My Fictions – “Stranger Songs”

Grade: A-

Key Tracks: “Mt. Misery” “Postcard”

Boston group My Fictions know how to do hardcore right. Their new album, “Stranger Songs,” is fast, slick and uses volume to punish the listener’s emotions, not just their eardrums. At 10 songs and 28 minutes, it’s the work of a band that sounds frustrated and confused by the world around them, and they take out their feelings as quick as they can, with no unnecessary embellishments. “Stranger Songs” is loud and assaulting, with a dark and uncertain tone to boot.

The album’s opening track, “Mt. Misery,” starts with a bit of a cop-out intro, before jumping suddenly into a menacing, hardcore blast. Its follow-up, “Postcard,” the shortest track on the album, is an all-out assault on the listener. It is, as many of the songs are, centered on the frantic and explosive drumming that drives the beat further and further into submission. “Parking Lot” and “Stranger” also play around with false or building openings, and the energy behind the kit never lets up throughout the album.

But the album isn’t just about volume, it’s about using it properly. The album has an almost tantric feel to it, quickly softening and building back up, sometimes hitting a huge climax, sometimes not. “Airport Song” drops off completely at the end, leaving just faint bass notes and distant vocals. “Lower (A Selfish Song)” slows down towards the end for a punishing mid-tempo climax that’s as abrasive as they can get. My Fictions don’t come out of the gate and pound the listener into the ground with speed and volume – they welcome the quieter moments and tempo changes that enhance the hardcore sound.

“Stranger Songs” is not a summer album. I’d been receiving e-mails from (the excellent) Topshelf Records about the album’s release for months prior, but it’s a little difficult to get into it when I have the air conditioner running. It’s a dark and dense album, with the lyrics’ emotions coming out through the strained vocals. The band have an aura of unbridled frustration, no more apparent than on the aptly-named “Wake Anxious.” The guitars are dissonant and thundering, the drums heavy and the vocals distant and screamed. They sound disturbed by something, just in general, and use this album as their release. The album’s midpoint, “Concern,” is centered around a soundclip of someone asking a poet, “How can you write poetry if you’re not bothered by something?,” a line that comes up again in the final song. Taking a thunderous approach to your music only works if we believe there’s the frustration and anger behind it, and it’s on display here. They’re bothered. And it comes on full force. So prepare yourselves.

On an unrelated side note, I will be attending grad school in the fall. That does put this blog’s name in jeopardy, for sure. But I will be going to Emerson which is, by sheer coincidence, partially pictured in the cover of this album. I would like to promise this didn’t influence this review but no guarantees.

If you like this, try: I’m not up on my hardcore, I’m usually floored by a hardcore band’s stability throughout an album. So I’d like to suggest fellow Boston band Defeater’s recent “Letters Home” album, a continuation of their insane multi-album concept.

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