Rock music for several years now has only done about three things.
- Give you something to move around to so you look a little less stupid while getting drunk.
- Help you get through your breakup.
- And, at most, halfheartedly encourage you to be defiant to authority.
(A possible 4th thing would be to just sing a mismatched string of words at you that serve no real purpose, ala shitty yacht-rock bands.)
Rock doesn’t do anything anymore. It’s emotional depth is akin to that of a Real Housewives episode about box water.
Enter: Too Close To Touch’s Haven’t Been Myself, an album that will fucking destroy you with it’s painful honesty and unbridled emotion.
I found out about Too Close To Touch when they were announced as one of the bands on the 2017 Warped Tour. They’ve been around for several years, putting out the album Nerve Endings in 2015 and winning an Alternative Press Music Award for “Best Underground Band.” I have no idea how they weren’t on my radar, and, frankly, I’m ashamed of myself for just now getting in to them, but ultimately I’m really glad I found them at all.
Let’s talk about the music first.
TCTT, stylistically, would likely be compared to bands like Emarosa, Issues, and SECRETS. It’s rock, but in a post-hardcore sense of the genre. On “Haven’t Been Myself” they blend beautiful melodies with pummeling rhythms to craft the catchiest post-hardcore/rock songs since the aforementioned Emarosa’s 2008 album Relativity.
Vocalist Keaton Pierce shifts from singing to screaming his heart out with such ease. “Shift” almost isn’t even the right word to describe it. It’s more of a seamless transition. Like, you know how Drake can sometimes blur the line on where his singing voice and rapping voice meet? That’s sort of how it is with Pierce. He has real power, but also amazing control so he just pushes his voice upward until before you realize it his gorgeous singing has become a desperate scream.
This brings me to what I really want to talk about. The dynamic of this album that makes it not just a stand out but completely separates TCTT from their peers… It’s visceral, emotional brutality.
In 2015 Pierce’s 3-year-old sister died in her sleep, and that tragedy is the fuel for 99% of Haven’t Been Myself.
Almost the every single song is an exploration of grief and acceptance. The five stages are fully on display.
Arguably, much of the album is anger or depression. “Sympathy” is a lashing out at people who just toss around casual sayings that they think they’re supposed to say to someone suffering a loss, but only end up accomplishing adding to the white noise inside your head.
“Inside Voices” is a depiction of what it mentally and physically feels like to interact with the world in the wake of loss. Pierce cries out in desperation, “I watch from blackened bars, through the window to my soul,” and, “Inside a broken mind is the place that I call home.” Then in the in the chorus he sings, “I used to make a sound that shook the earth beneath me. Now, they’re not even listening. I used to have a voice. I used to be so sure.” It feels like it’s about being present but not being able to express how damaged you really are; suffering a pain so great that what little identity you have left is defined by the pain.
“What I Wish I Could Forget” is the denial; that “I don’t want this to be real” moment. On it Pierce sings, “Take every memory ingrained in me. Erase it from my thoughts so I can sleep.” It’s how you feel when you’d do literally anything to change your reality because you cannot bring yourself to accept what has happened.
The only song that doesn’t really deal with tragic loss, necessarily, is “Modern Love Affair,” which is about being in love with someone who strings you along even though they’re already in a relationship with someone else. The chorus says, “Don’t tell me to leave, while I’m still dreaming. Quit falling for me, while he is fast asleep. Don’t call when it all comes crumbling.” It’s a very unique perspective on an all-too-common topic. The narrative never strays into, “Please leave him for me.” It maturely remains,”This shouldn’t be happening and if I want it to stop I have to have the will to end it.”
The album’s finale is “Eiley,” named for Pierce’s little sister who passed away. It’s the culmination of an album that’s dealt with loss, pain, and sadness from several different angles. I’m gonna be as completely real as I possibly can here. This song breaks my heart in ways no song ever has before. I cried, like really cried as I read the lyrics while listening to it and I felt like, while I can’t relate to the loss, the pain was tangible to me.
Through his depression and anger Pierce bellows, “Take me instead, you only loved, I only consume. I’m worthless to the world. You’re innocent and pure. God, why didn’t you choose me over her?” This song boils everything down to how loss and destruction test your faith like nothing else can. Someone can anger you, or let you down, but isn’t until someone close to you dies that you begin to question your faith, oftentimes the very thing you’ve stood on for your entire life. I cannot tell you the last time I heard a band deal with this subject matter so unflinchingly. It’s not only refreshing, it’s admirable.
Haven’t Been Myself is out now on Epitaph Records, and you can jam it on Spotify here.
Play it as loud as you can stand it. It’s cathartic.