Self Against City

Telling Secrets to Strangers

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Self Against City fit in nicely with the new face of Drive-Thru Records circa 2006: emo-indebted pop/rock (i.e., Socratic, House of Fools, etc.) that's heavy with earnestness and easy on attitude. The band rarely, if ever, strays from glistening choruses, warm instrumentation, and sweetly melodic lines about "overrated boys and attention-starved girls a little curious, a little insecure." That's not to say that this is an exasperatingly self-aware ordeal full of saccharine and heartache; Telling Secrets to Strangers is actually so light and subtly catchy that only the most jaded of emo fans could deny its appeal. Frontman Jonathan Michael Temkin has a relaxed delivery that pleasantly rolls about songs reminiscent of contemporaries the Early November or Something Corporate, and even when he slips into pleading mode, manages to retain a very down-to-earth appeal that keeps the band grounded. With the exception of the opening (and somewhat misleading) "Becoming a Monster" -- which nicely uses crunching guitars and a ragtag backing team of Wo-ohs! to kick things up a bit -- Self Against City embrace silky and straightforward midtempo numbers. Plodding bits of keyboard and brushes of percussion admittedly make it all nice and heartfelt enough, but by the album's second half, after the coolly lustful "Tequila Moonlight," things start to blur a bit. "Back to Our Innocence" does have a little Postal Service undercurrent going on, but more attempts at some sort of variety could do worlds to break up the diary-writing-locked-in-my-bedroom vibe. Regardless of this, and to their benefit, Self Against City are already way better than most tepid attempts at recycling the swooped bang/tight jeans emo blueprint of the early 2000s. There might not be enough for them to fully stand out quite yet, but seeing as the guys actually sound like they care about their music (and not just their image), this is certainly a very worthy starting point.

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