Chicago pop-punk/emo revivalists Real Friends return with The Home Inside My Head, the much-anticipated follow-up to their acclaimed 2014 debut Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing.
A surprisingly hopeful sounding record, The Home Inside My Head sees Real Friends artfully walk the fine line between retread and reinvention, adding several new elements to their sound, without sacrificing the identity that made them the name on every scene kids lips (or Tumblr post).
The result is an assured sounding release that showcases Real Friends improved songwriting chops. Energetic opener Stay In One Place hits like a sugar rush, with Dan Lampton’s impassioned vocals clicking perfectly with a knee slapping rhythms as he ponders “can you find your calling if nothing is calling for you?” as he seeks stability of something familiar amidst the never ending road trip his life has become.
Empty Picture Frames follows a similar narrative, with bouncy verses examining the role of a ‘home’ in identity, juxtaposed against a soaring, multi-layered chorus in which Lampton sings “The home inside my head has a bed for me / that no one will ever get the chance to see” framing the loneliness of life on the road in a joyful, almost defiant light, proclaiming that home is all in the mind.
It’s the first of many instances on The Home Inside My Head in which Real Friends more mature perspective is on display, with every note existing simply to enhance the song, resulting in a wholly engaging listen, a trait it shares with paired back acoustic tracks Eastwick and Mess and addictive single Colder, Quicker, the latter of which ranks alongside this albums Mokena as one of the best tracks Real Friends have penned.
This is still very much a pop-punk record though and when they choose to, Real Friends can still write pogo inducing rhythms and stadium sized choruses with the best of them, with Isolating Everything, Well I’m Sorry and Door Without a Key, displaying some stellar guitar work from Eric Haines and Dave Knox, as Lampton channels Kenny Vassoli (The Starting Line) as he belts out passionate pop-infused choruses, which rise high in the mix above the pounding output of bassist Kyle Fasel and drummer Brian Blake.
As good as these punkier tracks are, they do kind of all blend together and in that way they don’t quite compare with the more refined and restrained offerings found elsewhere, which seems to indicate that the future for Real Friends may be found somewhere closer to the emo influences of American Football or Jimmy Eat World than the current Warped Tour scene, (a fact that can only be good for their career longevity), a notion hammered home by album standout Mokena,a slow-burning, mid-tempo rocker that dresses introspective, confessional lyricism and softer, yet desperate vocal delivery, in an atmospheric blend of layered guitars, harmonies and purposeful percussion, creating the type of song that begs to be played while you’re rugged up inside on rainy day.
The Home Inside My Head isn’t the perfect Real Friends record, but it is the sound of Real Friends discovering the blueprint for the band that they can and should be, and that alone should earn this sophomore effort a cherished place in the hearts of fans.
The Home Inside My Head is out now, grab a copy here.