No Better‘s Facebook handle may be ‘NoBetterSadSongs’, but that isn’t an accurate descriptor for the California band’s work on debut LP – ‘It Felt Like Glass’. This is emo-tinged with indie influences and gleaming with the sheen expected of a group recently signed to No Sleep Records, and it is overwhelmingly happy.
Singer, guitarist and lyricist Josh Olivier’s goal of self-betterment and development through the process of songwriting has resulted in music, which is refreshing in its positivity and crafted with joy.
‘Poise & Light’ doesn’t so much encourage optimism as fanatically yearns for it to pervade all areas of life – when Olivier yells “I want to walk with poise and light”, the ambiguous phrase’s meaning is made clear through emphasis.
If one track sums up the vitality of ‘It Felt Like Glass’, it is ‘My Love Says Always’, a delightful melting pot of the punky opening verse, multi-instrumental links and staggered hooks. It stands out and sticks even on a first listen through, and it is followed on a second by the catchy, upbeat ‘Remember This’.
In later tracks No Better prove their capabilities to encompass many elements without compromising the immediacy that makes the album’s opening half so successful. The swelling ‘Jets’ utilises reversed sounds and a piercing bass motif to create an odd song that might have seemed an unnecessary indulgence on a lesser record, but it seems to fit here. ‘Keep You Closer’ moves from ripping power chords to tumbling, interweaving clean parts, to a harp all within the space of a minute or so.
Anyone who thinks that emo is just about “sad boys singing sad songs”, should listen to No Better‘s life-affirming debut to find out otherwise – and in the process discover a no-less-than fantastic record.
‘It Felt Like Glass’ by No Better is out now on No Sleep Records.
Words by Peter Stewart (@PeteStew_)