Indie Pop/Rock band Second Story Feedback have been writing and playing music together for over four years, and seem to have finally taken stride in the Indie music scene that makes up the local DFW metroplex. After independently releasing two EPs and one full-length album, the trio have refined their sound and are preparing to release their fourth album, Symphony Lifespan, this December.
Sonically, Symphony Lifespan offers a variety of instruments, including (but not limited to) tenor guitar, trumpet, synthesizer and a four piece orchestra over layers of infectious vocal melodies, memorable guitar licks, and pounding bass and drum sections. While the band retains its unique sound, this album of songs can best be compared to that of early Switchfoot, as most of the tracks are founded on catchy guitar riffs, often utilizing an acoustic guitar for leads.
From a lyrical perspective, lead vocalist and main songwriter Paul Demer has never been more poetic or profound. Demer’s focus with Symphony Lifespan lies mainly in the concept of constructing beauty in one’s own situations, often from an introspective standpoint. The album consistently poses questions to humanity as whole, compelling the listener to ask in every track, “In this symphony lifespan will you be harmony or dissonance?”.
Nova: The album’s opening projects a bold, solid guitar hook, backed with a stellar drum pattern from drummer Josh Jessup, which accents notes from the guitar line. Immediately the song addresses the ideas of starting over, and relying on something other than oneself to transcend life’s problems. The most memorable area in the song is the bridge, which seems to flirt with a key change as acoustic guitar chords pour in, only to transition quickly and seamlessly into a punchy, guitar riff-filled outro.
Symphony Lifespan: Quite possibly the most intricate and thought-out song on the album both musically and lyrically, the album’s title track features beautifully crafted vocal melodies paired with lyrics of finding one’s own place in life’s symphony. The song builds steadily upon itself until reaching its apex: a danceable bridge which soon climaxes into a surprising synthesizer solo. The track’s closing features crowd vocals suspended under Demer’s lead vocal line, ensuring that this song will be a definite sing-along for listeners.
Peace of Mind: The third track of Symphony Lifespan features a fresh take on one of Second Story Feedback’s older songs. Reworked to make more of a concise statement, the track’s intro and verse interludes were cut to make the choruses and verses transition more smoothly. The song’s core remains unaltered, while adding an organ part and more reliance on six string acoustic and electric guitars, and a heavier crowd vocal track than the earlier version of the song, giving the track a slight U2 feel.
Whisper: Reminiscent of earlier Death Cab For Cutie works, “Whisper” is arguably the band’s most beautiful creation from the album. Demer begins the first verse quietly and intimately with only an acoustic guitar and hauntingly beautiful lyrics over a subtle vocal melody. The delicate aspects of this song soon build into a rhythmic, unique bridge without losing any of the song’s intimacy. The song includes some extraordinary bass work during the verses by bassist Ben Jessup, and an intricate trumpet choral which accents Demer’s vocals during the song’s final chorus.
Invade Me: Another track which utilizes an acoustic guitar as centerpiece throughout the song’s, entirety, “Invade Me” can best be described as a sequel to the title track “Symphony Lifespan”. Demer’s lyrics speak of longing for a love which makes all things among nature equally beautiful. The song takes an unexpected, yet smooth transition from the ethereal sounds of the chorus to a pounding bridge and outro, in which Demer borrows Biblical passages to complete the lyrical themes of love.
Convince Me: Also a returning track from one of Symphony Lifespan’s predecessors, “Convince Me” displays the maturation of Second Story Feedback’s musicianship over the span of just a year. The most recent version asserts itself as subtly dynamic, with accents focused on various orchestral and synthesizer layers. The song also features a rewritten post-bridge chorus, softly transitioning to the song’s final chorus. “Convince Me” remains one of SSF’s catchiest songs to date, and the newest version is sure to attract listeners easily.
All My Defenses Are Red: Almost seamlessly, “Convince Me” flows into the riff-laden “All My Defenses Are Red”. This is yet another re-recorded track from the band’s recent past, and the newer version seems to pack a heavier “punch” than the former version. The song features a stronger vocal performance from Demer, and sounds more perfected and even, while retaining the same song structure. The guitar tones have been refined and the multi-layered guitar solo outro is an excellent addition.
Monotony: Though the shortest song on Symphony Lifespan’s track list, “Monotony” covers a lot of musical ground, so to speak. The track is fresh and bold, and speaks firmly as a testament to Second Story Feedback’s originality and willingness to experiment. Lyrically the song focuses on time, which coincides well with the track’s consistently changing time signatures and fast-paced tempo. The ending of the track features a dissonant combination of screaming guitar notes, powerful crowd vocals, and Demer yelling the final words: “Monotony!”
The Waking Day: This track defines the signature “SSF sound”. Paul Demer’s musical creativity reigns supreme during this track, which is filled with melodious string arrangements, beautifully layered tenor guitar leads, and a powerful set of lyrics. The song comes fully awake post-bridge, as the song builds to an impelling chorus. All three members work in perfect sync on this track, making it one of the most dynamic and emotionally powerful songs from Symphony Lifespan.
Newness: Nearly the oldest track on the album, “Newness” sparks a bit of irony. The track’s age takes no toll on its relevance, however, as the band once again refines and re-works yet another track. “Newness” can best be explained as a slow burn, remaining somewhat soft and reserved until the track’s closing chorus. Demer’s lyrics speak of not being owned by commercialism and finding redemption from more meaningful sources. The new version is sure to have an impact on listeners, as all three members sing in unison for the final chorus.
Requisite: Much like the songs of his solo album Barks of Yore, “Requisite” showcases the songwriting genius of Paul Demer. The album closes with this soft ballad, telling a story of Demer searching for reliance on things other than himself for hope of living, and while gentle and intimate, the track’s powerful message of hope, truth, and unity will compel Second Story Feedback’s listeners to think.
The album is sure not to disappoint, and serves as a solid testament to how far the band has come in just four short years of existence.
-Preston Eastwood, Viking Scroll Entertainment Editor