We live in strange times. Everywhere you look there is division and in the places that can’t be seen many people are suffering. Collectively our mental health is jeopardized by the situations taking place in front of us. Personally, I fell off. Dug myself a hole to sit in for a few months while watching my life go up in flames. I’m making progress again now, finding my silver linings where I can. So, for now we are going to revisit an album that helped me get back on track.
‘Joy, Departed’, the fantastic sophomore album from Sorority Noise. Released in 2015 in the midst of our emo revival, the album stands strong on its own merits as a solid piece of music. However, historically bands in the scene struggle with sophomore albums. Every album Sorority Noise has released has been good, however I firmly believe ‘Joy, Departed’ is the absolute peak of their work so far. Also, before diving all the way in, this will be the rare occurrence of me revisiting an artist’s work in the wake of major allegations. For those who have not been satisfied with those resolutions, I ask you to please separate the artist from the art for the time being.
Joy, Departed was released in 2015 via Topshelf Records. The album led to a lot of hype for the band with Sterogum giving it “Album of the week” upon its initial release. The album is notoriously short, packing a lot into its roughly 30 minute run time. Ranging from frenetic moments of self realization to quieter moments of self acceptance. These feelings and the occurrences in between combine to create an intelligent and heartfelt experience.
The album is a practice in building, opening softly with “Blissth” edging itself suspensefully to a pounding climax before transitioning flawlessly into “Corrigan” where Modern Baseball fans will be pleased by a surprise guest appearance in the second verse. Before seamlessly arriving at “Fluorescent Black” the only song that feels like a stutter in an otherwise perfectly crafted product. This song could be on any album, it’s a little bit of what makes Sorority Noise such a fantastic band. These first few songs dip the listener into the overarching adventure.
The excellent fourth track “Nolsey” is the building principle reaching center stage. Beginning with a bouncy riff, the droning voice of Cameron Boucher and the pounding guitar tearing through the abyss. The final bit of lyrics before the chaotic close of the song “I know, you’ll never love me, I pretend that you love me, you’ll always be the reason, I stay clean”. This heavy hitting moment of self-destructive realization is fitting to the band’s entire sound, fitting into their usual lyrical themes while slapping the listener with a cold hand.
Lyrically as a whole, Sorority Noise is bleak. They always have been. This is part of their draw. However bleak, they are also blatantly honest and relatable to anyone. “Your Soft Blood” is one of the “heavier” songs on the album. The guitar slides around, the drums pound while distortion floods the ears. The song fits more as a feeling, an experience in sound. Something rare to find within the scene on any level. The singing is low and slow, and the rest of it just tears through.
Leading directly into “Art School Wannabe”, which is easily the catchiest song on the whole album. The bouncy pop punk opening compliments the mumbling Boucher throughout. The song paints a portrait of the self doubt felt by countless creatives across generations. “Maybe I am not the person that I never wanted to be”. There are countless impressive “breakdowns” throughout this album. The closing of “Art School Wannabe” is the best. It may be one of the best moments of the 2015 wave of emo. This is a grand statement, but the band lives up to it. If there is one song on this album to describe this band to a newcomer; this is it, this is where to start, play “Art School Wannabe” think about yesterday morning’s coffee and then bury yourself in this album.
Addiction and Mental Illness are two dominant themes throughout all the band’s work. The culmination of these themes are present in the tracks “Using” and “Mononokay”. I’ve grouped them together because they are two sides of the same coin, and mostly because they are back to back on the album. I could write an entire article about both of these songs, but a few words for each should suffice. “Using” is a rager of a song about vices and most importantly “loving again” the chorus for this one can get anyone chanting, literally anyone.
I dare someone to try not chanting it with a few friends. “Mononokay” went under my radar for a few years before I finally found it on repeat for what felt like a month. “What does it mean to be happy? And am I getting better” all with a driving punk sound. Easily the most “pop/punk” song on the whole album. While also being the most optimistic, this song paints a much less bleak portrait while maintaining a sort of “progress” theme. “So I called to apologize, for every night I told you I didn’t wanna live my life”.
Finally, we’ve arrived at arguably one of the best songs this band has ever written; and in my opinion, the best song on the album. “When I See You (Timberwolf)” the album’s closing neo-ballad, as I like to call it. A booming piece of music which drives its point home with a hammer. The result is pure madness, the band really opens up and showcases elements of their future sound, capturing all the emotion of the previous 9 tracks in one final gasping shout. ”You smell like hospitals, and you look like bad news”, roll off the tongue as the final build approaches until finally with gusto “If hell is real, I hope you’re enjoying your stay”, the final words on the album, marking the finality of closure.
As we finish, I would like to personally thank my very good friend Brennan Pai for pushing me to dig deeper into this band. Sorority Noise has always been a band with the unique ability to present their themes of heartbreak, drug addiction, and mental illness with vivid energy and clever lyrics. The deeper you dive, the closer you feel to knowing the group intimately. While the allegations against Boucher have been cleared following a statement almost 2 years ago, the band has been on an indefinite hiatus.
Their follow-up album ‘You’re Not As ____ As You Think’ and the reimagined version ‘YNAAYT’ were able to fully cement the band in a mainstream space before their radio silence. At this time it is unclear if we have heard the last dying gasps of this incredible band. Instead of dwelling on their absence, let’s celebrate the art they have put out into this world. And that’s what this album really is; art, and in my opinion it’s a goddamn masterpiece.