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CD of The Week

Week of 2/10/20

    Cheerleader - Almost Forever (Bright Antenna)

    It's hard to believe it's been five years since Cheerleader's first full-length release. And while there have been singles released in the ensuing years, one might go so far as to say that the wait between albums has been... Almost Forever. So, it's fitting that such is the title of their follow-up to 2015's The Sunshine of Your Youth. As singer/guitarist Joe Haller puts it, there have been "personal and personnel" changes over the years (founding member Chris Duran has since left the band). "People grow, people change, and priorities shift," says Haller. It's these thoughts and feelings that inform a lot of the songwriting on Almost Forever. Personal growth often informs artistic growth (and in some cases, vice versa). For Cheerleader, it is a welcome progression in style for band that, after 2016, looked like they might be finished almost as soon as they began.

    This artistic shift is immediately apparent from the beginning of the album's first song "Flight Tonight," a subtle and psychedelic song that is followed by the equally cerebral "Domestica." Both tunes feature some very interesting synth soundscapes, something that producer Chris Coady insisted the band strive for to redefine their sound. Most of what you hear on the album are sounds created custom with mostly analog synthesizers. This attention to detail works wonders in giving each song its own unique feel.  

    Three singles that were released in 2019 are peppered throughout the record ("Everyone's Wearing Skin", "Chimera," and "Bang, Bang") and add more variety to an already diverse spread, while tracks like "Providence" and "Non-Stop" provide the brand of indie-glam pop-rock that was a staple of their earlier work. But the best songs on the album turn out to be the most personal.

    "Things We Regret" reads on the surface like your standard breakup song, but the chorus reaches more broad terms. "Sometimes I wish things could have gone differently/Haven't we all done things/Things we regret." It's a song about the quiet deterioration of a relationship, be it romantic or a long-term friendship. For an album released at the beginning of a new decade, this is a song that feels like it could be right at home playing over the end credits of a John Hughes movie. And then there's "All That's Left", an even more personal song that sees Haller waxing poetic about the meaning of it all, taking on a dreamy/John Lennon-eque feel with equally delicate vocals. 

    There's something for everyone on Almost Forever. Cheerleader took the best parts of what made them such an exciting act to listen to five years ago, kept what worked, and added new layers to their sound. Hopefully, the wait for a follow up is significantly less than forever.

    Review by Keith Obaza

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