Weird – It’s a word that’s always used to describe people. And that’s not a bad thing. Think about it. When you really get down to it, aren’t we all weird? I’m certainly weird for devoting my post-college life to trying to write and make very little money for the foreseeable future. The five 20-somethings that make up Poughkeepsie, New York’s We Are In the Crowd are weird, because they’ve dedicated their lives to creating music in a time where anyone can find any song for free and, subsequently, album sales have plummeted compared to ten years ago.
But what’s the fun in being normal? Normal is boring. Normal doesn’t get you interesting stories to tell, be it through writing, film, or music. And normal certainly doesn’t get you a headlining tour across the United States on the heels of a brand new album.
That’s the underlying message of the band’s latest effort, appropriately titled, Weird Kids. Through songs of heartbreak, sadness, and coming of age tales, these five kids show that being weird is half the fun of being alive. The other half is not losing that kid inside every one of us.
The album opens with a track summing up that ideal, “Long Live the Kids.” As singer Tay Jardine belts “So hang on, be strong/Long live the kids in us all,” we are reminded to never give up on the dreams we’ve had since childhood and never listen to the naysayers. It’s actually interesting how much more inspiring of a song this is compared to anything they’ve done in the past.
The tone changes to something a bit more upbeat with the epitome of a pop-punk song, “The Best Thing.” Tay delivers a bit more attitude as she reminds a guy of the opportunity he missed with her. Next up is a sleeper for the best track of the bunch, “Manners.” Accompanying a pulsating kick drum from Rob Chianelli with bassist, Mike Ferri, rolling right along with him, “Manners” gives rhythm guitarist/vocalist, Jordan Eckes a bit more of the vocal spotlight, almost stealing the show during the chorus as he sings “I earned my wings teaching guys like you/To keep your mouth shut, So keep your mouth shut.”
The entire album highlights the problems of these young, weird “kids.” That’s no more apparent than during “Come Back Home,” a track about someone who’s abandoned Tay for another, perhaps “cooler” group of friends. I think it’s safe to say that all of us have dealt with the pain of that at one point and it’s apparent through her voice that Ms. Jardine has.
Diving deeper, we hit “Attention,” the song that epitomizes the band’s message of the entire record. “The only thing that holds me back is thinking that I need a change,” Tay sings as we begin to understand how she’s probably felt since this band started. We all think we need a change just because something isn’t working right away when we really should simply be working harder to make that thing happen.
By song six, “Dreaming Out Loud,” the band has really found their groove and head bobbing is a definite symptom for all those listening. The chorus begins with “I think I slept right through the good part,” – something that shouldn’t be done during this track, as it is the talented Cameron Hurley’s guitar work that is so impressive.
Track seven, “Remember (To Forget You),” is where the album waivers a bit, but not necessarily in a bad way. It feels more like an ode to their past work – a bit more pop-oriented. Eight, “Don’t You Worry,” regains that new, more mature WATIC feel. Accompanying Tay’s beautiful voice are some rarely heard strings, which guide the verses and ring through during the chorus.
The penultimate “Windows In Heaven,” brings it down to a mellower vibe again, in what seems to be a letter to someone who has passed away in Tay’s life. Probably the most heartfelt track on the album, it really shows her passionate side as she sings over bright, acoustic guitars.
The finale, “Reflections,” goes out with a bang, offering us the more mature pop-punk sound that makes this album so good. Giving vocal time to both Tay and Jordan, they trade lines over chugging guitars, as we get a loud, fun sign off for their sophomore effort.
Save for that one track, which feels as if they slipped back in to the 2011 version of We Are The In Crowd, these talented musicians put together something very special in a genre that could use more unique efforts.
What is so surprising about this album is, well, everything. With a title like Weird Kids, you would expect a sophomoric attempt that does little more than deliver stories of boys, friends, and partying in an immature way. However, the album dives deeper than that, offering a message of hope for all those who feel weird or feel that a goal isn’t achievable just because some negative person says so. While these 20-something New Yorkers may not have lost the kids inside them, they’ve certainly done some growing up.