Emo/rock group Real Friends are set to release their new album Composure on July 13, via Fearless Records, with what will be their first full release since their sophomore full-length album, The Home Inside My Head. Real Friends have spent their time since the release travelling and touring non-stop, and after a good amount of time in the studio they are ready to release their new music into the world. Real Friends is Dan Lambton (Vocals), Kyle Fasel (Bass), Dave Knox (Guitar), Eric Haines (Guitar), and Brian Blake (Drums). I took a look at Composure, going track by track.
The first track off the album is “Me First”, which is an enjoyable song featuring some lovely soft verses, as well as some strong loud choruses. The vocals are a big feature of this song, as Dan’s raw and heart grabbing tones keep you on your toes. He goes between melodic and harsh like its nothing, which makes this song seem very emotion heavy. The bridge is the best part, as it slows it right down for a second, and millisecond by millisecond, builds the perfect amount of suspense for the final chorus. Lyrically it appears to be about toxic selfish people, who don’t look out for anyone but themselves. It’s about the emotions one feels when they are in a situation like this one, and how it is best to focus on yourself and to get away from shit people like this.
You can see what’s behind the lyrics in a way; a person who is the first to ask for help when they’re feeling down, they lean on people, and dump all their problems onto others. But when the tables are turned they are nowhere to be seen. The emotion and the frustration that comes with this can be seen through the chorus, as the vocals get rawer, rockier, and harder, as you burst out in anger and tell this person what they are. The bridge is the moment of release and relief that you feel once you’re rid of them, and is the perfect prefix to the final chorus, where all the final bits of frustration are released.
Track two is “Stand Steady”, and is a song riddled with lyrical insecurities. The whole thing is about trying to find solidarity in life, and the stress that this causes. Even the fun hip moving chorus doesn’t undo the underlying panic of the whole thing. This is shown especially in the bridge, where Dan talks about the vulnerability of writing songs, and exposing who he is through his music, as well as his lack of confidence in the rest of his life. “Stand Steady” is a very personal song for sure.
You can feel how he is feeling through the song. The fast verses are filled with panic. Looking around himself, everything seems to be moving so fast and its difficult to keep up with the rest of the world. There are so many decisions that need to be made, and all of it is so scary. Walking around with a constant sense of panic and terror nagging away at you takes it toll, and you can certainly sense that here. Writing music is an outlet to calm himself down it seems, but even that is vulnerable, as it is the only time he ever expresses his insecurities and concerns. The bridge is an emotional indicator of this.
“From The Outside” was the debut single from the album, and is a much different tone to the rest of the album so far. This song is basically all the emotionally vulnerable songwriting that was referenced in “Stand Steady”, as he discusses the process of putting on a complete facade to hide the pain he feels inside his head. The lighthearted guitars and the upbeat chorus (that makes you wanna dance) do their best to take away from the dark lyrics, and are what make it such a good song. The softer and more rock/alternative focused instrumentals are a good change from the more classic pop punk stuff we have heard so far, and this combined with the more melody based vocals make this a highlight for sure.
The lyrics of “From The Outside” give you a perfect look at what it is like to be living as if you are someone else. Surrounded by friends and family, you laugh and smile like everything is fine. You tell jokes, mess around, and chat away, perfectly fooling everyone. The smile on your face is a mask, as the demons tear away at the inside of your mind, cutting you down from the inside out until all you can see in your mind is all of your insecurities laid bare. What if they can all see it too, you think, what if they see through me. Terrified they’ll see through the facade you leave immediately. You drive home with your hands shaking on the wheel, holding in an inevitable breakdown. It is seeming like this is what happens every day, and its wearing you down. As the chorus kicks in so do the dark thoughts, you try to silence them with alcohol but it doesn’t work for long. You can’t keep this up for long, as the darkness continues its never ending siege on your mind.
“From the outside I seem fine.
On the inside I’m still sick,
the pills a temporary fix.”
“Smiling On The Surface” is somewhat similar to “From the Outside” in subject matter, but touches more on being honest with yourself about what you are feeling. Bottling it all up only makes it much worse. The instrumentals are softer for this song, but are different yet again. The guitars are soothing, making you feel like you are tucked up in bed and ready to sleep, which is odd considering the subject matter of the song. How you are seen by someone else is often completely different to how you view yourself, and this song is about mixing up your priorities so that you are more worried about what other people think than what you think of yourself.
“Heart What You Want” kicks off with some very dance-inducing verses, that make it tough to sit still. This continues as the instrumentals are very upbeat, and the vocals are the perfect mix of raw and melodic.
A darker theme is evident here, completely contrasting the upbeat happy instrumentals. I’m now realising that the upbeat and happy instrumentals are representing the false happiness that people portray for themselves, whilst the lyrics represent the inner battle people have with themselves, and the dark thoughts that are constantly lying under the surface. This song in particular features that concept, as it appears that Dan is having a discussion with his inner demons. He accuses those demons of taking away everything he is confident about, and tearing him down to his core. It is awful, this endless battle against himself, where he can’t even run away because it is constantly with him.
“I can’t leave you, you can’t leave me. We’ve been stuck in here forever.”
Track six is “Unconditional Love”. Giving more attention to string work on the guitars, slow drums, and very delicate vocals, makes for a very soft and powerful song. The verses make you feel like you’re lying on a cloud, as you close your eyes and are overcome by comfort. The vocals are full of angst and emotion, as the song appears to be about a past relationship, which was toxic from the start.
In the lyrics and vocals it’s like we are relieving it through Dan’s eyes. I see a relationship that was doomed from the start. All he did was try to make her happy, and she took him for granted. She just did little things, not knowing she was slowly ripping him apart: Tiny little shots fired, little nit picks at his personality or what he did, each one a tiny cut that developed into a gaping gushing wound. Each comment created its own individual insecurity, another thing that weighed him down. Every fond memory of this relationship has been ruined, and the worst part was she probably didn’t even know what she was doing as she did it. She demanded the world. He gave it to her, and she spat on it.
All of this is picked up through the lyrics, and the immense emotion expressed via the vocals. Each chorus sounds like he is barely hanging on as he sings, as if he is seconds away from breaking down into tears.
“My heart beats fast, and time moves slow.
You let me down, but you never let me go.”
The seventh track off Composure is oddly enough titled “Composure”, and is about going through life with a severe lack of mental stability. Drinking too much and barely sleeping, he can see his life crumbling in front of him. He’s trying to find his composure, and get himself back to a state where he can function, and hopefully maintain some kind of happiness. High expectations and a never ending sense of pressure absolutely doesn’t help, as the continuously powerful vocals display the unhinged nature of all this.
The instrumentals keep up the upbeat tone they have set throughout the album, continuing to put up a facade and making it appear a lot happier than it actually is. The instrumentals are the fake smile that you wear, almost by default, no matter what is going on in your life. In this case he feels himself losing control, and is trying desperately to grasp at something to pull himself back into reality, all the while brandishing the biggest smile you will see.
“Get By” is about functioning after a breakup, and how not coping with it while watching the other person flourish, can be horrible. Something like that can really weigh on you, as is shown through the grungey/punky instrumentals of “Get By”. The pace is brought back up by this song, and is certainly one of the more rocky songs of the track, despite the obvious grunge/emo influences.
Through the fast and at times manic verses you can feel yourself on the edge of sanity with this song, as you are struggling to keep it together. After a painful breakup you watch the other person be happy, and as they seem fine with it you are struggling. Ultimately, as the chorus kicks in, you realise you will be okay. Suddenly you are at peace with it, and feel good about it all, as you feel a massive weight lift off your shoulders. You have no idea why this is, but you just know that you will “Get By.”
“A broken heart makes you seem weak and far from happy.”
The penultimate track off Composure is “Ripcord”, and starts off as if it is going to be a heavy pop punk anthem. It quickly changes this as it launches into a very slow but bouncy chorus. The build up to the chorus is so good its almost disappointing, as in the lead up you are so ready to unleash, and then it slows down so suddenly. Despite this, it is one of the more enjoyable songs on the album.
Lyrically the track is about being used by someone, and being stuck in a mindset where they have been so manipulative and awful that you feel like all you need to do is impress them. They only want you when its convenient to them, and are ridiculously selfish.
“You’re selfish til you need me more.”
The final track of the album is “Take A Hint”; a very anthemic track about persisting through the dark times. It’s a much more positive outlook compared to the rest of the album, and may also be about Dan’s emotions towards making music. It’s a very fitting end to the album, and it ties the concepts of the album together with its lyrics. It hints at the mindset behind writing the songs, and about how you need to be positive with your creativity. It is about the pressure that comes with making music, and how it doesn’t need to be the case, because when it comes down to it, you need to do whatever it is that makes you happy the most.
Composure is a solid album from Real Friends. The lyrics are largely quite dark, and are beautifully written throughout. With instrumentals that are upbeat and happy, the contrast between the lyrics and the instrumentals made for an enjoyable experience, reinforcing an overarching theme of the album of wearing a facade of happiness in struggle.
Composure comes out on July 13 and an be pre-ordered here: https://caroline.lnk.to/Composure
Strong lyrically. Powerful dark themes. Contrasts greatly with light happy instrumentals.
Some songs are fairly similar. Real Friends could expand more on the different style touched on by "From the Outside", as that is what worked the most effectively.