According to the back of the album, the complete title to 1997's debut is "Since My House Burned Down I Now Own a Better View of the Rising Moon" and it's fitting for a record that retains a certain sense of bittersweet hope and optimism amid the usual quandaries of heartache felt and tears wiped away. This record is comforting, subtly uplifting, and made even more effective by the engaging interplay between vocalists Kerri Mack and Kevin Thomas. Their passion and poise are buoyed by a youthful enthusiasm unable to be dimmed even with lyrics of uncertainty; their voices bounce off one another, intertwining at some parts and always feeding off the other's energy. But strong voices wouldn't be so interesting without the rest of the band, and in that department, 1997 hardly slouches at all. They may be another product of Chicago's overflowing emo scene of the early 21st century, but they're hardly interchangeable with the rest of the Fall Out Boy spawn. 1997 love the emo that came right before those guys -- Jimmy Eat World, Mineral, the Promise Ring -- with a dash of Bob Dylan -- yet instead of simply aping their influences, the quintet uses them to organically craft their own distinct indie rock melodies and sincere lyrics that come to life with bits of ukulele, piano, banjo and tambourine. The alternating dynamic of churning guitars and open-aired percussion that drive "Water's Edge" is a nice change of pace from the whole singing/screaming thing so many bands rely on to create movement. The Bright Eyes-esque "Tennessee Song" and harmonica-laden "The Roads You Can Take" navigate through more pastoral terrain and contain couplets like "It's true that we're young, but love is said to be ageless/The same is said of pain and desire and depression." Warm, engaging, creative and very fluidly pulled off, it's impressive how memorable this album is without even really realizing it at first, even more so considering 1997 has yet to be together even two whole years. Keep a close eye on this one; Victory Records seems to have really found a diamond in the rough.
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AllMusic Review by Corey Apar