Ashley Parent, Contributing Writer
Without a doubt, the pop-punk scene would not be what it is today if not for the bands that emerged out of the basements of Chicago in the mid-2000’s. An off-the-radar group of this caliber, The Academy Is… (best known for their songs “About A Girl” and “The Phrase That Pays”) has drawn a lot of attention this month. The band came off hiatus to play the Chicago date of Riot Fest, an all weekend multi-genre music festival that ran September 11 through 13. What was supposed to be a one-time gig for the band, which in 2011 dissolved as the members yearned to pursue individual music careers, has led to a longer reunion, with a 17 date tour to celebrate the ten year anniversary of their freshman release, Almost Here. This album, which dropped on the legendary Fueled By Ramen label, earned the band a strong following due to their energized spin on the emo/pop-punk Chicago sound that, at the time, dominated the radio waves and hearts of teenagers alike.
Almost Here opens up with a track that places the listener in a club setting in which they are hearing the band for the first time, and they are asking for people to give them some “attention”. The song has an upbeat tempo with intense guitar playing in the chorus which blends well with vocalist William Beckett, whose singing is much more soothing and satisfying than the voices of other pop-punk singers. The album goes on with another peppy tune, “Season”, which continues the theme about a worthwhile band taking the stage for your ears to hear. They speak of a “brand new season” for music, because 2005 was the year that kicked off not only this band’s career but also Fall Out Boy’s, who dropped their sophomore full-length album that year, From Under the Cork Tree. The Academy Is… would later be signed to Pete Wentz’s label, Decaydance, and Wentz would work with the band to further develop their sound as well as the pop-punk scene in general. These two tracks, as well as “Black Mamba” and “Classifieds”, touch on what the band is doing: going out and playing music as their livelihood.
Other tracks on the album such as “Slow Down”, “The Phrase That Pays”, “Skeptics and True Believers”, “Checkmarks”, and “Down and Out” all touch on the other traditional themes of pop-punk and emo rock music: love and angst. These songs are ready to comfort any kid who is heartbroken, in a toxic relationship, or head over heels in love and unable to stand it. The poetic lyrics in these tunes are quick and catchy and do not hold back any feelings. The cleverness of William Beckett in his lyrics is heard in the pureness of his voice. The final song from which the album gets its name, “Almost Here”, brings the listeners’ focus back to the fact that the band is writing, recording, and playing music for a living. It also nudges towards the lovesick emotions of the other songs, and the fact that the band members will still miss loved ones when on the road. It definitely is the tune to scream to when you see the band live, and now we are all lucky to have that chance once again.
Ten years later, Almost Here still stands out because of all the good (and bad) memories it holds with it from the days of growing up. While we do not know if the band will continue to be influenced by Fall Out Boy and resurrect themselves in the form of new music, it does not matter, because they are taking the time to reconnect with fans through their reunion tour, which is just as important as any new material could ever be. Almost Here is on Buzzfeed’s “36 Pop Punk Albums You Need To Hear Before You F-ing Die” list, and the next time you’re looking for an album to blast while in the shower or waiting for class to start, choose this one.