It is easy to write off Long Island’s Envy on the Coast as yet another band from the emo and post-hardcore scene that emulates, but can never measure up to, the likes of other Long Island supergroups such as Taking Back Sunday, Glassjaw and Brand New. Though the influences are apparent, Envy on the Coast proves on their second album, “Lowcountry,” that they have ambitions outside their hometown inner circle, exhibiting musical growth and maturity to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.
The Glassjaw influence on Envy on the Coast becomes apparent in the opener, “Death March on Two, Ready?” Though undoubtedly tamer than Daryl Palumbo’s rampant screamo group, the sadistic laugh lead singer Ryan Hunter bellows draws instant comparisons to their Long Island neighbors’ crazed outbursts in “Pink Roses.”
Whereas Glassjaw’s instrumentation is more forceful, like the breakdowns on “Siberian Kiss,” Envy on the Coast have poppier ambitions, like on “Head First in the River,” which builds to a catchy, up-tempo chorus that falls somewhere in between Head Automatica and Glassjaw.
The chorus of “Puritan Dirt Song” is Clutch at their most bluesy, as an organ sweeps through forceful vocals and spidery electric guitars. In particular, the guitars are clean for most of “Lowcountry,” eschewing the distortion that generally makes most post-punk guitarists musically irrelevant. “Laugh Ourselves to Death” opts for reverb over distortion, creating a fuzzy layer of noise over Hunter’s shrill screams. The noise builds to crescendo levels as a guitar creeps up the fret board, eliciting the tension that is ultimately released after another piercing scream.
There are some blunders on the album, though. The chorus of “The Great American T-Shirt Racket” falls flat with cliché lyrics, “Now I have a T-shirt to go with my scars,” while the beginning to “Numb” sounds forced and awkward, jumping right into the action with the Linkin Park influenced line, “I can’t feel a thing.” Though “Numb” plays like Taking Back Sunday’s verses spawned with an Incubus chorus, it surprisingly concludes with one of the album’s most convincing exits, layering synthy guitars, noisy cymbals, a spoken-sung chorus and powerful screams into thirty seconds of chaos.
The band saves its most quiet, yet most triumphant, moment towards the conclusion with “Made of Stone.” Suggestive of the best solo work of Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue, “Stone” simply but effectively invokes a lonesome acoustic guitar, soulful vocals, and a skillful use of lyrical repetition to find success.
Some of the many influences found within the album, Glassjaw, Taking Back Sunday, Head Automatica, Glassjaw and Thrice, display the band’s ability to draw from some of the biggest names in its genre, but also most impressively, to produce a unique and creative whole without accusations of plagiarism. Even though the sum does not reach the grandeur of other seminal albums, “Lowcountry” shows that there are young and ambitious voices rising in the Long Island sprawl — and that they’re ready to dethrone the long reigning kings of New York
Kevin Stevens can be reached at email@example.com.