibilities to hold onto what’s not there anymore.

“Echo in the Corner of the Room” is the most direct in its lyrical content. It surrounds losing someone you never had a fulfilling relationship with. It questions if it’s appropriate to miss someone you never appreciated while they were around. Carnevale’s vocal performance holds the subtle emotion needed to convey the theme but the experimentation of layering different voice channels adds an element of playfulness to the track. The echo effect really builds the soundscape, producing the crushing feeling of emptiness. The song ends with a bustling conversation that leads into the next track and first single, “Leave Me Alone.” This track is great pick me up in the middle of the album as it creates interesting instrumental paths, making it probably the most engaging song on the album – a good choice as a single. The maracas are a refreshing and crisp addition to the percussive qualities of the song, along with unique elements like a door slamming on beat.

Following the single is a nice change of pace in the track “All I Ask.” There is a subtle humming throughout the song that replaces the need for bass and adds to the lullaby nature of Mikey’s lyrics, “trust in me.” Leading in with a distant harmonica is the next song, “Love Grows Cold.” This song grows gradually and smoothly to welcome in the vocals. It addresses the necessary lows of a relationship in order to appreciate the highs. “Faceless Moon,” on the other hand, deals with the other side of self-reflection: the side where closure is necessarily reached. The song builds with a lot of layered voices that might symbolize voices in the singer’s head as they get stuck in a loop that doesn’t seem to get resolved by the end of the song. Rather the track sits in a rather crushing feeling – that lack of closure in the unanswered cry of “what did i do to you?”

Perhaps the most dynamic track on the album is the divergent, “For Someone Else’s Sake.” The song strays away from the structure that is shared amongst the rest of the album, instead exploring this variation within the song that makes it exciting and unexpected. It keeps the listener fully engaged, following the story of an exciting new relationship to its inevitable end. It seems to reflect on two people whose purposes in each other’s lives were to better the other person “for someone else’s sake.”  It feels like a thank you to the relationship, not the ex, as set straight in the lyrics “this ain’t your song.” The overlapping of voices and lyrics at the end creates a headspining kind of loop that brings the narrative full circle: looking to the past for growth.

The album closes with “25.” The track seems to have a dual meaning, one in line with the themes of the album and one that addresses The Fright’s audience directly. In a rather Sargent Pepper-esque manner, Mikey thanks the listener for giving him a chance to express himself, but if they don’t like it, they can ignore it: “forget my stupid problems, I’ll be okay, I’ll be alright.” It doesn’t matter how you felt about this album, it was for him. As it should be after several years delivering what other people wanted.

The album comes out on physical formats on March 13th, and The Frights are playing a FREE show on February 15th in San Diego to celebrate the release. Following is a national tour with a total of seven California dates, with Los Angeles being May 30th at the Wiltern.

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