High school—a time remembered so differently by so many. To some, it’s the definitive snapshot of one’s fading youth—where people remember their last four years of adolescence as a time filled with friends, fortune and fruitful memories, as Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever)” plays softly in their headspace.
For the rest of us, however, let’s face it: High school sucked.
It seems to be the majority opinion that high school, while not completely devoid of enjoyment for most, is often remembered for its depreciation of the human spirit than it is for its lasting memories. It’s a time filled with constantly shifting friendships, romantic devastation, crippling uncertainty and a lack of overall direction. It’s a time where everyone’s in transition, but have no idea what they’re transitioning into next.
This is a fact of life that Washington, D.C., alternative/emo duo the Obsessives have come to grips with on their winning debut, Heck No, Nancy. Though the band has plenty of ground to cover before they become a genre staple, the act has their feet planted firmly in the 13 tracks of emotionally fueled emo-rock, dancing a very thin line between sentimental and wanting leaving the worst behind.
As many fans of the genre know, emo is a complicated beast, with varying subgenres and different levels of accessibility. the Obsessives fall somewhere between charming newcomers like Tiny Moving Parts and ’90s pioneers like Mineral, showing the band’s versatility between eras old and new. Though those either exiting high school or entering college will primarily consume the record, a lot of the album’s approaches to themes of loneliness and indecision are as timeless ever.
Tracks like the one-two punch of “Sprawling” and “Home” help to illustrate this fact. The former takes the specific annoyances of college life, while the latter builds upon them in tremendous fashion, as vocalist Nick Bairatchnyi screams for dear life, “Thinking about dropping out/I want to move back home.” It’s very clear—when the band vents their frustrations, listeners will undoubtedly reciprocate with open hearts and arms, absorbing every distraught word presented to them.
The album’s biggest achievement, however, is the touching “Bored,” seamlessly moving from energetic verses to booming choruses to an appropriately poignant voicemail sample. While the album has its highs and lows (expected for a debut), it’s on this track that the band comes the closest to brilliance, displaying their vulnerability for all to judge.
All in all, Heck No, Nancy, is as solid an emo record you’ll find in today’s overcrowded genre. While it may not go down as the definitive record for the style, the act does an excellent job of showcasing a spirited, wistful introduction, displaying what the band is truly capable of at this point in time. If anything’s for certain on Heck No, Nancy, however, it’s this: The Obsessives are bigger and better than high school, and assuredly won’t peak there.