Over the past few years, as my knowledge of alternative music and the labels representing it increasingly grew, I quickly developed an interest in Van Nuys, CA label Hopeless Records. The roster of bands they’ve chosen to represent, specifically in the past year or two, has shown the label at its most diverse. The label has been sporting many older acts looking to attract newer, youthful audiences (New Found Glory, The Used, Taking Back Sunday, Silverstein), as well as welcoming in the next generation of soon-to-be veterans in their respective genres (The Wonder Years, We Are the In Crowd, Neck Deep). However, while many tend to associate the label with their larger acts, one of Hopeless’ best kept secrets continues to be Austin, TX indie-pop act Driver Friendly. Though the five-piece (formerly seven) has been active for the past twelve years thanks to the continuing support of a local fanbase, they’ve been signed to Hopeless for just the last two, allowing for the chance to spread their art out to a wider audience. Not only this, but because the band has had the time to let their sound mature not only makes the result of their latest record, Unimagined Bridges, all the more spectacular, but also allows them to flaunt their status as one of the most fascinating and under-appreciated acts of their genre.
Unimagined Bridges wastes no time in showing what the band is capable of, kicking off with the hypnotic swirl-turned-chaotic frenzy of “The Game (This Won’t Hurt).” Vocalist Tyler Welsh confesses “All I ever wanted was to be part of a conversation / To know that someone was listening to the words I was saying” as a distant trumpet rings over him, proving to be the first of the record’s many forthright lyrical moments. Another comes soon after on one of the album’s most infectious tracks, “Stand So Tall” – a bouncy, vibrant ode to optimism that radiates the fun-loving side of Driver Friendly displayed so well on the band’s brilliant LP Bury A Dream, featuring a well-suited cameo by The Wonder Years vocalist Dan Campbell. What makes the album so memorable as a whole, however, is how the band is able to shift between these two moods to create a record accessible for all who’re listening. Tracks range from the goofy “What a Predicament!” to the convincingly commanding “Bad Way” and “Bridges,” just showing how diverse the band can be when professing their emotions through such a wide variety. What Unimagined Bridges boils down to is a record about gaining the courage to not only cope with what life dishes out, but to also find strength in the choices one makes as result. No gimmicks, no cliches, no bullshit. Just pure, honest effort all around.
All things considered, it gives me great pleasure to wholeheartedly recommend Driver Friendly’s latest LP. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the push from this record would be enough to catapult the band into the realm of indie-pop supremacy they’ve been striving over ten years to achieve. After giving it careful consideration, there’s really only one thing you need to know about Unimagined Bridges: It’s about as genuine as they come.