The Honorary Title

Scream & Light Up the Sky

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Once disciples of Chris Carraba's emotive acoustics, the Honorary Title have doubled their numbers and tripled the volume for this major-label debut. Scream & Light Up the Sky picks up where previous release Untouched & Intact left off, but while the latter EP hinted at Jarrod Gorbel's reluctance to leave his Dashboard-approved tricks behind, Scream shows him capable of steering a larger, louder, and altogether better band. Newcomers Jon Wiley and ex-Format drummer Adam Boyd deserve half the credit, as they've added riffs and propulsive rhythms to music that, prior to this, largely relied on plaintive guitar chords. The remaining accolades go to Gorbel himself, for his improved vocals as much as his courage to switch musical gears. When supported only by an acoustic guitar, the frontman's voice (which draws similarities to Muse's Matthew Bellamy) can seem overwrought. Here, backed by the bombast of dual guitars and keyboards, it sounds downright formidable, particularly on the arena-sized "Stuck at Sea." With two new members on board, folk-laced emo is no longer the Honorary Title's focus. In its place is the sort of unapologetic pop/rock sheen championed by such bands as Jimmy Eat World, with big harmonies and bigger guitars wailing together in crisp, radio-ready sound. The style works well on heavy hitters like "Thin Layer," where even the most hyper-passionate images (e.g., "a thick rusted armor of drunken lust") can seem vaguely poetic stacked beside cymbal crashes and guitar swells. But it's often the deviations from the rule -- the sugary mash-up of punk bravado and Paul Westerberg's "Dyslexic Heart" in standout track "The City Summer," or the jangling springtime bounce of "Along the Way" -- that make the biggest splash. As long as the Honorary Title continue to renovate themselves, as they've tunefully done here, fans will have little reason to pine for their older material.

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