Sorority Noise — the new Brand New?
Daniel O'Boyle | Wednesday, March 22, 2017
It’s fitting that Sorority Noise’s “You’re Not As ____ As You Think” was released in mid-March.
In a fact that surely wouldn’t be unnoticed by the band’s frontman and basketball fan, Cameron Boucher, the album’s release came last Friday, the second day of opening-round matchups in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“You’re Not As ____ As You Think,” makes only one brief reference to basketball, but it’s a hard-hitting one. Throughout the album, there are frequent references to the deaths of friends, but on standout track “Disappeared,” Boucher reveals the full extent of his difficult year. “A basketball team” becomes a unit of measurement, as Boucher levies the phrase to mourn five friends lost in the span of a year.
The phrase does more than quantify Boucher’s grief. In an interview with American Songwriter last year about the band’s 2016 EP, “It Kindly Stopped For Me,” Boucher explained that a standout from the record, “A Will,” was about the difference between learning of the death of a young friend compared to an older relative. The lyric on “Disappeared” has a similar effect. The friends Boucher sings about losing throughout the album aren’t old, and their deaths don’t feel inevitable. Like the teams of 18-to-23 year-olds that played across the country on the day “You’re Not As ____ As You Think” was released, Boucher’s friends would have had almost their entire lives ahead of them.
“You’re Not As ____ As You Think” isn’t so much about the deaths of friends as it is about the aftermath, however. There’s no Jim Carroll Band-esque detailing of every death, just occasional allusions to drugs or suicide that give the listener an adequate picture of each individual. The opening track, “No Halo,” sets the tone early on with a roaring chorus about Boucher returning from touring to a friend’s house only to remember the friend had died a year earlier.
From there, Boucher tries to come to terms with loss. The combination of brutal honesty and religious references gives the album a similar feel to Brand New’s 2006 magnum opus, “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me.” Sorority Noise is hardly the only band in recent years to channel the indie-emo feel of Brand New. As the frontman of one of many groups claimed to be spearheading a sort of “emo revival,” Boucher is unafraid to reference his peers in the genre. On the album’s fourth track, “A Better Sun,” he plays on the titles of songs by Into It. Over It. and Modern Baseball as well as indie folk artist Julien Baker. The allusions serve as a brief insight into one thing that’s been keeping Boucher going: the music of his remaining friends from bands he has toured with.
But “You’re Not As ____ As You Think” is not simply another album from another band that channels Brand New. It is likely the closest thing to a modern edition of that group’s best work, perfecting the internal religious conflict that appears in “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.” At it’s core, the album is about Boucher’s struggle with fitting faith and loss together. Through most of the album, Boucher is confident there’s a God — even if they haven’t spoken in “a while” — and that his friends are in heaven, even if he can’t figure out why they are but he isn’t. On the eighth of the album’s ten tracks, “Second Letter from St. Julien,” Boucher fully calls his faith into doubt for the only time and doesn’t mention religion again, leaving the issue ambiguous.
Boucher doesn’t claim to have the answers to any questions raised in the album, and he doesn’t need to. Instead, leaving the album’s questions unanswered allows the listener to fill in answers in the same way they can fill in the blank in the album’s title.
Artist: Sorority Noise
Album: You’re Not As ____ As You Think
Label: Topshelf Records
Best Tracks: “No Halo”, “Disappeared”, “Second Letter From St. Julien”
If You Like: Brand New, The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Tigers Jaw