Chicago, Illinois emo-pop quartet June released their second album Make It Blur on Victory Records last month. Let's just say at the outset that though it won't set the world afire, this album is no sophomore slump. Not in the slightest.
Having sold over 60,000 copies of their 2005 Victory debut If You Speak Any Faster, those who followed the band closely eagerly awaited what June had in store for the next phase of its career. Their first record, popular as it was, did not do much to separate themselves from the current crop of so-called "emo" or pop-punk bands topping the charts (i.e. Fall Out Boy), so the band had to more or less up their game.
Make It Blur's sound this time around, which was engineered by producer Marc McClusky (Powerspace, Farewell) is bigger, even grandiose and full of arena-ready hooks. Take the first song "No Time For Sense," which starts with ghostly piano before the pounding drums and big-sounding strings take the song and band's sound to a new level. "Machine and the Line" features electronic hand clips, organ, strings, and bits of light arpeggio-laced guitar lines in the verses. On the latter, one can't help but think of more successful contemporaries like Panic! At The Disco.
The vocal harmonies that come mid-way through "Swallowed" (Track 9) are a highlight and hints at emo godfathers Jimmy Eat World. Track 10, "A Taste" is like a punked up Dashboard Confessional, most notably during the song's chorus.
The main flaw in this album, however, lies within the lyrics and their rather repetitive themes. The band – three members are credited with the lyrics – personalizes every song with "you" this and "don't you" that and constantly asks unanswered questions. (At least they don't write lots of ridiculously long song titles, like some of their peers.)
The whole album's lyrics read like an angry, frustrated, or reflective collection of letters (or email messages) to one's girlfriend or lover. Remembering the love, longing for it, battling loneliness, etc, it's all there. But when listening and not reading the lyric sheet, hardly any of this seems to ruin the memorable vocal harmonies on songs like "Swallowed" and "Machine and the Line."
With a voice like guitarist/vocalist Tim Brennan's, the band will have to live with the inevitable comparisons to fellow Illinois emo stars Fall Out Boy, but at least June has expanded its sound and plate of influences. The band says it drew on the likes of Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5 for influences on Make It Blur. "Finally" (track 2) even sports a reggae-ish rhythm guitar. Also, the hidden track after poppy, organ-fueled album closer "Southpoint" starts out promising, Brennan all alone with an acoustic guitar and singing in a low key. It sounds like a genuine, intimate and Third Eye Blind-ish ballad before drums, organ, bells, and bass come in and Brennan reclaims the emo aspect of the song. And unfortunately, his lyrics during the chorus do weaken an otherwise pretty good song that contrasts with the rest of the record, as he sings "Bend me baby come on baby break me" over and over again in na na na na nananana na na fashion.
Having said that, June has made a solid album that will satisfy their ever-growing fan base and win over many new ones. MIB may be a bit overproduced, but the album shows the band is clearly ready for big arenas, with songs like the bouncy '80s rock guitar of "Tempter," "I'd Lose Myself" and also "Closer." It deserves about a 4 out of 5 star rating – though I'm not big on star ratings – and should easily eclipse the 60,000+ album sales of their (average) debut record if they are marketed right and do well on the road.