With two years and various lineup changes under their belt, Montclair based quartet Gifts have dropped Seven Songs, a solid and confident EP that provides the perfect starting block for a band who finally has all its working parts in order. Rather than add another band to further clutter the, "emo," tag, let's call this something like: Dark Math-Tinged Pop-Punk. Though only, well, seven songs, this album is a truly fulfilling listening experience with great narrative at its core.
First and foremost, let's talk about the drumming. Bands that have been slotted in as, "math-rock," and, "emo," are typically driven by some impressive drumming that is either technically compelling or gut-bustingly intense. It isn't often that you get a combination of the two that can compliment the music without crowding the mix. Seven Songs is one of the exceptions; propelled by explosive and intricate drumming that knows exactly when it's time to shine. Leadoff track "Low" aside from providing a great introduction to the album, best demonstrates the dynamic and ever-changing rhythmic styles and killer fills that keep the blood of Seven Songs pumping.
While the excellent lead and rhythm guitar interplay gives tracks like the blistering, "Tracing Paper," layers, and the bass skillfully and subtly keeps all these tracks grounded, it's worth taking a deeper look at the lyrical components of this album. Our narrator seems to exist in a world of full of rooms, and as silly as that may sound on paper, this is the perfect setting to execute a story about youth and growth in the suburbs.
Growing up, rooms prove to be both social spaces and isolation booths, often triggering the greatest cerebral activity when you've already pulled the covers up. Gifts understand the strange duality of this setting, which is why Seven Songs continues to reference them even though they seem to provide no comfort .
In, "Rooms," we're told, "I'm scared to tell/If all I've learned is far/From how I feel today/And now it's hard to say." Other than conveying the growing pains that are felt when you first realize you've lost some connection with home, this line also reads like the scattered dialogue with that spot on the ceiling. "Big Brother," tiptoes down the hall to an empty bedroom while making various allusions to an absent loved one.
By the closing track, "Wring Me Out," (an update of a track off the band's first release) there's a sense of closure present, and a desire to move forward: "You said it's harder now to let go/From the get go/ but I ask of you to try me/Wring me out/It's water, just the same as you...Please believe in me." The ending may have been pleaded by various narrators that have come before, but there is a great sense of sincerity here that stems from this album's meditations on growing up, families, and of course our rooms.
In the end, it's hard not to believe in Gifts. Seven Songs is the sound of a band who understands their strengths and work their formula to its breaking point. Never reaching too far, never settling into complacency, just simply capitalizing on the moments that best emphasize the angst of suburban youth.