Who defines genres anymore? Set Your Sights are what we over at Bucketlist Music Reviews initially labeled as pop punk. With a deeper listen you definitely start to feel some hardcore inspiration in regards to the chants and overall lyrical content. Obviously, we cannot have pop punk without hardcore. Hardcore brought us the infusion of chanting, or just being mindful enough to have portions of songs dedicated to sharing the mic. (And for those scowling haters, yes I do recognize that it was also a direct derivative from the punk scene, k thx.) I for one am a great lover of chants in musical content, but I am ever more appreciative of execution. It is not easy to be tight as a musical ensemble. It takes hours of practice together and alone, slaving over the eternal clicks of a metronome.
Unfortunately, what Set Your Sights have displayed on their 2014 release This Is All We Know is that they really need to tighten up. And this is a good thing; development is a huge part of being a musician, and it can take the three-to-four-note song structure displayed on this album and turn it to art. In the simplicity of pop punk itself, and those who walk the line between punk rock and hardcore in the identity of their sound, the slightest hesitation between notes or the art of playing “sloppy” becomes the style of the guitarist. This idea can be appended for drummers as well. I can tell that the boys in Set Your Sights know how to play their instruments, but there is something about their execution of their individual parts within the actual structure of their songs that comes off as sloppy, and at times a little unimaginative. With that being said, on tracks like “Crossroads” and “One Day” where they have longer and more drawn out cadences towards the end, the musicianship flows nicely.
I really understand the hardship of eternally ameliorating yourself as a vocalist, while at the same time finding elements of your voice which stand out in defining your sound. Doubling that with the duty of playing guitar – as this band does – makes it twice the amount of focus, ergo twice the challenge. Screams are great, and Alex Smith (the singer/guitarist) and Adam Campbell (bassist) definitely have the lungs and diaphragm for it. But when you are doubling screams over vocal parts which constantly remind me of Franz Ferdinand’s frontman Alex Kapranos, it loses it’s edge. Alex definitely does his best to try and mix things up with his guitar chords on tracks like “Rejected” and “Control.” However his guitar tone, which is all gain and mids, really makes it hard to define what he is trying to pull off at the first listen of many of the tracks of this album. Mr. Smith, you have some work to do on your voice, just to make sure that every word you are singing has the same amount of presence. This has a great deal to do with breathing techniques.
Truthfully, I would love to believe that these dudes are passionate about their music, and are already taking all steps necessary to make sure they sound great live and on their next release. The aspiration of every band should be to reach new levels of cohesion between band mates, making the overall sound of your project’s tones, frequencies, vocal arrangements and cadences, the best that they can be, and then capture that on record. I do not think that This Is All We Know is the best piece of work Set Your Sights could’ve put out, but they have a basic and essential foundation; three guys that love playing music, and love what they are doing on their instruments. With that being said, there is only ascension to be had for this band: keep on striving for excellence boys, and don’t sell yourselves short of that.
Written by Joseph Francis Espinosa