Of all the emotions one can experience while being exposed to music, or even art in general, melancholy is certainly one of the most powerful; one that we constantly search for. Maybe because being reminded of how great things used to be is both sad and reassuring, while being reminded of how bad things were makes us glad we’ve now moved on to something else. Victor Hugo magnificently described melancholy as “the happiness of being sad”. A lot of emo bands put melancholy at the core of their music, but sometimes they forget that in order to fully appreciate the sadness of the record, you have to convey the happiness of feeling sad, as Victor Hugo said. And that’s where Speak Low if you Speak Love steps in.
Although it would be a shame to refer to this as a side project, Speak Low if you Speak Love is Ryan Scott Graham’s (bassist for pop-punk band State Champs) baby. After a handful of splits, demos or ep’s, Everything but what you need is his first LP as his alternate (but equally good, if not better) identity.
RELEASE DATE: 31 March 2015 LABEL: Pure Noise Records
This new record definitely has emo roots, although fused with a strong pop, alternative and even folk identity that, combined with the heartfelt lyrics, delivers a strong record filled with deep and universal emotions.
The next drink might swallow me
I know I shouldn’t lift my lips to see
But after everything you put me through
I’m allowed to be as sad as you
The last verse of Art School, clocking in at under 2 minutes to introduce the album, is a wonderful example of Graham’s lyrical approach. The composition is straightforward, may even seem too direct or childish when reading it. But when you listen to Graham’s singing combine with his extremely clear sound, it has a powerful emotion to it. There is a profound sadness that permeates this record, and yet, the feeling we have at the end is one of inevitability, anger, but most of all, acceptance. This record doesn’t depress you; it makes you think about your own experiences and losses. Everybody who has ever experienced love, and the pain that sometimes stems from it, is going to be touched by this album. The emotions that Graham describes are at the same time powerful, deep and touching but always real. He tells a story from a personal point of view with a universal resonance that is likely to reach everyone’s soul.
I can’t believe that I’m still letting you bring me down
All my friends say I’m a bummer to be around
One of the most eloquent demonstrations of the power of word is the restraint of the music. In Speak Low if you Speak Love, the lyrics take centre stage and the music supports, accompanying the wonderful lyrical work. That doesn’t mean the music isn’t interesting though; the subtle arrangement, the mellow sound of the guitar… the tiny details are perfectly in place. The melodies that emerge from the music merge with the vocals to form a perfect union. The singing is crystal clear and calm as Scott rarely raises his voice. He lets the mood and the lyrics pass on the emotions rather than forcing it with his vocal technique or instruments. In the end, this bet pays outbecause not only is Everything but what you need likely to be among the best emo records of the year, it’s also one or the very best albums of 2015 so far.