Album Review: The Courtneys II by The Courtneys

Since the release of their first, self-titled album, The Courtneys, originally from Vancouver, BC, have gone on to work with Flying Nun Records in order release their second studio album, appropriately titled The Courtneys II. Much like the first, this album is filled with a young, punk, carefree, sound that is unapologetically lighthearted, yet jagged and repetitive. Somehow, within ten tracks, The Courtneys achieve nearly the exact same sound and feel throughout the entire album. After listening to the album from start to finish a few times, I feel as though the songs from this album would work effectively as individual tracks within a summertime playlist, but listening to all of these tracks together seems to act as a broken record. There is little to no melodic variation from the lead singer, with seemingly consistent timbre. The level of intensity and musical drive stays the same, without any periods of climax or cadence. The Courtneys II sounds like the band’s attempt to recreate “Tattooed Love Boys” in a longer form, but their sound is just a bit too relaxed, and frankly lazy to be able to achieve the same energetic tone as that of The Pretenders. However, there is some charm behind the simplicity of The Courtneys II that allows listeners to appreciate an unchanging jovial collection of summertime sound.

The opening track and first single of the album, titled “Silver Velvet,” starts the album off with feedback, followed by a simple drum beat and bass line, establishing the loose, unpolished tone that The Courtneys capture through all of their music. The layering of a distorted guitar are accompanied by double-tracked vocals that express the hardships that come with long distance relationships. The flatness of the chord progression throughout the song is what keeps this song from emphasizing the meaning behind the lyrics, taking the emotion away with it. The instrumental aspect of this track is sufficient in quality, but fails to capture the sound of struggle that the lyrics portray. For this reason, “Silver Velvet” is somewhat conflicting for a listener who looks for richness in both instruments and lyrics, as the song itself is enjoyable, but unfortunately lacks the depth it could have strived for.

“Tour” is the album’s second single, opens with quick-paced drumming and the same distorted guitar we’ve heard throughout the album thus far. Instead of long distance relationships, lead vocalist and drummer Jen Twynn Payne sings of hitting the open road and learning to let go. The bass line finds itself chugging along to the beat of the drum throughout, and the lead guitar doesn’t fall far away from them as well. Like many of the other tracks on The Courtneys II, “Tour” emits the warmth and freedom that comes with the feeling of summer. Unlike “Silver Velvet,” it is easy to recognize the correlation between instrumental tone and lyrics within this song. The style of The Courtneys is loose and carefree, which fits perfectly with the idea of breaking free and letting go. While it’s definitely possible that nearly any song on The Courtneys II could serve as a single that effectively presents The Courtneys’ instrumental style and genre, “Tour” is the best pick for a single that not only communicates their style instrumentally, but lyrically, too.

The closing track, “Frankie,” follows a similar tempo and tone to “Tour,” but captures a bit of a heavier tone than some of the previous tracks. It yet again features a simple, quick-paced drum beat, chugging bass line and distorted electric guitar that has been heard time and time again throughout the album, but contains slightly more richness in tone and chord variation. The chord progression, much like the rest of the album, does not stray from the mainly tonic-predominant-dominant progressions found in other tracks, but does vary within the chorus. The vocals on “Frankie” can be considered the most melodically interesting, as Payne explores octaves while belting out loving lyrics to her Frankie. The only reason this song works as a closing track is because of the feedback that accompanies the fadeout, which is similar to that of the sounds heard at the very start of the album. With that, we are given a true ending to The Courtneys II, which has essentially been constructed to mimic a live performance.

When I first listened to The Courtneys II, I was pleased by the uplifting, pop-punk tone throughout, but was a bit disappointed at the repetitiveness and lack of contrast between tracks. I did enjoy each track individually, but I don’t think I will ever find myself listening to the entire album as a whole again. Like I mentioned before, some of these tracks definitely have playlist potential, and I will definitely find myself listening to these songs within a mix of fun summertime tracks when I go for daytime drives or spend afternoons by the pool, but I probably won’t find myself listening to The Courtneys II in any other context.

Overall, The Courtneys have created a collection of songs that is more than reminiscent to their first album, but with a smoother, intentionally relaxed, but slightly more coherent sound, which could be due to the fact that the band created this album under a different label than the first. But even with this change, it is still apparent that they have not evolved as a band within the past three years. They still capture the somewhat punky, yet lighthearted and beachy sound that is consistent throughout every track on the album. If you want an album that contains loads of musical complexity and variation as well as intense lyrical meaning, then this album is not what you’re looking for. But the simplicity of The Courtneys II does not necessarily take away from the quality. While some who prefer musical richness and immense variation in their music, there are also fans of The Courtneys who will find exactly what they’re looking for out of this album, which may not be more than a feel-good, punk backing track to add to their summer playlists. The Courtneys II is a sufficient installment within their musical career, but it’s easy to assume that myself and many fans of the group are hoping that The Courtneys will discover new styles and evolve before their next release.

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