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Album Review: The Story So Far ‘Proper Dose’

Steeped in authenticity, the band’s fourth album tells the story of a habit.

Talent and production go a long way in making music, but authenticity is the most essential component in creating this art form. Authenticity allows listeners to connect with the music on a level beyond simple appreciation of talent.

Proper Dose, the newest album from The Story So Far and their fourth overall, is steeped in authenticity.

One of the band’s biggest knocks on the Walnut Creek, Calif. band during their decade long rise to the forefront of pop punk is their dependence on producing cliché breakup songs. The title track from Proper Dose nips that in the bud.

On September 15th, the band’s vocalist, Parker Cannon, shared a photo revealing his dependence on lean (aka Purple Drank), a combination of prescription strength cough syrup and soda.

On the title track, Cannon sings “Barely focused anymore/ the haze is all that I can see/ red bottle white cap,” as he openly discusses how the cocktail took over his life. The band churns away behind Cannon’s gritty vocals, and the tracks places The Story So Far at the forefront of the new pop punk movement.

That striking opening song leads directly into “Keep this Up,” which is faster and a bit heavier, while sticking to a similar theme and message about Cannon’s habit. The singer often draws lyrics from his strained relationship with his family and feelings of overall homesickness.

The album’s third track, “Out Of It,” was originally released as a single over a year ago. A portion of the revenue generated from the single went to The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, to help raise money and awareness for mental health research. The track spoke to the cause, touching on topics such as drug use, depression and isolationism. Quick and catchy, yet deep and somber at times, this single is one of the band’s strongest.

Track number four on Proper Dose brings its entire cumulative message to sudden halt. Recalling singles such as “Clairvoyant” and “Navy Blue,” the band shifts gears and produces something slow and melodic.

“Take Me As You Please” is perhaps their best example of their ability to produce a dynamic range of work. It’s a standout track in an album layered with mentions of drug use and depression. This track beautifully contrasts the others with a message centered on individual acceptance. The second verse  is uncharacteristically hopeful. It is hesitantly optimistic, sung from the perspective of someone who is finally strong enough to leave lingering traumas in the past.

I feel the sunshine
That burns away the cold
Pulling off the nylon cover
How many times can I say that I love her?
That’s not for this song
‘Cause I’m done with all the noise
Know that we can talk to each other
It’s all good, it’s all love, now it’s over

The first four tracks on Proper Dose are some of the album’s strongest, but “Let it Go” is one of the best, and resets the tone with a slow opening that builds towards the band’s signature fast-paced, captivating sound. The song recalls the roots of The Story So Far, focusing the lyrics on the ups and downs of relationships, but continues the narrative of the album.

“Upside Down,” the album’s sixth track accomplishes a similar goal. Like the prior song, it harks back to the band’s roots, though not quite to the effect of “Take Me as You Please,” which slows down the pace once again, proving the group can use this format successfully.

“Now it’s quiet on the front/ has been for so many months now,” Cannon sings, “it’s wild to remember I was in love with you once.” Although “Upside Down” is one of Proper Dose‘s more forgettable tracks, lyrically, it’s arguably the most honest song on what is an extremely personal album.

“If I Fall” and “Need to Know” are definitely the jolt of energy needed after an emotionally heavy trio of proceeding tracks, while”Line” is a perfect interlude. Short, sweet, and melodic — with simply two recurring lines layered over a single riff — this song is a break from the heavy nature of this record.

The final two songs of Proper Dose continue The Story So Far’s tradition of closing records strong. “Growing On You” is one of the album’s gems: melodic, with a stark contrast to many of the band’s earlier works, and a lyrical focus on the optimistic emotions of a budding relationship. The poppy and upbeat “Light Year” ends the record, and the close of the song beautifully wraps the eleven track record.

All that’s left to do is start counting the minutes until the release of album number five.

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