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Driver Friendly - Unimagined Bridges Album Cover

Driver Friendly - Unimagined Bridges

Reviewed by
9.0
Driver FriendlyUnimagined Bridges
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Release Date: July 15, 2014
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
The last few years have been busy for Driver Friendly. The self-released Bury A Dream caught some ears back in 2012, including Hopeless Records, resulting in the band’s signing. Some of those tracks then re-appeared last year on Peaks + Valleys, with tracks like “Ghosts” and “Messidona” continuing to prove their knack for pop songs, while “Run” and “I Can See Canyons” were synth fueled and full of hand-clapped melodies. These songs were leading up to something big for the band, so it should come as no surprise that Unimagined Bridges takes this sound and refines it.

Helmed by Matt Malpass in the studio, Unimagined Bridges takes the talent of each member of the band and expands it. The introductory “The Game (This Won’t Hurt)” begins eerily, as frontman Tyler Welsh softly sings, “All I ever wanted was to be part of the conversation / To know that someone was listening to the words I was saying.” At this point, a breezy guitar riff chimes in and the horns fire off – then you’re listening. The quick intro leads into the gritty guitar tone of “Everything Gold,” the first example of how Malpass’ layering really adds depth to these songs. The song makes clear that this is a full band effort – it all builds together. The “ay-o”s are supported by trumpets, while the distorted guitar riff juxtaposes the calm horns and paced drums.

Despite these songs having an upbeat exterior, the interior deals with overcoming hardships and finding stability. The words may be slightly disguised in upbeat momentum, but nearly every song deals with these themes. Lead single “Stand So Tall” employs The Wonder Year’s Dan Campbell in fitting fashion, as his section could lyrically fit on a Wonder Year’s record: “I wish I could refuse to cave in / But it's so easy to pretend I'm brave / When in the end, I'm collapsible at best.” The following “Deconstruct You” serves as one of the best and catchiest moments in Driver Friendly’s discography yet masks some of the darkest lyrics on the record with pop sensibility musically and vocally. On first listen, you’re singing along to the chorus as the horns flare up over some of the band’s best drumming. It’s only after awhile that you realize how dark the lyrics are. Few bands can make such catchy songs have such bite lyrically – and do so as effectively as Driver Friendly do here.

While at its core this album is very much a pop-rock record, it’s not all upbeat all the time. It’s when the pacing changes during a song – starting slower, picking up for the chorus, then alternating – that the band’s songwriting growth really surfaces. “Bad Way” begins with loud drums battling the guitar, but then it slows down, making sure the words stick. At this point, drummer Jeremi Mattern really makes the words stand out – as Welsh sings, “Spent last night hating what I’d become / You see, I’ve been in a bad way,” Mattern’s drum work slowly builds the song up. The guitars slowly creep in before an addictive chorus steals the show – and then the song recedes yet again. “Twenty Centuries Of Sleep” follows a similar format, this time adding Juan Lopez’s trumpet to the softer side of the song to help build up the chorus. The harmony of the chorus shows the chemistry between Welsh and Andy Lane on vocals, echoing how each layer of music adds depth to these songs.

The musicianship here outshines the band’s previous efforts – and that’s saying something. “Start Again” comes entirely out of left field. It blends a back-and-forth melody (courtesy of Welsh and Lane) with some of the best, most diverse guitar work on the album. Due to this, it has arguably the boldest exteriors of any song, but little niches still stand out, such as when Chris Walker’s bass pulses beneath trumpets as Welsh pleas, “I’m not enough.” Following “Start Again,” “What A Predicament!” becomes an anthem due to the band’s ear for melody. Here, we hear a repeated line from the intro – “The game never ends / The bridge always extends” – this time buoyed by a layered vocal melody and trailed by one of the catchiest choruses on the record.

Despite much of the darkness held within the record, the end-all theme is hope, with the final “Bridges” detailing just this: “Define exactly what that means to me / I think I forgot, ‘this is so much bigger than me’ / I've been trying to understand just how to stand / On unstable lines, shifting sands.” This motif of accepting hard times and pressing on fuels the closer – and the entire record. It’s an album of acceptance and finding ways to move past hardships toward brighter days. These ideas are held in songs that demand to be played with the windows down while driving in the summer sun, resulting in Unimagined Bridges easily being Driver Friendly’s best and most cohesive work to date.

9/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 34
06:18 PM on 07/13/14
#2
Ryan Gardner
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I couldn't really find a place to say it - but this album reminds me a lot of when I first heard Go Radio's Close The Distance. It's the kind of album that I hear and know I'll be singing along to non-stop, knowing that it is the album I've been waiting for the band to write.

Also, you can stream the album if you'd like.
08:33 PM on 07/13/14
#3
TimTheMechanic
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Really enjoy this record, This and the Bad Suns record have hit at the perfect time. Great review Ryan!
09:08 PM on 07/13/14
#4
FTank
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I couldn't really find a place to say it - but this album reminds me a lot of when I first heard Go Radio's Close The Distance. It's the kind of album that I hear and know I'll be singing along to non-stop, knowing that it is the album I've been waiting for the band to write.

Also, you can stream the album if you'd like.
It reminds me of Young New England but much better, haha.

Nice review, and this album has gotten better every time I spin it.

Edit: do you guys not do RIYL's anymore? Just noticed this review doesn't have one
12:49 AM on 07/14/14
#5
Ryan Gardner
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It reminds me of Young New England but much better, haha.

Nice review, and this album has gotten better every time I spin it.

Edit: do you guys not do RIYL's anymore? Just noticed this review doesn't have one
We still do RIYL. It's reviewer's preference. I only do them on smaller bands. If it's a more well known band, I leave them off.
07:14 AM on 07/14/14
#6
Blake Solomon
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a truly great pop-punk album. and one that i would actually consider somewhat creative, which i know is whatever, but it is. great job, dudes.
07:30 AM on 07/14/14
#7
jco3
Oh, hello there, internet.
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Will listen. I enjoyed "20 centuries of sleep" a lot from earlier this month.
07:53 AM on 07/14/14
#8
AlexJLow
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Cannot wait to hear to this in full tonight. It's one of those records I know I'll love before I even listen.
08:05 AM on 07/14/14
#9
ViTOP
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Great Record!! LOVE IT.
08:29 AM on 07/14/14
jusscali
EMO REVIVAL IS FOR BITCHES
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I enjoy it. Deconstruct you is one of my favorite songs in a long time.
08:39 AM on 07/14/14
Trased152425
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Might check this out soon.
08:43 AM on 07/14/14
Viva Sonata
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This band just followed me on Instagram. time to give this a spin.
09:07 AM on 07/14/14
NaoRuth
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09:49 AM on 07/14/14
goldwincs
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been a fan of this band since day-1 hopeless records sign this band. Ghost & Messidona are still my jam! really have a high expectation on this new record now.
10:03 AM on 07/14/14
syntax omitted
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Fantastic band. Getting more into this record with each listen. I still think Bury A Dream may be better/darker, though.

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