Somos came from pretty much nowhere to deliver one of 2014’s best records. Indeed, the one-two with The Hotelier’s ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ remains a high watermark, even for the solid gold standards set by the ever-impressive Tiny Engines.
They certainly caught the ears of some influential people, and after a couple of killer splits with Have Mercy and Sorority Noise, and a freshly-inked deal with the resurgent Hopeless Records, Somos have returned with ‘First Day Back’, an album that fulfils their early promise.
Now, phrases such as “mature” and “evolved” get thrown around a lot when it comes to the clichéd “difficult” second album. ‘First Day Back’ is both of these. It’s more measured and atmospheric when put up against their debut, ‘Temple of Plenty’; a slower-paced, methodical beast with room to breathe and unfurl. It’s beautifully written and wonderfully paced, tinged with regret and sorrow with Michael Fiorentino sounding forever like he’s on the verge of dissolving into tears. There’s points such as the moribund ‘Bitter Medicine’ in which you just want to throw a foil blanket over him and tell him it’ll all be okay.
Yet it’s to Somos’ credit that ‘First Day Back’ never sounds self-indulgent. ‘Thorn In The Side’ and ‘Alright, I’ll Wait’ glisten among the sombre atmospherics, all chiming, ringing guitars and pleading urgency, while ‘Lifted From The Current’ strays so far away from the blueprint the group established on ‘Temple of Plenty’ you’d be hard-pressed, Fiorentino’s distinctive voice aside, to recognise this as the same group.
And it’s here that ‘First Day Back’ really excels. My only criticism of ‘Temple of Plenty’ was that it was too samey and formulaic. Without repeated, concerted, listens it all blended into one, but there’s no such problems here. Songs such as ‘Violent Decline’ stand proudly as characters in their own right and there’s an unpredictably to the songs and structures that genuinely point to growth as songwriters and musicians. Indeed, Somos frequently hit some stellar high points with ‘Problem Child’ and ‘Reminded/Weighed Down’ pushing the band to a stratospheric new level.
However, a couple of times the songs themselves feel like raw, sketched outlines of ideas. The aforementioned ‘Bitter Medicine’ is over before it’s begun, while ‘You Won’t Stay’, while being heartbreakingly gorgeous and bitterly intense, feels little more than an interlude. Likewise, the opening track, ‘Short Walk to the Graveyard Shift’ is 50 seconds of atmospherics but doesn’t really go anywhere.
That said, ‘First Day Back, while not being the game-changing, all-consuming indie/punk/emo crossover smash I’d hoped for, is still hugely enjoyable and a solid step-up from ‘Temple of Plenty. If you’re not yet on board with Somos, do yourself a favour.
’First Day Back’ by Somos is released on February 19th on Hopeless Records.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)