The angular chords of “Gordi, You’re A Saint” set the album off with a strangely sharp energy that contrasts it relaxing tones beautifully. Even with all the abrasive energy, the song’s silky harmonies are really what makes it stand out. “Settle Down” kicks things up into a fast rock frenzy, to give a lush and warm party rock track full of euphoria. Though much of the lyrics carry a sarcastic and negative connotation to them, there are far too many fun melodies to feel like the track is that downbeat.
“Lied For You” settles into a familiar indie crawl, with a strong bass line to really make it stand tall as a unique song. Unfortunately it takes far too long to hit the more stand out hooks of the chorus, leaving many of the verses feeling just a tad bland. The frank energy of “A Friend Named Paul” feels all too personal and spritely, giving it an innocence and sense of fun that keeps it light. Despite this floating tone, the track brings in so many interesting layers that it grabs your attention every few seconds.
There’s a lot stripped back from “Krissy” allowing for a more emotional and tender delivery that sets the song apart from much of the record. Though it takes out many of their effects, Varsity cleverly focuses on tone and little details to make this one of the album’s more subdued wonders, especially in its dynamic switches. “Must Be Nice” steps things into a funky and spacey rush that hits hard with riffs flying every which way throughout the track. This tonal shift up brings a new context to a lot of their sounds and gives the more chipper pop a nice contrast.
“Discipline” continues this idea on more mysterious flourishes of guitar while they drench their vocals in the same brooding aesthetic. Much of the track carries the weight of a rainy day but Varsity manage to inject a surprising amount of swing into their riffs to keep things from being unbearably heavy. There’s a surprising amount of surf and country influence on “Watching You” to bring tones of immediacy and sorrow in equal parts. As Varsity really explore their sound smartly while bringing a fierce honesty to their lyricism, the album really never drags.
As they start to lean into the pop tones of their writing on “Isolation” even the familiar sounds feel fresh with their synths becoming sharp and dynamic tools in their sound. Fast and fun, this track could easily stand as a single with its pointed summary of Varsity as a band. “Alone In My Principles” doesn’t take things slow despite its extended runtime, blending tones of Alvvays and Casper Skulls into its epic and cloudy writing. With a bit of surprise, the track finds them stretching their writing in some of the most intriguing directions of the whole album.
Words by Owen Maxwell