Ask anyone from around the area what they associate with Hartford, Connecticut and exactly zero people will mention they city’s thriving pop-punk scene, rightly so considering no such thing exists. However, these same people would probably be shocked to learn that one of the most exciting indie-rock/pop-punk bands around today originates from our state’s capital city.
Five-or-so years ago, Sorority Noise formed from the gangrenous limbs of dying emo bands. Four ex-emo, screamo and indie rock guys came together under the leadership of vocalist Cameron Boucher, and they hit the ground running. Less than a year later, using past connections and experience in the industry, the band signed a deal with Broken Media Records to release their first LP “Forgettable.”
And it is, for the most part, just that. It’s a generally insipid amalgam of tired lyricism thrown over a generic backdrop of distorted power chords. Think of it like this: If you were the type of kid who got picked last in seventh-grade P.E. class, this album would be on your iPod Shuffle. Actual lyrics include: “Maybe I'll close my eyes to feel more like myself” and “I don't like who I see/Each morning when I look in the mirror.” “Blonde Hair, Black Lungs” is honestly the only track on this album worth listening to. The meek opening verse crescendos with a hoarse scream which subsequently crashes into an airy falsetto. It’s remarkably dynamic and a fun listen despite some of the same hackneyed lyrics plaguing large portions of the album.
All this may sound harsh and generally serve as a bad promotion for a band I really do like, but the criticism is only fair in retrospect, knowing what the band has accomplished since their debut album. Their sophomore release “Joy, Departed,” tackles many of the same themes of loneliness and despair in the face of relationships gone sour but does so in a far more nuanced way, replacing self-pity and angsty cliches with introspection and a desire for change.
The overall tone on “Joy, Departed” is much more subdued, with certain tracks falling more in the category of indie rock as they stray away from their Green-Day-wannabe origins. “Using,” one of the bands most recognizable songs, espouses a remarkably positive outlook. On this track, Boucher writes of self-improvement and personal growth from a place of depression and drug addiction. The chorus unmistakably and emphatically proclaims, “I stopped wishing I was dead” as the characterically distorted guitars screech and erupt into the song.
However, the sentiment of “Joy, Departed” would unfortunately portend a series of tragic events for the band’s vocalist. In the months following its release, several of Boucher’s friends passed away from heroin overdoses and suicide as a result of depression. The loss of his closest childhood friend, Sean, would prove to be a catalyst in the deterioration of the lead singer’s own mental health. As artists often do, Boucher turned to music as an outlet. “It Kindly Stopped For Me” is a brief, four-track EP released just shy of a year after “Joy, Departed.” Gone is any semblance of the band they were two years ago on “Forgettable.”
The instrumentation is sparse and haunting. Boucher croaks softly, whispering almost breathlessly into the microphone. Low-fi piano keys and softly-tapped drums line the tracks for his heart-wrenching recitations to hold center stage. “Fource” feels like the epitome of what Boucher was trying to do here, which is a cathartic and deeply personal experience. The listener is transported as an omniscient observer through the woods, following a man grappling with unbearable grief. Boucher’s fractured, stream-of-consciousness delivery paints the picture a mind heavy with the weight of memories of beloved lost.
Sorority Noise would go on to release one final, critically-acclaimed album in 2017 entitled “You’re Not as ____ as You Think” and a rearranged version of that same album exactly a year later before announcing their hiatus as Boucher cited his need for time to sort things out mentally. As a fan, I can only hope this isn’t the end for a band that has only shown consistent improvement and a desire to make honest music.
Mitchell Clark is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.