Fans of early 2000’s emo and pop-punk certainly remember The Juliana Theory. Their 2000 album Emotion is Dead is considered one of the essentials of the genre from that time. While the group was on hiatus for nearly fourteen years between their 2006 album A Small Noise and 2020’s Deadbeat Sweetheartbeat (Deluxe Edition), the band has remained prolific since then, releasing an album of mostly reimagined versions of older songs in 2021, and tomorrow, they release their latest EP, Still the Same Kids pt. 1. And while there are familiar elements to the songs here, this EP shows a band that is very much living in the now, evolving their sound by incorporating modern production and pop influences into their songwriting.
The track that is most reminiscent of the band’s rock-leaning past music is first single “Playback ’99 (Burn the Cassette Deck)”. With its driving drums and power chords, the track packs some Strokes attitude into the band’s earlier emo sound. A twinkling key line adds a touch of prettiness, while lyrically the song overflows with anxiety (“I feel so anxious. I’m just living on borrowed time”) and nostalgia (“I wish I could just press rewind to playback ’99”). As the harmonies layer on top of each other, it’s clear the band is actively seeking to take more adventurous steps in their writing and production.
Less immediate though no less inventive is second track “Less Talk”. Unlike “Playback ’99”, “Less Talk” is far more laid back, with R&B beats and indie pop vocals for a track that emanates chill vibes. This moodier palette carries over to “Clouds”, a dreamy, melodic slice of AM radio throwback pop. Conjuring early doo-wop and 50’s slow dances, the song still retains the introspective storytelling one would expect from the band (“Maybe I’m a fool for dreaming like I do”), but explores new sonic landscapes.
Final song “True Sight” is right out of the Bon Iver playback, utilizing autotune and programmed beats for a truly of-the-now sound. Even through the digital filter, the track’s melancholic heart is on full display (“The only person who could knock me off my path. Now it’s uncertain if you would even want me back”). The song builds steadily, layering the chorus and bringing in hand claps and marching drums for a powerful ambience that elevates the longing in singer Brett Detar’s voice.
It’s a strong effort, and a nice collection of new songs for the band to draw from as they tour with Dashboard Confessional and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness this summer. The EP is out this Friday, May 6th. Listen to the single here.