Near & Dear is Spokane-based rock band Boat Race Weekend’s third record together. The eight-track album respects the loud-and-quiet form of alternative or emo music, with some really lovely softer moments that I really appreciated.
For me, the shining star on this record is the guitar playing. There was some crunch to the tone at times, but overall the magic was in how well the gentler, colourful melodies sat within even the heaviest parts of any given song. I think that is the sign of a musician who knows where he should sit within the overall arrangement.
The rhythm was very strong overall. Hard-panned hits add to the intensity of the buildup, and washing cymbals bring us back down. The added drum fills were placed at just the right time and gave me goosebumps. Personally, I would have foregone the trap hi-hat sound I heard in “The Fall,” and the electronic snare here and there, but that’s just me.
Listening to the singing, I felt it was washed out in the mix a bit. As often happens with bands that fall anywhere under the umbrella of “rock,” the tone of the vocals in the recording seems like one of the least considered components. I could hear everything else very clearly.
As for the lyrics themselves, I may have a bias towards emo stuff in general (thanks to a few self-pitying fans I went to high school with, no doubt) but I felt they were a little self-indulgent. The “can’t you see” and “breaking free” bottom-of-the-well tropes were cliché for me, and never get specific enough to cross over into something that seems genuine. I’ve heard so many songwriters say they try to write lyrics that are “generally specific,” in an attempt to appeal to as many people as possible. I caution against this; unless your songs are going to have Top 40-type push around the world, where people who speak all kinds of different languages are very likely to hear it (and be able to sing along when they do). Otherwise, I want to know what your song is actually about. Even if it’s supposed to be obscure or abstract, the intent of the song should be clear to the listener.
To someone who is a fan of this style and genre, this album will sound much better than I’m giving it credit for. Case in point: “Interlude” and “Little One.” “Interlude” is the fourth track on the record, and really does the guitarist’s playing justice (Evan? Collin? Jay? Which one?!) I really got lost in the song, and will be listening again and again.
The same goes for “Little One.” This song is so special on this record. And it’s not just because of the magic of the minimalist recording (I love hearing fingers on fretboards and chairs creaking, you have no idea). It’s because it’s totally outside the band’s genre. They’re coming at an acoustic song from the perspective of an emo rock band, and the result is freaking wonderful. To me, hearing a song like this is a reminder why artists should listen to lots of music, and not just the kind we play ourselves.
Written by Hanorah
*edited by Kate Erickson