“Every album anyone’s ever written is an emo album,” Taking Back Sunday frontman Adam Lazzara told EW in an interview earlier this summer, “because there’s a lot of emotion that goes into all of that…I don’t like being pigeonholed.” The Long Island-born rocker is well-aware of the limitation ascribed to anyone marked by the three-letter word—it might as well be a nasty, four-letter one—and on Taking Back Sunday’s seventh full-length, Tidal Wave, he intends to destroy expectations.
The first taste of the album came via the title track, a Replacements-worshipping single that doesn’t reflect the rest of the release, which relies on guitar-heavy, indie rock vibes. Instead, “Tidal Wave” teeters the line between folk rock and Americana, Lazzara’s whiskey-ravaged voice mimicking a drinking song’s cadence.
The single follows the album’s opener, “Death Wolf,” a hard-hitting, slow-building, post-emo power anthem that recalls 2011’s self-titled album. Here, drummer Mark O’Connell and guitarist John Nolan engage in performative tension with one another, setting a hungry tone for much of the release. The track stands in direct opposition to other songs like the ballad “I Felt It Too,” where Lazzara repeats himself in the present tense, “I know you’re tired / I feel it too.”
Lines like that and those on the stripped-down “Holy Water” (“You should be happy, baby / You have people that love you, baby”) demonstrate a new era of Taking Back Sunday. The band is no longer hiding behind the quick quips that put their 2002 breakout album Tell All Your Friends on the map, or even behind their “MakeDamnSure” days, which feels like growth, since they released the hit single almost exactly a decade ago. They’re far more direct now, the kind of confidence and comfortability that comes with aging.
The guys once known for writing songs about girls who paid them no mind in adolescence aren’t here any more. Instead they’ve learned from their past, creating an album that’s both eclectic and sensitive, not just one or the other. If emo is something that pigeonholes, Taking Back Sunday are making noble attempts to abandon those impulses—with Tidal Wave, the band is both emo and something else entirely. That might take some getting used to.
“Fences” highlights Taking Back Sunday’s incredible ability to write anthems with upward mobility.
“I’ll Find A Way To Make It What You Want”
The distorted delicacy of Tidal Wave‘s closer makes it a stand-out; the slow-burning, mid-tempo banger feels like a whispered letter to a lover.