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Behind the Facade Bitter and Better Album Review
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Behind the Facade Bitter and Better Album Review

by Stephen Charlton2016/03/28

Queens, NY pop-punk act Behind the Facade released Bitter and Better, their debut album, earlier this month. The group released their first EP We Are The Fighters in March 2012, and followed it up with the Strangers EP the following year. The strength of their early material had me eagerly awaiting for their full-length. The band haven’t disappointed, and the longer format has allowed the four-piece to stretch out and explore some interesting new territory.

Behind the Facade consists of Danielle Minch (vocals, guitar), Louie Baerga (lead guitar), Nick Quiles (bass) and Matthew James (drums). Danielle’s voice is central to the material on the album. She never shies away from writing in-depth about her life and the album feels almost like a diary. She’s previously credited fellow New Yorkers Taking Back Sunday as inspiring her writing style. Her Youtube channel has a number of Paramore covers and that’s probably a fair reference point for what her voice sounds like. Naturally, she has her own singing and writing style though.

Behind the Facade transcend genre boundaries

The line-up of Behind the Facade.

Behind the Facade stay busy when not in the studio apparently.

In simple terms Behind the Facade can be described as pop-punk, although it doesn’t really cover the range of styles covered on the album. They are heavier and more musically complex than most pop-punk bands. Several of the songs could be considered post-hardcore or even melodic hardcore. There are also some lyrically dark acoustic/pop songs on the album, which help break up the flow of the material and make it a more dynamic listen.

The first single off Bitter and Better is Hypochondriac. It was originally released in November 2014 so I was surprised to see it included on this album. As far as I can tell it’s the same version of the song as previously released. It’s a high energy pop-punk track led by Danielle’s scattershot vocals about an impending breakdown. There’s plenty of crazy double-kick drumming and harmonised guitar parts. Behind the Facade have a certain style of writing their guitar leads and riffs which I haven’t really heard from any other band. Their use of harmonies and double kick suggests they are influenced by heavier genres but they tend to write in keys that give the music a poppier edge. Hypochondriac is a great example of their signature sound.

The album opens with a rocker Things to Believe In, which starts proceedings with a little optimism and plenty of bite. The bridge has some bright guitar harmonies mixed in with a catchy doo-wop vocal refrain. The poppy bridge drops away to lead to a big chunky riff, showcasing the band’s ability to jump around genre-wise without losing any momentum.

Behind the Facade expand musically on Bitter and Better

Behind the Facade (from left): Matthew James (drums), Nick Quiles (bass), Danielle Minch (vocals, guitar) and Louie Baerga (lead guitar).

Behind the Facade (from left): Matthew James (drums), Nick Quiles (bass), Danielle Minch (vocals, guitar) and Louie Baerga (lead guitar).

The second track Cached is one of the most interesting musical pieces on the album. The instrumentation is entirely acoustic, with the exception of some lightly overdriven electric guitar licks in the second half. The main hooks of the song are provided by Danielle’s overlapping vocal parts. It’s a great showcase for her voice. The lyrics are quite dark and a little cryptic but they are also very strong. The band has never produced anything like Cached before, and I think their willingness to try new sounds has paid off.

Second single boosted by band’s first video clip

Second single Good Intentions was accompanied by the band’s first video clip. Baerga opens the track with an intense tremolo-picked solo. The track slows for a rhythmic clean verse before firing up for the chorus, which is driven by groovy rhythm guitar. Good Intentions is followed by At Least the Hate’s Requited, which is not one of their strongest numbers. There’s a bit too much going on musically for the vocals to really shine. Fifth track Stalemate gets the album back on track though. The song’s catchy riffs immediately grab your attention. It has one of the best lyrical and vocal performances of the album, with Danielle lamenting hitting a post-graduation slump while friends seem to be moving on to bigger and better things.

The band posted some pretty amusing vlogs on Youtube while recording Bitter and Better . The process included the band recording the sound of cracking a beer open, and we get to hear it in the context of eighth track IPA (IDC). The album title is plucked from the lyrics of the song. Danielle starts the song memorably by shouting “I don’t care!” It’s one of the heaviest tracks on the album, with the riffs stepping over into metal/hardcore territory. The song has a lot of musical changes but the vocals pull the track together into a cohesive whole.

Behind the Facade’s Bitter and Better is one hell of a debut album. Many bands are still finding their sound at this point in their career but Behind the Facade have forged a recognisable and unique sound already. With Bitter and Better, they’ve proven they have the songs to match.

Bitter and Better is available on Amazon.com.

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About The Author
Stephen Charlton
Stephen Charlton is a musician and journalist based in Melbourne, Australia.

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