Every so often a new group of bands enters the radar of the alternative music scene. These bands will generate buzz via marketing plans and promotional campaigns, but time and time again, the most powerful and effective method of spreading the word about new music is word of mouth. Chicago’s own Sleep On It announced their signing to Equal Vision Records in August 2016, but they’ve been grinding it out since 2012, working tirelessly to build their reputation and their fan base throughout the country for half a decade. While they showed promise with their 2016 EP and Equal Vision debut Lost Along The Way, it’s with their debut full-length record Overexposed that they’ve proven their staying power in a crowded genre.
Young bands will often make the mistake of releasing their best songs early, causing hype surrounding the album release but a let-down upon first listen. While Sleep On It started off strong with “Distant”, “Window”, and “Fireworks” released early, the highlights of Overexposed lie within, making the album worthy of several spins: “Hope” feels immediately classic, “Always Crashing The Same Car” takes on a more alternative sound, and the honesty present on “Autumn (I Wish I Was Better)” is refreshing.
With twelve tracks, Overexposed is longer than many of its contemporaries, but the tracks flow seamlessly into one another for a resulting output that never feels too long. The album opens with the impressive and anthemic “A New Way Home”: vocalist Zech Pluister admits that he’s “been trying to lose myself for a year now” and is “trying to find a splash of color in this grayscale life.” The remaining eleven tracks are self-aware, often touching on themes of the realities of being in a touring band (on the title track they sing, “You give up a few things chasing a dream”) but done in a way that’s entirely relatable to anyone, whether they play music for a living or not. A great record is not just about the songs themselves but about how they’re put together, and while Sleep On It never quite reach dynamic extremes, the ebb-and-flow juxtaposition between tracks- from “A New Way Home” to the sentimental “Window” and later from “A Brighter Shade Of Blue” to “Overexposed”- feels intentional and well-crafted.
Pop-punk has never been about reinventing the wheel, and Sleep On It aren’t attempting to do so with Overexposed. Instead, the band is focused on doing what they do and doing it to the best of their abilities. While there are moments of grief and lost hope to be found, there’s also a sense of optimism and a certainty that things can get better: “I’ll be fine / Don’t give up on me / I’ll come around”, Pluister sings on “Fireworks.” It’s lines like these that will cause Sleep On It fans to press repeat and hold this record close to their heart for years to come.
Sleep On It has been just barely under the mainstream radar for a while now, but with Overexposed they’re ready to come in to their own. It’s a strong debut that sets the bar high for releases to come, and while they’ve got a ways to go before becoming true household names, there’s no doubt they’re capable of getting there.
Sleep On It will release Overexposed on November 3 via Equal Vision Records. They will be on tour with Waterparks, Chapel, and As It Is from November 6 to December 7; head to their website for a full list of upcoming shows.