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The New Amsterdams' new album, Worse for the Wear, is a great collection of soft alternative rock. Matt Pryor, singer of the Get Up Kids, throws himself into the acoustic-flavored direction as he continues to write songs for this solo side project. Along with the brothers Pope (Ryan and Robert), Pryor creates dreamy acoustic songs of yearning and emotion. Unlike other New Ams records, he opts for fuller band cuts, some of which are quite upbeat and distinctly separate from the sound you'd expect to hear from the Get Up Kids singer. It definitely catches you by surprise, yet eases you into each track. I don't care what you say, "emo" or not, the guy is good.
The album starts off with a short, yet excellent interlude of organ and mellotron instrumentation, giving a perfect feeling of what the album's tonal intention will be. The first two cuts, "The Spoils of the Spoiled," and "Hover Near Fame," are quickly paced, yet showcase the deep emotional sentiment in the softer acoustic-backed music. The third and fourth tracks ("Hover Near Fame," and "From California" respectively) are more of the traditional sounding flavor of the New Amsterdams.
One of the standout tracks by far is "Are You True," a drum machine-backed acoustic song. The distortion on the vocals along with the accompaniment is quite refreshing -- an odd yet great sounding combination. Then again, "Asleep at the Wheel" throws even more atypical instruments: a swirling Hammond and banjo give an exquisitely quaint song even more depth.
Pryor does not hold back in his singing. Tight harmonies, with softly sung lyrics show how he puts his all into these songs, and is trying to get the song across in every possible way. Worse for the Wear is an extremely smooth sounding album, and the care put into making comes through. The use of many varying instruments, along with the organ and keyboards that frequent most of the tracks, give the album much diversity and keep it from getting stale and falling into a typical "emo" album. The piano in the title track gives the song a fuller body, and just sounds fantastic.
You can say what you will about the New Amsterdams, the music that they embody, and the "scene" that's sprung up around it -- but when music is good and a guy doesn't hold back from singing and playing the things he wants to play, there is no denying.
Tom Fraher is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.