After the heyday of early 2000’s, hardcore and post-hardcore bands comfortably fell in line on the well-worn paths blazed by the great bands before them. Hardcore bands became carbon copies of each other with the same tired breakdowns, the same old guitar solos and the same indecipherable vocals. But even that was better than the remaining post-hardcore outfits that ran from the genre, either becoming a carbon copy hardcore bands or hipster-electronica (I’m looking at you Deerhunter). Few bands held on to the innovative styles developed by the likes of The Beloved(us), The Beautiful Mistake and Bear vs Shark. The further from the 2002 release of The Beautiful Mistake’s “Light a Match, for I Deserve to Burn” the less likely it seemed that another innovate post-hardcore group would emerge from the black hole that can be the west coast scene.
But lo and behold, out of the musical wasteland of hyphy and “ghost ride the whip,” the Troubled Coast grew. And while the band’s musical style is undeniably similar to that of The Beautiful Mistake, Troubled Coast is a far cry from a carbon copy of anybody.
“Letters,” the second full-length from the San Francisco Bay area post-hardcore outfit flows almost seamlessly for 38 minutes, providing the listener with a melodically intense experience the explores the and pushes the boundaries of post-hardcore in second decade of the 21st century.
Much of the album takes advantage of seamless digital playback, making it all but impossible to identify individual songs mid-album until the middle of each song as the intensity mounts or ebbs.
Vocalist Mike Scornaienchi blends classic post-hardcore vocal styles from the past decade throughout the album. And it is Scornaienchi’s vocals that push, what would be a quality, but uninspiring instrumental work, toward that of a high quality album.
The vocal styles that Scornaienchi implements are not unique. He distinctly pulls from familiar, yet aging, vocalist styles, including the gruff speak/scream of Bear vs Shark’s Marc Paffi, the soft signing paired with throat screaming that made Josh Hagquist of The Beautiful Mistake so recognizable and the atonal poetic speaking of Aaron Weiss of MewithoutYou. The blend of styles allows the album to seamlessly move between the highly emotional themes that the record explores.
For every great moment of vocal and or instrumental work, there are flaws. The recording quality is lower than would be ideal, which buries the dynamic backing vocals. But the most jarring issue comes from a thirty-second clip toward the end of the album.
Borrowing from Brand New’s “Dasiy,” Troubled Coast’s tenth track “Me and My Shadow” uses a clip from a music recording from the early 1900’s as a transition to the eleventh, and spectacular, track “A Shallow Place.” The use of an early 1900’s clip was interesting when Brand New did it because it lulled the listener into a false sense of security before the intensity of Jesse Lacey’s screaming on “Vices.” The Troubled Coast failed to use the clip effectively, and it sits as the jarring moment in the otherwise flowing album.
This is a band that has a great sound, and the talent to improve and produce a great album. The challenge will be finding an audience for what is a niche sound.