(feat. track – “60 Minutes Of Fame” [spotify])

When I’m assigned an album to review, I have a few little rules I’ve set up in my head: I need to give it no fewer than ten listens, over multiple sittings, over the course of no less than a week.  I’m not sure if other folks are as process-driven as me; it probably says as much about how my mind functions as it does about my commitment to honoring the albums I review.

(And I do mean “honoring” – even with things I ultimately write negatively about, I feel like it’s only fair to the creator of a piece of art that I at least do my damnedest to understand what it is they’re doing, and why, and how, before I start spouting off opinons on it.  More than even honoring that piece of music, it’s a matter of doing honor to the artform itself, and to art itself.  Yeah, I’m pretentious like that.)

The ultimate goal of that kind of extended and (moderately) intensive listening treatment is to move beyond the “first impressions” phase and try not only to dig deeper into the theme, the language, the production and the purpose of the album, but also to make at least some sort of guess at its lasting value, the way that an album might (or might not) reward repeated listenings. I had a suspicion with Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With that it might be that kind of grower; sure enough, in the six months since I first wrote about it, it has gone from a solid “like” to a full-on “love”.  (Ironically, the slight production shine, which I both knocked and overstated in my review, is probably responsible in large part for that effect.)

For a style of music (the mid/late-00’s flavor of pop-punk) that embraces simplicity of form and prioritizes immediacy at the expense of depth, a lot of times there isn’t much there beyond the giddy sugar rush of the first few plays, but Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With keeps pulling me back for more. From Alex Roy’s odd vocal tics to the lead guitar that swirls in circles behind the killer hook of “60 Minutes Of Fame”’s chorus to the digitally chopped vocal in “The Weirdest Way”’s pre-chorus to the handclaps that pop up behind the second verse of “Postcard Of A Tidal Wave”, the little production touches really pay dividends, turning each easter egg into a microhook; I feel like a little something new catches me each time I listen.  Though the band has only released two full lengths, they’ve been together in one form or another for over a decade, and it shows in their songwriting chops, their knack for adding just a little bit more to each track than what it would need to be “good enough”.

But ultimately, beyond all that, it comes down to the fact that I just don’t seem to get sick of these songs. Ever. There’s absolutely no filler here.  Of the twelve tracks on the album, I’d venture to say ten of them have been stuck in my head at one point or another over the last year.  It’s still a regular occurrence.  Big and memorable melodies throughout, with lyrics that are consistently compellingly revealing and (at times) maybe just a touch deeper than they let on at first blush.

Of all the albums I’ve listened to this year, Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With is the one I’ve come back to the most.

review of Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With (published 5/18/11)