By: Andrew Biancanello
Being their most introspective and thematic release to date, The Story So Far craft a record that is both reminiscent of their staple high-energy pop-punk sound featured on previous efforts, ‘Under Soil and Dirt’ and ‘What You Don’t See’, while simultaneously touching on the somber nature of their self-titled effort from three years ago.
‘Proper Dose’ marks a significant progression in the band’s evolving sound, culminating all of the elements that make them who they are; Kevin Geyer and Will Levy interchangeably delivering rhythm-driven guitar choruses dotted with chiming, folk-inspired leads, Kelen Capener’s warm and consistent bass backbone, Ryan Torf’s intricacy and pummeling drumming stability and Parker Cannon’s raw and passionate vocal delivery. Production of the album was left to the competent hands of Sam Pura who helmed production on the band’s prior releases, establishing the soaring, dual-guitar energy that constitutes the band’s forefront, their polished and acoustic undertones illuminating the band’s tightly-knit distortive moments.
While undoubtedly a ‘summer’ album due to it’s both hazy sound and visual aesthetic, reminiscent of the band’s hometown of Walnut Creek, ‘Proper Dose’ summons strong notions of nostalgia and inner reflection, bearing much relevance going into the later seasons alongside their true return to roots. This aesthetic is concerned primarily with lead vocalist Parker Cannon’s focus on drug use and personal growth.
Guitarist Kevin Geyer’s performance on keyboards introduces a whole new layer of dimension to the band’s anthemic sound, allowing the album to have its softer, more ambient moments, as featured on tracks ‘Upside Down’, ‘Take Me as You Please’, ‘Line’ and my personal favourite, ‘Growing on You’. These acoustic tracks build upon the more delicate moments of their discography, as featured on their 2015 EP, ‘Songs Of’, showcasing frontman Parker’s ability to transition between his passionate abrasiveness and emotionally layered harmonies.
Parker’s melodic focus on this album coincides with his deeply reflective and confessional lyrical content, mainly centered around his transition from marijuana to codeine, as he sings about his struggles of chasing a greater high and defining his own ‘proper dose’. The album’s titular track defines Parker’s struggle to write in his solitude, having overcome the immediacy of the break-ups that inspired the band’s earlier releases.
The second track, ‘Keep This Up’ serves as a fast-paced self-warning, outlining the dangers of previous opiate abuse and the damage it’s caused but still focusing on the ‘cadence’ of the future. This song marks the way in which the album permeates an aura of hope despite the severity of Parker’s struggle, as his dialogue with himself is a message of redemption from the dark place in which he found himself.
The next song and the album’s first single, ‘Out of It’ elicits Parker’s stagnation in his apartment, number 51, in which he self-reflexively speaks to a version of himself that he is growing tired of, urging himself to abandon the woes of the past and leave the negative vices and voices behind him. ‘Take Me as You Please’ is probably one of the most important songs on this record. Having written three albums about essentially one individual, he finally tells himself to let the bitterness go and remember that it is ‘all love’. He has come to peace with his past relationship and is feeling more confident in himself. The folk-inspired guitar strumming supported by the illustrious organ sounds allow this song to resonate with glorious warmth and happiness, as Parker realizes that his bitterness is fading away in a new light. ‘Let it Go’ and ‘Upside Down’ build upon this theme, the theme of coping with transitions and and the attempt to abridge the damage of past relationships while accepting how love causes much turmoil and how the silence that occurs when it’s all over is overwhelmingly disorienting.
‘If I Fall’ speaks of the fear of relapse and the dangers of codeine while at the same time opening a window of hope as Parker knows that within himself, he can no longer put on a front and is striving to attain his true self and construct progressive goals to work towards.
The lead guitar riff at the end of this track is absolutely iconic of the band’s melodic punk sound, the simple yet soaring leads close the song with positivity and brightness, it’s folk-esque tone coincides perfectly with the embedded message of optimism, incorporating the band’s classic one-two-three formula and the warm fade of Kevin Geyer’s keyboard additions.
The next track, ‘Need to Know’ is the album’s purest proclamation for help as Parker’s ending lines, ‘save my soul’ define the album’s raw cry for help and his striving necessity of redemption. The track, ‘Line’ places bassist Kelen Capener at the forefront, with his humming bassline providing the album with a mellow break from the brightly aggressive energy. ‘Line’ brings back the lyrics from ‘Let it Go’ in a softer re-imagining, a clever move by Parker, expressing the duality of the quietness and the commotion of his usage of ‘lean’, highlighting the spectrum of lightness and darkness associated with the album’s aesthetic. The song is bittersweet but serves as an excellent prelude to ‘Growing on You’.
This next track affirms Parker’s yearning to start anew and his urge to grow and reconnect with those he has lost along his path of turmoil, his friends, ex-girlfriend, brother and family. He expresses sympathy with others who are also struggling, expressing that starting fresh ‘like a blade that’s new’ is his new-found perspective of hope that he has found to regain himself. He is finding his own light but also craves the light of another, to come and help him grow once more.
The final and conclusive track, ‘Light Year’ is the song that culminates the essence of the entire album while simultaneously bridging all of the band’s albums together. Being the album’s longest track, it serves as the climax of the band’s work thus far. “How did I get here, feels like a light year, I should have no fear, yet my hands are slick”, Parker’s words here exclaim his awareness of life’s journey through music and that he has ventured on thus far yet still being humble of the fears and struggles that exist a long the way. “Never try to lie to me” reflects ‘Empty Space from 2013’s ‘What You Don’t See, “I asked, and you lied”. What Parker is saying here is that he can no longer handle the mistrust and deceit of the past, he has moved forward and needs stability, he has become too fragile to be damaged by the mistrust of others as he is finally learning to trust himself. The title, ‘Light Year’ symbolizes the brevity of Parker’s musical journey and the band’s journey, as he has had time to reflect upon the scope of his path and how he has both regressed and evolved as a person and as a musician.
Ultimately, ‘Proper Dose’ is the band’s most lyrically driven and introspective record that demonstrates the band’s growth as people and as a musical unit. Their maintenance of their punk roots with the incorporation of more indie elements craft a bright, luminous and passionate record that showcases each member’s versatility. The conversational guitars, warm and wavering pulses of the bass, the delicate intricacy of the drums, the lush keyboard soundscapes and hazy acoustics form an intelligently crafted canvas on which Parker vocally paints his deep struggles with substance and past-love, stepping cautiously out into the warm and new-found light of the sun, “I'm stepping outside now. I'll leave you behind now. I finally came down I'm ready to let it all out…yet my hands are slick.” Having been devoted to listening to this band just before I entered high school, my emotional connection to this band and this record is beyond comprehension. It’s relevance to me both lyrically and musically is something that stems deeper than even I can understand and well beyond the surface of what others see or claim to see. To truly appreciate this record is to truly understand the gravity of the band as a whole and the gravity of Parker as an inspiration and as a reflection of a true and honest human being, opening his heart and soul in the purest and most passionate way possible, all masks removed.
About the Author
Andrew A. Biancaniello is an amateur writer attending Brock University for degrees in English and History. He is a member of Niagara-based bands Past the Verge and Sunnycide as well as New Union and Occultic. He is currently working on a new project with former members of Headrush.