One release that was underneath the radar of a lot of people this year was Blue October’s new album Sway. Anyone that has been following the band for a while knows that each album the band puts out is another chapter in the ongoing musical diary of lead vocalist and writer Jutin Furstenfeld. Justin has dealt with the extreme ups and downs of living with bipolar disorder and the psychosis that it brings. The songs reflect this as Justin tries to reach a happy state in his life. In that process he is open and honest with us. As a result, the themes of the songs swerve between both poles. Above all, the album is dedicated to his new wife Sarah, and the songs mostly address having someone to share his life given all he’s been through.
The album starts almost with a meditation, the short, quiet “Breathe, It’s Over”. This gives way to “Sway”, which starts in an upbeat place, but ponders that he never seems to have enough time to spend with the one he loves. The guitar here reminds me of The Cure a bit. “Angels In Everything” is a happier ode to finally finding a person to help him put his broken pieces together and saving him from himself. “Bleed Out”, with its atmospheric opening, ponders that same love, but in creeps the self-doubt and worry of it all going south when the other person lets go.
“Debris” is an almost seven minute song with a hushed vocal and beautifully layered instruments that is a testimony of Justin knowing what he has in his new wife. The strings swell up at the end and it becomes quite the beautiful piece of music for those with patient ears. Next is “Fear” one of the cornerstone songs of the album. Here Justin vows to himself to not be afraid anymore, stating “Today, I don’t have to fall apart”. As far as self confirmation songs go this one is a really good one. The band keeps a great balance here between the rock elements and the electronic elements. this is something I feel they’ve always done quite well. They know when to be quiet and let the music breathe, and went to get big and loud. Rounding out the first half is “Things We Don’t Know About”, an upbeat but mellower song about hope and facing the future together.
The second half kicks off a bit heavier with “Hard Candy”, a lament of who Justin used to be, where he sees clearly now why some of it didn’t work. “Put It In” continues in the heavier vein, being a song about not being afraid to take chances. “Light You Up” goes a completely different direction, with an electronic almost hip-hop beat starting it off with some delicate keyboards. The song seems to be Justin saying he’s tired of trying to explain how his brain works and his condition to others.
Next is my favorite of the album, “Things We Do At Night”. This one has some powerhouse drumming and is a song about loneliness. Not just loneliness in general, but how sometimes we feel lonely because of our inability to start communication and the need to put up walls around ourselves. The melody on this song is just gorgeous. “Not Broken Anymore” is the final song. It is a heartfelt ballad about his true appreciation for not having to face the world alone anymore. The strings and piano by Ryan Delahoussaye add a lot to the overall feel of this song and the vocals are some of Justin’s best. The album is wrapped up with a coda of “To Be”, a beautifully layered instrumental piece.
Blue October really hasn’t been heard a lot on the charts or radio unfortunately since their masterpiece album Foiled and its main hit “Hate Me”. This is a shame because that is only part of the storyline that continues through this band’s songs. All of its members gel in such a great way and know how to play the quiet/loud dynamics to full effect. As with each of their albums so far, the lyrics and vocal delivery really affect me. Possibly because I deal with my own anxiety problems, making some of the lyrics hit home. In any case, I think Sway is a well put together and underappreciated album, and very much deserving in a place on my list of favorites of the year.
Check out some of the songs from album here:
“Angels In Everything”:
“Fear” (Lyric Video):
“Things We Do At Night” (Lyric Video):
“Hard Candy” (Lyric Video):