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Album Review: The Story So Far presents Proper Dose

If you’re at all up-to-date with what’s been going on in the pop punk world lately, you know The Story So Far is FINALLY back with a new album, more than three years after the May 2015 release of their last album, The Story So Far. The five-piece California pop-punk band released their highly-anticipated fourth LP, Proper Dose, on Friday and it was well worth the wait.

The album starts off with the high energy we’ve come to know and love with the title track, “Proper Dose”. This song successfully sets the tone, addressing the themes of lead singer Parker Cannon’s struggles with drug addiction and his mental state, and the desire to pull himself out of the dark and start living life again that we will see revisited throughout the rest of the album. “Keep This Up” holds the energy and continues to explore these themes alongside that of the relationship he has with his brother. These first two tracks are followed by a remastered version of the beloved first single they released from the album, “Out Of It”.

The album’s energy then slows down with the other singles that were released prior to the album, “Take Me As You Please,” “Let It Go,” and “Upside Down”. These tracks make it clear to us that the band is in a different headspace now than they with their first three albums. The first three focused mainly on Parker’s painful past relationships and lost love, but with these three tracks we see that he is letting go of the experience. He’s not angry anymore, he’s ready to move on, and he’s finally at peace with where they are now.

Things pick back up again with “If I Fall”, a track expressing the desire to recover and stop letting people down. This is arguably one of the most introspective tracks on the album, with Cannon singing “my choices let down some of my closest people / I’m gaining back ground / I’m forcing myself to get better by fall / will you be there if I fall?” Clearly he is aware that he’s been hiding from his mistakes for too long and doesn’t want to do it anymore. He wants to change but is afraid that he won’t be able to – he gives himself a sort of deadline but then asks if the people he loves will still be there for him if he falls back again. “Need To Know” sounds more similar some of their previous work, which will please longtime fans, and is one of the most musically complex tracks on the album. At the end of the song, the music changes and Cannon sings “save my soul” over and over again, really driving the message home that he knows there needs to be a change and is afraid he won’t be able to do it alone.

The next track, “Line”, is completely different from anything else on the album – and from anything else we’ve ever heard from The Story So Far – but it fits here perfectly. The instrumental-driven track has a more ambient and experimental sound, with Cannon singing the lyrics “Feel your hand inside of mine / wait no I don’t never mind,” as a reference back to “Let It Go.”

“Growing On You” is a slower track but is probably the one with the strongest lyrics of this entire album. It uses the metaphor of being a new blade of grass to show how the band and Cannon himself are ready to grow, develop, change, and improve. It is with this track that we are able to see exactly how much the band has matured with their lyrics and their sound.

The album ends strong with “Light Year”, which acknowledges how fast life seems to move and the fact that if you get stuck down below, life will move on without you. It addresses that the band is ready to move past everything that has been holding them down, saying “I’m stepping outside now / I’ll leave you behind now”, but also acknowledging the fear that comes with abandoning everything you used to know and starting anew with “I should have no fear / but my hands are slick”.

One very important thing to note here is that a theme that has been woven into all of their previous work – feeling indigo and dark blue (take a minute to listen to “Solo”, “Phantom”, and any number of their other songs and you’ll know what I’m talking about) – is completely absent on this album. This fact alone represents the band’s departure from their previous era. They focused for so long on the anger and pain that came with past relationships and on this album, not only do we not hear the words “indigo” or “dark blue” at all, but they actively tell us they are letting go. They are clearly moving on to tackle bigger and better things.  

Overall, I think this is some of their strongest work to date. While I’ve been a HUGE fan of all their work up to this point and will never stop listening to their first three albums, a fourth album written from the same material as the other three could have been overkill. This album is clearly much more mature in its subject matter and in the emotions expressed, and is also incredibly well-written. Their use of metaphors, symbolism, and word play on this album is unprecedented and much more introspective than they ever have been before. It’s also much more experimental, with the end of “Need To Know” and tracks like “Line” – tracks like these display the musical talent of the band and shows us the range and versatility they are capable of. There is not a single bad song on this album and each track falls perfectly into place.

I have been listening to The Story So Far since almost the very beginning. They’ve been with me through most of the major transitions and personal struggles in my life – from my late teens into my early twenties, from college to the real world and everything in between. This album represents the perfect turning point and it comes at a time in my life when I can relate to it more than ever. The appropriately named Proper Dose is exactly that – a proper dose of reality, change, and maturity – and Cannon even uses those words to describe it in his recent interview with Kerrang!. It is truly a lyrical and musical work of art, addressing the themes of growing up, getting better, and letting go. This album seems to look back on all of their struggles with a reflective and mature state of mind and it can help listeners do the same. It perfectly outlines the phases of change that we all go through at one point or another and ultimately comes out with a powerful overarching message – no matter what we’ve been through, we all have the chance to try and pull ourselves out of the dark.

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