ALBUM REVIEW: Real Friends – The Home Inside My Head
Back in 2013, Real Friends signed to Fearless Records off the back of their 5th EP, Put Yourself Back Together. Since then, the Illinois five piece have released their debut album Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing, and spent months on end on the road, cultivating the expansive and passionate fanbase they have today. The Home Inside My Head is the band’s sophomore album.
Opener Stay In One Place is fairly representative of the band’s music to date. Although the chorus isn’t exactly monumental, the gang-like backing vocals and toned down, emotional bridge will inevitably secure this track a place on the setlist when the band play across the States on the Warped Tour all summer.
Next track (and source of the album’s title) Empty Picture Frames makes up for the lacklustre chorus on Stay In One Place with it’s sing-along melody and pop-punk guitar riffs. Not to mention that on this track in particular, Dan Lambton’s vocals are sounding better than ever. The vocal timbre in the final chorus in particular conveys the standard Real Friends subject matter of loneliness and isolation impeccably.
The emotionally charged Scared To Be Alone initially gives a different feel; darker, and more rock than pop punk. It settles quickly back into the usual Real Friends, but the brief introduction of a completely different sound shows what the band are capable of giving us more of in the future. The lyrics encourage listeners to not settle out of fear of loneliness, and despite being quite brief, the song stands out as a highlight on the album, as does the next track Mokena.
Mokena is the first chance on the album for new listeners to hear Real Friends step into the lower gear that existing fans love so much (case in point: fan-favourite I’ve Given Up On You). It’s also the first time that the vulnerability shown previously on this record only through lyrics is also shown through instrumentation and vocal timbre. The themes of nostalgia and feeling lost makes the track feel almost like a sister-song to Sixteen from the previous album.
The last track on the album, Colder Quicker, brings us both the best riff on album, and the best chorus. Undoubtedly this will be a feature on the band’s setlist for a while to come. It can be presumed that this track was put at the end of the album to make you hit the repeat button, and it definitely fulfils this function. The backing vocals and call and response guitar fill add to the upbeat tone, despite the negative connotations of the lyrics, in true Real Friends style.
All in all, this is definitely an album that Real Friends can be proud of. It’s never going to be a pop punk staple, but Real Friends aren’t really about that. What’s conveyed lyrically through this record, and the vast majority of the band’s previous material, goes much deeper than that. If you’ve never been into Real Friends before, then this is unlikely to be a miracle album that changes your opinion on them, since although it feels slightly more mature, it’s not really anything particularly new. The debut album, Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing, fell prey to having as almost lulls as it had highs. Whilst it’s obvious that Real Friends haven’t succumbed to the so-called ‘sophomore album syndrome,’ it does feel like the band haven’t quite solved the problem: not making every song on the album one that really counts. Having said that, nothing on the album feels like ‘filler’ as such, but when the good songs are as good as they are anything else pales in comparison.
The Home Inside My Head showcases both Kyle Fasel’s emotional and honest lyricism, and Lambton’s vocal capability. The latter can be seen particularly when you compare the different vocal styles, for example the contrast between Mokena and Empty Picture Frames. The duo’s talents brought together gives the vulnerability of Real Friends with the recurring themes of loneliness, nostalgia and above all, acceptance. Their relatable and sentimental nature is arguably the reason that fans feel so passionately about this band on such a deep level.
Stand Out Tracks: Scared To Be Alone, Mokena, Colder Quicker
For Fans Of: Knuckle Puck, The Story So Far
Written by: Jo Howarth