Album Review: Backpacks – Still Life

It’s always a treat to find a new emo band to fall in love with and even better when that band just happens to be Michigan grown. I became immediately obsessed with Backpacks after stumbling across their new EP, Still Life, on Bandcamp. What really caught my attention after listening to their first available release, the Revision EP, was how much the guys have grown musically in such a short amount of time which makes Still Life that much more incredible.

Still Life opens strongly with my new favorite track of the moment, “Every Night.” I was hooked the moment Austen Reno’s vocals came in for the first verse reminding me ever so slightly of Jesse Lacey’s vocals circa Deja Entendu. In fact, there’s a little Brand New in the entirety of “Every Night,” from the accompanying guitar riff under the verse to the staticky guitars that flare up and to the vocals themselves. “Every Night” is a great track to kick the EP off and introduce the world to Backpacks.

Of second track, “Bloom,” Yong Los says “I spend so much time worrying about where I want to be and how to get there that I forget to appreciate all the great things happening around me. “Bloom” is me trying to express my fears of the future while simultaneously reminding myself to embrace the present.” Los fears show with his emotive howls throughout the track heightened by driving guitar riffs and the frantic drumming of Kiegan White. The track reminds me a lot of one of my favorite albums of last year, Prawn’s Kingfisher, specifically “Thalassa.”

“Feels Like” bounces nicely from subdued emo to thrashing punk anthem. The opening verse starts out quiet and relaxed building in emotion before breaking into a catchy guitar riff and bombastic drums. Allowing the verses to float over the guitars before Los’s signature wails kick in just before the chorus lets you truly take in the affecting lyrics. “I was a cloth you cut from your own sleeve / A piece of you no longer needed / I think poison tastes the best when shared with two / Burning in harmony.” The building and explosion of punktastic bellows make this track a great example of why Backpacks is the next big thing.

The opening guitar riffs on EP closer, “Pictures,” have a lovely dark quality to them that has me drawn in immediately. The track is probably the brightest, most pop-punk track on the record but that foreboding guitar helps tie it to the rest of the album. Like so many of my favorite tracks, the bright and bubbly sound is a dark contrast to the song subject. “I’ve walked around this apartment for two hours / And still haven’t accomplished a thing / What am I thinking? / Why did I leave my head back home? / Why did I leave my head back home?”

What Still Life accomplishes is not just announcing Backpack’s arrival to the music scene, but shouting it from the rooftops. So smile emo kids because the revival is not only alive but flourishing with the help from bands like Backpacks.

Make sure to check out my interview with guitarist, Yong Los.

Stream Still Life on Spotify or pick it up on Amazon, Bandcamp, Google, or iTunes via Save Your Generation Records