I’ve always been a sucker for mixed-gender vocals. The Forecast, 1997, The Hush Sound, Straylight Run, I could go on, all of these groups hold the highest spots on my playlists for most listens. The point I’m making is this – the dynamic between successfully combining a male and a female vocalist is something that can make a band stand out, or can make them irrelevant if done improperly. Luckily, Back to Normal avoided sounding forced, resulting in some very catchy pop-punk.
The short introduction shows us a peak into Orion Burke’s impressive drumming skills before melting directly into the group’s lead single “The Letdown.” Lead vocalist Sarah Camden’s voice is aggressive and sharp, delivering each lyric with precision. A slowing in the tempo halfway through repeats “We can’t be friends, no we can’t / because it never works in the end / but I’m trying, I’m trying,” looped continuously between Camden and her male counterpart, guest vocalist KJ Jones.
“#sorrynotsorry” takes an introduction right out of Four Year Strong’s playbook, and the trio nails it. Camden follows a quick drumroll into another heavy pop-punk hook, chased into a push-and-pull duet. This track is a surprise, when a breakdown and heavy screams come out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly.
The acoustic “Keep Virginia Beautiful” is a gorgeous duet about leaving home and wishing for independence. Both vocal performances are stellar, strongly supported by a simple guitar and heartfelt lyrics – “And I thought you would be different / and I thought you weren’t like the rest / and I thought I could count on the one who kept me from hitting the ground / just before I lost my self respect. / The east coast may be home / but I want to go where no one knows my name.” Camden’s emotions seep out through every note, and provide for the best song on the EP.
“Rule Two” raises the tempo back to that of a basic three-piece punk song. The combination of the two singers meshes well, and the conversational feel of the lyrics boosts the effect. The EP’s second single, “Hold Your Own,” closes out the record. Another solid performance from Burke shines here, giving Camden a strong foundation for her vocals while Mike Frohnapfel gives steady guitar support. The repeated, drawn-out “O” sounds throughout make for an infectiously-catchy chorus that engrains itself in your head.
Back to Normal may be a simple three-piece from Virginia, but for a young band, they know what they’re doing. Vocally, Jones and Camden mesh well, which sometimes may be tough to do when trying to mix genders together. Given time to grow into their element and solidify their art, this band has some serious potential to do something great.
Total Runtime: Approx. 21 Minutes
Release Date: October 9th,2012
2. The Letdown
4. Keep Virginia Beautiful
5. Rule Two
6. Hold Your Own
Sarah Camden – Vocals, bass
Mike Frohnapfel – Guitar
Orion Burke – Drums
* KJ Jones – Guest Vocals
Written By: Eric Riley.