Nashville, TN’s rock group Better Off is a band that keeps their roots/influences at hand. The guys were formally known as Friends; with the name change came a change in sound as well. The debut LP from the band, (I Think) I’m Leaving, is being released via 6131 Records and has already been compared to the nostalgic sound that Jimmy Eat World and Brand New created in their early days. Seeing as some of my favorite records came out in 2001-2004, I was very eager to hear this record.
The record opens with “Hello (Blues),” and I am instantly overwhelmed by the sonic nostalgia coming from this track. The acoustic guitar, piano and echoed vocals make for a nice build that eventually turns into a loud symphony of guitars and drums. “The Price Is Never Right” is one of the most well-structured songs I have heard in a while. This is the first track that shows off the louder side of the vocalist and the chorus gets drilled in your brain upon first listen. “Sick, Sad, Sons” presents some beautiful harmonies. One thing is very noticeable at this point in the record: the vocalist has some crazy range. Rather than the band forming their sound around the vocalist, it seems as if the vocalist adjusts himself to the different styles created by the instrumentals. “A Fool Walks Into a Bar and Cries Wolf,” a bit more of an upbeat rock anthem, brings yet another vibe to (I Think) I’m Leaving. The song has a massive chorus and catchy riffs scattered throughout.
“1991 (Alive)” starts off with some attention grabbing drumming then is quickly put together with a guitar riff and following vocals. Again, some very impressive harmonies are used. The song does feel a bit darker than any of the previous, though. “Letting It In / Making It Go” comes in with some fuzzy sounding drums and a catchy acoustic guitar riff. The track is pretty steady all the way through, but definitely keeps your attention. “Keeping Watch” is one of my favorites on (I Think) I’m Leaving. It’s one of the more aggressive tracks and it reminds me of one of my favorite bands (Jimmy Eat World). Keeping that faster/louder vibe going is “Next Step Is Out the Door”. The song is a great follow-up to the one prior, and it has one of my favorite choruses on the record.
Track nine, “Inside,” has some of the coolest guitar work by Better Off. The distant yelling before the chorus is very reminiscent of Jesse Lacey (Brand New) – which is definitely not a bad thing. The outro of “Inside” has some really cool transitions. “Living Tired” is probably the most upbeat song on the record. The harmonies and sing-a-long parts smack you right in the face with that early-2000s emo/rock nostalgia. Oh yeah, there’s cowbell! Tastefully used cowbell, too. Closing out (I Think) I’m Leaving is the ever-so-long “Garden State of Mind.” Normally, when the last song on a record is over 10 minutes long, I lose interest in the song; however, that is not the case with this track. After just over two minutes of some nostalgic rock, the song turns into a beautiful arrangement of soft guitars, vocals and drumming. It’s one of those vibes that can put you in the calmest of moods. “Garden State of Mind” is a wonderful way to close a record.
I wouldn’t compare this band’s overall sound to any nostalgic emo/rock band, but I would recommend them to people who are familiar with the early 2000s sound. Better Off definitely has their own thing going, but when you hear subtle influences/similarities of band’s you absolutely loved growing up in a new band, you instantly fall in love. I feel that anyone who grew up with Brand New, Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday, Northstar, Saves the Day and even blink-182 would enjoy this record a lot. Again, not to say the band sounds like any of those bands as a whole, but to me, Better Off brings me the same feel that those bands did 10 years ago. (I Think) I’m Leaving is one hell of a debut record, and it's full of nostalgia. Be sure to pick it up through 6131 digitally or physically.