I have a bit of a soft spot for Relient K, a band that I first discovered way back when through their signature tracks “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” and “Be My Escape.” The desperately emotional, self-deprecating tunes were fairly standard fodder in the heyday of emo — and whether they were referencing a lost love or the big man upstairs, the undertones were subtle enough to keep them relatable to all.
Fast-forward to a few years later. Although it will always hold a special place in my heart, I like to think I’ve moved on from the emo-scene phase. And having lost track of the band somewhere in between, I’m surprised to find that Relient K, with their seventh(!) release Collapsible Lung, seems to have done the same. Their brand of scene-punk retains its themes, but has been infused with elements of easygoing indie-pop and the combination is criminally infectious.
For the most part, the album is delightfully upbeat. Most of the songs are propped up by backtracks that clap along steadily, and lead singer Matt Thiessen’s voice oscillates between the pop-punk melodicism he is known for and an interesting pseudo-falsetto, elements which allow the band to blend in seamlessly with contemporary bands like Fun. This is most evident in songs like “P.T.L” (which stands for Part Time Lover, perhaps contrary to expectations founded in the band’s Christian roots). Another standout track is the cutesy, mid-album tune “Can’t Complain” whose quirky optimism is aggressively indie.
Collapsible Lung rolls along steadily at this pace until its final moments, when it inexplicably mellows out for the penultimate track, “Sweeter” before bringing back the buzz for the closing title track. The sudden change is not as welcome as one might expect, given that the pace of the album is anything but monotonous as is and “Sweeter” is kind of interrupting the good thing the band has going. Nevertheless, “Collapsible Lung” is a strong finish for the album to which it gave its name. The album wraps up as it began — giving an updated and infectious sound to a band that is as earnest and honest as ever.