Suburban Heart has been one of my most highly anticipated records of 2013. Since Winterpop hit early last year The All-About have released a couple singles and an EP, including the almost perfect jam “Sadie Hawkins.” The build up to the new full-length dates all the way back to last year, but things have heated up recently with the release of two new singles, “Jessie” and “Whatever, Happy Birthday.”
The two new tracks are both great and really set the bar high for Zac Coe’s not-so-solo project (featuring Oliver Ignatius, Alexandre Da Silva, Gabby Ambrosio, and Layne Montgomery). I had nothing but faith in the album, and it came out even better than I could have hoped. Gone are the charming Killers references, replaced by smart Springsteen cues and mentions of a couple of the Boss’s hits in the lyrics. It’s a more mature record than Winterpop, but no less fun.
The album deals a lot with growing up, losing touch, and the difficulties in trying to go home again. Zac might be the most nostalgic early twenty-something in the world, but he seems ready to let go of the past by the end of Suburban Heart. One facet of life that gets a lot of attention is growing apart from the friends you had as an adolescent, and I think the chord struck here is the most relatable on the album.
On the sprawling “Nashville,” Coe and a friend lament their waning time together knowing things can’t stay the same forever. There’s a certain comfort in knowing someone as well as we know our closest friends as we grow up, and an uneasiness comes when we leave that behind. When he sings “All I need is a full heart to get where I’m going, but I want you to be here when I come back,” it’s a bittersweet reality we’ve all experienced.
There are a lot of precious memories relived here as well. On the title track Coe sings “Don’t you wanna take me home? The only roads that we’ve ever known are from your house to mine.” The song is about star crossed lovers who are too busy to for a relationship and how every second without the other person is a moment wasted. This is the first instance where you feel the sonic similarities with Winterpop. The horns and piano used here aren’t new to The All-About, but they fit so well that its hard to complain.
I love the opening of “Jessie.” It might be my favorite 45 seconds of the whole album. With just a synth and his voice, Coe reminisces and it feels like our own memories. “I could see in the way you moved your hips it was nearly dawn, you were feeling a little bit anxious. Remember how you tried to dare me to run the light because nobody would see when I drove you home? So every girl just grab a boy, lately I’m losing my voice, baby. Singing along, with the radio.”
In the biggest surprise of Suburban Heart, “Lyla Garrity” opens with beautiful strings that give way to a Peter, Bjorn, and John-like whistling. The outro of the song finds the two components coming together perfectly to create a magical moment of poignancy and acceptance.
Suburban Heart may not sound like its a giant leap from Winterpop, but lyrically and thematically it is a great step forward. Zac uses his own past to assemble songs that are so universally relatable this album will probably be translated in more languages than Beowulf. The album comes out on Tuesday May 21st, and will be available on Bandcamp. You can also find all of The All-About’s previous releases there, and you should download all of them.