In 2011, after nine years of playing together, Austin pop-punk combo Driver Friendly were at a career low point. With no new material, no label, and severely dimmed enthusiasm, they somehow managed to shake the cobwebs off their ambitions and turned their band into a charming success story with 2012's Bury a Dream, a crowdfunded, self-released album that eventually got them signed to L.A. alt-rock stalwarts Hopeless Records. The album was given a proper national release and a gap-filling EP Peaks + Valleys was released in 2013 while the band worked on the main event, 2014's Unimagined Bridges, their debut for Hopeless. This upbeat enthusiasm is a major part of Driver Friendly's story, and it informs their music as well. The 11 songs on Unimagined Bridges as a whole are anthemic, infectious, and generally positive, delivered with gusto and earnestness over a bed of noisy guitar riffage and swelling brass sections. The use of horns throughout the album is a nice touch and lends a pleasing atmosphere to conceptual songs like "The Game (This Won't Hurt)" and "The Conversation," which benefit from heavily reverbed, atmospheric sections and a recurring melodic/lyrical theme. Elsewhere, the horns add a strangely wistful air to songs like "Stand So Tall" and "Twenty Centuries of Sleep," which helps set Driver Friendly apart from similar heartfelt pop-punk guitar bands. While the opening vocal section of "Undone" sounds dangerously similar to Arcade Fire's iconic "Wake Up," it's just one of the few miscues here but for the most part, they've turned in a solidly written set with a dynamic and distinctive sound.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger
feat: Dan Campbell