Set It Off are preparing for the release of their new album Upside Down, out this Friday (October 7th) on Rude Records, which acts as the third full-length in their collection following 2014’s Duality. The record was produced in Los Angeles, CA with Brandon Paddock (Panic! At The Disco, Avril Lavigne), Erik Ron (Saosin, Panic! At The Disco) and Mike Green (5 Seconds of Summer, All Time Low). The band set out for this effort to “break down the genre walls” and this is most definitely something they’ve managed to do: the record is absolutely impossible to pigeonhole to one singular style.
Upside Down opens with the latest pre-release track Something New, which is a pop-fuelled piece filled with a drum/bass groove co-written by All Time Low‘s Alex Gaskarth. The song features massive layered gang vocals that create a big sound. Cody Carson’s voice shines through and sets the tone for the whole album from the outset, with almost a Patrick Stump tone to it at times.
The rest of the album however lacks a lot of conviction in terms of songwriting, with tracks such as Life Afraid resorting to Carson singing a line and shouting for “ladies” first then “fellas” to sing it back to him as if playing live, which makes it feel like it is missing something.
Highly characteristic of this album are the echoing, digitalised guitars, backed up with electronic horns and massively layered vocals to create a funky feel to the songs, which unfortunately makes the album sound very similar for a large portion of the record. The stacked vocals are a positive in many places though, to make the musically lacking tracks have some sort of complexity and depth, and it is undeniable that the harmonies are extremely well put-together.
The best track on the album is Uncontainable, which sounds like it could have come straight off a new Fall Out Boy record. The guitar riff is very samey but keeps the rest of the track in check, the drums are partially digitalised to give a more pop vibe and there are traces of horns amongst the shouts and melodies of the layered backing vocals. The best part of the song has to be Carson’s voice again which has a very solid pop feel to keep the track growing. Another notable mention is the title track, with a keyboard intro and verse that keeps the track listenable throughout and a far more thorough touch to the writing.
Overall, it seems this record was made to just be played with the backing of a jazz band on stage where the crowd will be there to sing the gang vocals in place of the recorded voices to give some kind of connection but on the record it is missing any real emotion or effect. As an instalment in their catalogue Upside Down is rather a disappointing one, but in terms of a live performance this record could well mark a new height for them.