Real Friends - Maybe This Place Is The Same And We're Just Changing (Album Review)

It seems like people love to hate Real Friends lately. Critics claim it’s unoriginal, boring, a cut and paste sound, that they don't feel "authentic", etc... The kitchen sink basically gets thrown at them these days. People love to criticize and as a band when you move up in the ranks and you've released some really liked material the price is often heavy criticism of your work by a bigger audience. However, this is the big show for Real Friends. Their debut album, Maybe This Place Is The Same And We're Just Changing, has been one of the most talked about pop/punk albums this year. The band has rode off the success of some pretty good EPs and a catchy phrase "sleepy eyes and boney knees" (we hear a whole lot less about sleepy eyes and boney knees on this album). Now comes the big test. Can they take their tumblr enthusiastic crowd with them to the next level. This is the band's debut album and the first time they've released an album with a label. The band signed to Fearless for the release of this album. Amid heavy criticism and an audience expecting and wanting more I went into this album thinking about how much I've liked the EPs and hoping the band could take the next big step.

Now let's talk climate for a second. Pop/punk  isn't as hot a ticket as it was a year or so ago. The emo-revival, heck even the nu-metal revival, has been all the buzz and rage as bands like The Hotelier and You Blew It! have been keeping emo on the tongues of rabid fans like Issues. My Ticket Home, and Islander have been all the buzz in the nu-metal revival scene. So where does that leave pop/punk. I think it's mostly alive and well and it's the summer so it's always time for music like this. Some of the big names are in-between albums due to the fact they released albums last year. This definitely leaves a spot for a band like Real Friends who have been building up this debut to make a big scene this year with their debut album. This is definitely their moment to make a big statement. It's easy to see other bands like Neck Deep, Old Friends, and Knuckle Puck are also looking to make big impressions this year. Knuckle Puck seems to have inherited Real Friends old role. They released a big buzz EP last year that is really picking up steam this year, they had a nice vinyl release of said EP this year, and they are currently taking the tumblr world by storm. All those things kind of happened for Real Friends as well with Everyone That Dragged You Here. I make the comparison because on this album it does seem like the band knows they can't stay where they've been forever because that place is already being filled with new bands and I definitely think with the way Maybe This Place Is The Same... sounds you can tell they are attempting to get to a new level.

On Real Friends debut album you notice a few key changes. One is that this album has a few different moods, dare I say the band ventures towards more of those emo/punk sounds over pop/punk sounds at times. There is a lot of more somber sounding songs and parts in songs on this album than I think I've heard on a lot of the band’s previous work. The band has always had a somewhat "emo" poor me style lyricist...it's part of the band’s charm in some people's eyes. However, other people have really disliked that about the band. I think they really turn that lyrical style up to 11 on this album. The artwork is almost reminiscent to emo pioneers Jimmy Eat World's album Bleed American. This album has a much better pace than some of the EPs because it’s an album and because it’s able to vary its sound some and play more of the long game in terms of presentation and song writing.

I think the songwriting for this release is pretty nice. The band shows that even though they've probably included some of their best songs on their EPs they've come to this album with a competence and ability to write a few new fan favorites. I think "Summer" could find a place in the hearts of fans. It's a great song for this time of the year and I really dig it. "I Don't Love You Anymore" is the style you've come to expect from the band both musically and lyrically. If you've enjoyed the band's previous EPs you're going to really dig this song. The short track "Old Book" leans way more on those emo styles and it fits very much in the climate of today's music scene. "To My Old Self" is the same way. The varied sound is something you haven't heard quite that much from Real Friends. A lot of it has been pretty straight forward pop/punk. With this being a longer release the band is able to include more songs of this style and I really think it helps the album. I actually think some of the lighter songs on the album really work well for the band. The album closes on a great note with the song "...And We're Just Changing" which is one of the best songs on the record. It might be in my top two or three favorite songs off the album. It's a really great way to finish the album.

I think if you are a critic of this band then some of the big questions you're probably going to ask is what does this band really have to offer that's unique? Did the lyricist step up his game from the EPs and how does the songwriting compare?  In terms of songwriting it isn't the most unique, but the band has character and they have that little extra something that adds that Real Friends flavor to the album. Lyrically this is probably written for a younger audience. I'd say late teens to early-twenties are going to be able to relate pretty well. For the older crowd, I think you're going to have to reminisce a little about times when you were going through the stuff this band is singing about. I think the band does a great job of just presenting their lyrics in a way that is very upfront in what they are writing about. The lyrics are one of the big complaints I've seen everywhere about the album. I think the band really goes all in on the introspective, emotional somewhat sad style lyrics for this album. I can see a lot of people connecting to that, whether the critics of it can or not. I don't think the lyrics ruin the listening experience for me personally. It might be wearing a little thin on listener’s ears, but at the same time it's part of what this band is and if you go into this album expecting anything but that lyrical style I'm honestly surprised. As far as the songwriting you do get plenty of tracks that have that Real Friends sound. There are also a handful that venture into slightly new territory. I think this is a pretty good batch of songs. Like I mentioned earlier some of the band's work on their more notable EPs is hard to rival and I think critics will argue whether they have or haven't with this batch of songs. I think some stuff on this album might be more of a grower which will take some time to really see what type of lasting value all of the lyrics and songs have, although I do think this album has some of those instantly accessible songs.

Real Friends has worked to become one of the most hyped pop/punk bands around and they've worked hard to build a buzz. Their debut album may not be as earth shattering as last year’s most hyped pop/punk band The Wonder Years album The Greatest Generation, but few bands can accomplish what that band is able to do. However, don't let the critics and all the message board slander lead you to believe that this band doesn't deserve at least some of the hype they have. This is a pretty good pop/punk album. The album has an interesting mood and vibe. It's produced and mixed nicely. I personally think this band stepped up their songwriting for this release. This, in my opinion, is easily one of the better pop/punk albums of the year so far. It's not my favorite release from the band. I still think Everyone That Dragged You Here is a really noteworthy release for the band. It will probably always be a hard one to top for the band (every band has that one release in their discography). I do think that if you take what is instantly appealing and let the growers stay with you a while you'll find this album is a fairly nice debut. It shows the band heading in some interesting directions while being able to maintain what their fans really enjoyed about their music from their EPs.

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