Music Reviews

Amidst CHAOS, awakebutstillinbed Navigate Instability With Unwavering Focus


Since their debut album in 2018, awakebutstillinbed have been a key piece of the fifth wave emo ecosystem. Where contemporaries expanded upon the genre through MIDI bleeps and eroded digital soundscapes, the San Jose band offered the traditional rock four piece set-up a breath of fresh air. The band has spent the past few years min-maxing their sound, going from the quietly reserved STAY WHO YOU ARE EP in 2020 to last year’s hardcore-adjacent split with For Your Health, which featured some of the heaviest tracks in their catalog to date. Now, awakebutstillinbed returns with the sophomore LP that emo fans have been waiting for.

Open in Spotify

Back in September, I was lucky enough to catch the band play with fellow fifth wave heroes Your Arms Are My Cocoon and Home Is Where at The Knitting Factory in Los Angeles. There is a scanned poster for a Cap’n Jazz show with Indian Summer and Braid that pops up online from time to time and when I see it, it inspires a feeling of reverence towards a scene that existed before I was even born—I imagine this is how young emos will feel 20 years from now seeing this tour poster. Between these three, it’s difficult to imagine a better distillation of what the genre’s recent independent acts have to offer. Your Arms Are My Cocoon play haywire skramz and Tyler Odom’s bouncy antenna hat lends their whole set a playful tone, and Home Is Where have their singing saw and prominent use of harmonica. But it’s actually awakebutstillinbed’s comfort in not drastically subverting the emo formula that makes them stand out from these contemporaries; with enough care put into the songwriting, this isn’t a detractor at all.

CHAOS TAKES THE WHEEL AND I AM A PASSENGER is all about the songs, and songwriter Shannon Taylor has made her most varied and thoughtfully penned batch of them yet. On the opening track “bloodline,” Taylor flexes her talent for turning a slow-burn ballad into a sing-along anthem. She’s shared this talent before on the awakebutstillinbed debut track “Opener,” but here it’s revitalized with gang vocals that beckon a listener to take stock of the moment. Anxiety induced by the temporality of life and love are not new subjects for Taylor, but she approaches these subjects with a new ambition, as shown on the eight-minute multi-phased second track “road,” and later on the slow and melodic “streamline,” where she asks directly as a screaming meditation guide: “Even now you’re living in the past / Don’t you feel the moment slipping through your grasp? / How’re you gonna spend the time that you have left?”

Open in Spotify

These personal explorations are brought to life by a band with a strong sense of dynamism. For one, Shannon Taylor’s vocal capabilities are impressively distinct, slipping between a mild, tuneful rasp and a scream that puts a frog in my throat just to hear it. Her bandmates don’t slack on the passion either. Lead guitarist Brendan Gibson is ready to break out of aggressive strumming into a mathy riff at a moment’s notice, and bassist Alex Botkin works fun licks into the steady pace kept by cymbal-smashing drummer Erik Lobo. When they do pick up the tempo, awakebutstillinbed combust into some of their most irresistible tunes. “far” and “redlight” are both highlights and great for a bit of punch-dancing, and “airport” is a stunningly catchy alt-rock rager that is just a little too sick to have been a radio hit in the ‘90s. Despite detailing sordid regrets and failures, the song is an undeniable joy. Post-chorus “doot doot doots” perfectly contrast the screamed bridge before giving way to a soft and reflective outro, culminating in a tight three-or-so-minute track that is everything one could want from an awakebutstillinbed song.

With the release of  CHAOS TAKES THE WHEEL AND I AM A PASSENGER, awakebutstillinbed navigate instability with an unwavering focus. After a series of especially unpredictable years, it’s a comfort to know that the band’s latest album, predictably, rules.

Jaden Amjadi
Jaden Amjadi is a music fan and writer who came to Los Angeles by way of Iowa. His favorite songs are the ones that rock. He thinks all three of the Dark Souls games are equally good. The Lakers' mangement has not yet responded to his voicemails about letting him DJ background music at their practices, even though if he was able to hang out with the guys they'd see they actually have a lot in common.

    Bandcamp Picks of the Week 12/1/2023

    Previous article

    Bandcamp Picks of the Week 12/8/2023

    Next article


    Comments are closed.

    Free ebooks Library zlib project