Breathe Carolina

Savages

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After releasing their brightly fun and danceable third album Hell Is What You Make It, one of Breathe Carolina's co-founders (and co-vocalists), Kyle Even, left the band. The subtraction of Even's gruff and growling vocals is a big factor in sound of their fourth album, Savages, but his departure did much more. It seems that perhaps Even was a steadying influence over David Schmitt's ambitions and tendencies to be a musical dilettante. Their previous albums stuck pretty close to a basic feather-light emo-pop template, with lots of sugary hooks and spit-shined electronics. Sort of like Jimmy Eat World mixed with Daft Punk, with an emo Archie singing lead. Silly as it might sound, the formula worked really well for the band. There are some good examples of that here, like the fizzy "Bang It Out," the synth-heavy "Collide," and the sweet "Shadows," to name a few, and if they had stuck to that sound with a few variations of tempo and mood, the album would have been another fine slice of bubblegum emo. A few of the tracks even take the sound they had sorted out before and do some interesting updates, like the stuttering rocker "Bury Me" that leads off the album with a swift kick of delightful pop. If they had just quit with a really strong EP's worth of songs and called it good, then Savages would be a nice step forward. Sadly, Schmitt torpedos the album by making some bad choices like branching out into Drake-styled hip-hop balladry ("Chasing Hearts"), super-serious drama rock ("Shots Fired"), very clich├ęd power emo (with Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria doing the unclean vocals instead of Even), and an ill-advised attempt at some Mumford & Sons "hey! ho!" folk that substitutes a cheesy synth for banjo and ends up sounding ridiculous. It's no crime for a group to try to expand their sound or grow a little; it's too bad that all of Breathe Carolina's efforts on Savages fall so flat. If you liked their last few records and wanted to check this one out, don't despair. Just pick the songs that work, and ditch the handful that don't. A little careful pruning and you'll end up with a fine, if short, emo-pop album that delivers plenty of frothy fun.

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