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May 8, 2017

Sorority Noise’s latest album is a testament to resilience in the face of loss and mental illness

(Chloe Muro/Flickr)

Sorority Noise’s brand of melodic indie-rock—a blend of emo and pop-punk—isn’t exactly new territory, with plenty of other popular bands being able to claim a similar sound. Modern Baseball and Tigers Jaw, among others, immediately spring to mind. Yet Sorority Noise is increasingly creating its own lane with each release, further making a name for itself as the group explores different sounds and builds upon the foundations set forth by its early work.

That being said, the thing that impresses me the most about “You’re Not as _______ as You Think,” released March 17, isn’t the fact that Sorority Noise seems more polished than ever before. Rather, what’s most impressive is its confessional and honest vocal performances, which blend effortlessly with its instrumental performances, to craft a powerful statement about the nature of depression, loss and addiction.

“You’re Not as _______ As You Think” uses instrumentals as a backdrop to ensure that vocalist Cam Boucher’s vocal performances are constantly in the spotlight. I’m not complaining, either; Boucher’s lyrics and vocal delivery are undeniably the album’s biggest draw.

The band switches up its sound constantly throughout the record, giving most of its cuts a distinct feel. The album starts out strongly, with the two first tracks—“No Halo” and “A Portrait Of”being instant standouts. Beginning with a plainspoken discussion of suicidal urges and ending with a powerful spoken word outro from Boucher, “A Portrait Of” is the perfect insight into Sorority Noise’s identity as a band. Delivered with an increasing sense of urgency, the outro features Boucher making a dramatic plea to preserve the legacy of his friends that took their lives.

To get the most out of this record, it’s important to have a good understanding of mental illness in the first place. It’s vital to understand that depression isn’t something that can be controlled. If you have had limited exposure to mental illness, then take the time to consider what a person with mental illness deals with on a daily basis. Listen to the track “A Better Sun,” which captivatingly illustrates these daily struggles by highlighting the monotony of chronic depression in a clever way. The track starts off each line with the words “this is the part where I…,” showing an accustomed response to all the invasive thoughts that pass through Boucher, who still feels helpless toward them despite his familiarity with them.

It’s Boucher’s struggles that make Sorority Noise, a group that never glamorizes mental illness, so relatable and appealing. Depending on the listener though, this could either be Sorority Noise’s biggest draw or the group’s fatal flaw. If you don’t seek any emotional fulfillment in music, then you might not be drawn into the intimacy of this record. Take away the lyrical themes of the record, and you’re still left with a solid piece of indie-rock, but I’d be lying if I said that it wouldn’t change the way I view this record by a significant margin.

That being said, while the themes of loss, depression, and anxiety are present throughout most of the album, that doesn’t mean there aren’t glimmers of hope. Another standout track, “Where Are You?” finds Boucher toying with the idea of verses structured as conversations between himself and a supportive friend, who wants to see him get better and move on. The track takes on a positive tone, complete with sprawling, energetic guitar riffs and the reassurance that as long as he keeps his fallen friends close to him, he’ll be alright.

The upbeat moments on this album are seldom throughout, but are vital to the broader theme of the record. When the record takes on this tone, it seems as if you could fill in that blank space in the title with any number of words so as to say, “things aren’t all bad.” The opposite is true as well, as the more grim moments on the album make resolution seemingly impossible.

The reality of it is that it’s easy when you’re upset to only focus on the bad in your life, but even though you may be unhappy at the moment, you won’t feel that way forever. In that way, the title is fitting, cause no matter how you feel at any given moment, “You Aren’t as _______ as You Think.”

Ryan Cotreau can be reached at rcotreau@umass.edu.

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