Even the down have to get up and feel something other than depression. That seems to be the sentiment on Sway, Blue October‘s followup to 2011’s grief-stricken Any Man In America.
There is a shift in the air as Sway seems to be focusing on the good days rather than the bad of lead singer and main songwriter Justin Furstenfeld, who is known for writing about his experiences with depression and mental illness.
Instantly on the introduction, the album instructs to breathe and take it in on Breathe, It’s Over before going into two of the more pleasant songs Blue October has recorded. Both Sway and Angels In Everything, written only by Furstenfeld, can be described as post-depression where things are looking up with new relationships and outlook.
Where most of the band’s music has been dark, either in sound or in theme, both Sway and Angels In Everything are not. They’re chipper. And unlike their 2009 album Approaching Normal, which was positive, there isn’t an underlying sense of instability on these songs.
On Fear, the moving-on is clear. Justin sings “the beauty is/I’m learning how to face my beast/starting now to find some peace/set myself free.”
The album is lighter in sound than their previous records with just a few songs in the heavier realm. The first single Bleed Out is more in line with traditional Blue October as it reflects more on a past sour relationship with a loud chorus.
However, the production is more polished which takes off some of the edge. This also has an impact on the album’s sourest (and hardest) note Hard Candy, which plays like a Nickelback cock-rock song rather than an expressive Blue October recording.
They nearly make up for it with Put It In but that song still feels tame in comparison to what they’ve done and its structure is generic.
Of the remaining songs, the band heads more toward where they’ve been. Light You Up feels like an Any Man In America expansion track while Things We Do At Night is so incredibly cheesy that it qualifies as a guilty pleasure. I’m going to say I don’t like it but secretly, it’s been repeating over and over in my head for days.
The closing tracks Not Broken Anymore and the instrumental To Be are akin to It’s Not Me from Foiled. Acting as the chapter’s conclusion to sum up the record.
Sway is the lightest album Blue October has recorded, in terms of music and lyrics. The heaviness of themes from past albums has lifted as this record has a greater focus on the recovery. But Blue October always has something to say and the past problems aren’t without acknowledgement.
Despite the band being the most melodic they’ve been since Foiled, what made Blue October the band they were was that their songs spoke to the side of torment that few songwriters ventured into and they did it with such ease. Songs like Sway, Angels In Everything and Fear are instantly ear-grabbing beyond the lyrics but since they’re essentially love songs, the band’s niche has shifted over.
1. Breathe, It’s Over
3. Angels In Everything
4. Bleed Out
7. Things We Don’t Know About
8. Hard Candy
9. Put It In
10. Light You Up
11. Things We Do At Night
12. Not Broken Anymore
13. To Be