Apex, North Carolina Pop-Punkers Arms Length Away deliver their sophomore EP with a healthy dose of progression and maturity. Their previous release, 2010’s Just My Luck EP, showcased the work of eager greenhorns raised on New Found Glory, Yellowcard, and Jimmy Eat World. With their second release, the band stepped up to the plate to release something stronger and capable of holding its own. Even the EP’s cover art shows every sign of a band that is growing up; long gone is the cartoony hand-drawn art of past releases, ditched in favor of a more thoughtful photograph.
The record opens with Because, the first original song the band has released in over a year. Listeners will be pleased to hear a stronger vocal performance from lead singer Connor Nolte, due in large part to the quality production of Sid Menon from Sleepwalker Studios, his second time working with Arms Length Away. Because has been in the band’s setlist for a significant chunk of time, although it was performed under the working title Treading Water. It comes as no surprise, then, that the song feels like a transition from the band’s earlier work into their new sound. Because hits the ground running with the edgier qualities that the band only teased in previous songs, with hardcore-inspired backing vocals from bassist Andrew McGinn. The song is steady, catchy, and touches on familiar ground without tripping over itself.
Because fades into the next track, Home, which features some of the catchiest guitar riffs on the record, courtesy of guitarist Zach Godwin. Boasting impressive technical instrumentation, standout lyrics, and an overall distinct Home may just well be the band’s strongest song. Drummer Huy Lam brings his A-game to the next track, Remember When, a song that offers plenty of opportunity for Lam to showoff with drum fills. Though it’s present throughout the album, Remember When is a prime example of the personal introspection the band has chosen to focus on. Remember When also features the first use of the "Because you’re the one I’ll carry with me" lyrical motif, which is understandably dotted throughout the rest of the record.
Anxious is another song that the band has had on retainer for some time under the working title Your Anxious Heart, and it brings some necessary variety to the rest of the tracks. Nolte’s vocals, backed by polished harmonies, show stronger range as they lay over the soaring guitar parts. The entire track builds piece by piece towards a larger-than-life bridge and outro, which almost feels like it could have closed out the EP with its feeling of finality, but instead leads into the interlude. The interlude is included primarily to bridge the record to its acoustic ballad, New Year’s Resolution. An acoustic ballad is a new direction for the band, but not an unwelcome one. Fans of acoustic tunes from bands like Transit and Fireworks will have no problem getting into New Years’ Resolution, which sounds right at home among its musical influences. The slowed down atmosphere and raw tones help sell some of the most emotional lyrics the band has ever delivered.
The band’s brief foray into an acoustic track ends and the electric guitars return for the penultimate song, Compass, which is on the shortlist to be the band’s next single, with good reason. Nolte once again showcases his vocal range, switching seamlessly between pitches throughout the song. The bridge, which features backing vocals from McGinn, leads into a guitar solo that is undoubtedly one of the most memorable parts of the record, before fading back into one last chorus. Compass is catchy and well crafted, and stands alongside Home as one of the band’s best released tunes. You’re The One I’ll Carry With Me is the fastest track on the record, and the energy is everything a listener would expect from a closing title track. The song, which clocks in at just shy of three minutes, is another contender for the band’s best chorus.
Because You’re The One I’ll Carry With Me is leaps and bounds stronger than the band’s previous release, which wasn’t too shabby itself. For an unsigned band, a polished, well crafted release can be just what they need to break into the mainstream. If growth between their first two EPs is any sign of a trend, the band has nowhere to go but up.
Written by Frank Campisano IV