Early Riser - "Vocations" LP + MP3 AF116
Early Riser’s debut album Currents introduced listeners to their unique style of cello-driven pop-punk, full of catchy melodies, soaring vocal harmonies, and uplifting, relatable lyrics. Their second album, Vocations, hones in on their strengths and then amplifies them. Founding members Kiri Oliver (guitar/vocals) and Heidi Vanderlee (cello/vocals) are joined by Nicole Nussbaum (bass/vocals) Mikey Erg (drums/vocals), who bring a ferocious new energy to the songs.
The Opening track “Vocations” blazes in with an upbeat cello riff and 2.5 minutes of questions directed at the listener, starting with “What do you do? What do you really do?” and ending with “What are you doing with your life for the next 24 hours?” The album is full of questions, but also introspection and, ultimately, answers. The bookend to the title track is the closer, “Blood on Canvas,” which starts by asking “Are we artists? Are we fighters? Are we all of the above?” and then shifts those words to statements by the end. That track also contains what Oliver sees as the album’s thesis statement: “I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t need to...I’m giving everything until all that’s left is blood on the canvas.” It’s a personal reminder of what drives her to create, regardless of outcome.
In between those two tracks, the other eight deliver one hook after another while taking a nuanced look at some of the obstacles to being and expressing our true selves, including low self-esteem (“Wallflower in Red Lipstick”), anxiety (“Metronome Heart”), perfectionism and jealousy (“Other People’s Riches”), and idolizing others (“Drop the Torch,” which builds to a huge singalong of the line “Pedestals are for statues, not people”).
There’s also a pair of feminist anthems that highlight the obstacle of sexism: “The Narrator” addresses the danger of privileging male voices as “neutral” and assigning them more power, even as they vilify and demean women, and calls for a wider range of voices to be amplified. “Skeleton” touches on some the challenges faced by women and nonbinary people in creative fields and articulates the desire to be respected as a peer rather than a potential conquest—the climactic rallying cry is “I am an equal, not an opportunity.”
Overall, if Currents was about closing the door on the past, Vocations is about being fully immersed in the challenges and opportunities of the present. It’s a powerful love letter to self-acceptance and the decision to double down on what’s important to you.
***Purchase includes INSTANT digital download of album emailed to you***
***Vinyl images are mock-ups and may vary from final product***
180 - Opaque Salmon Mix (2020 Record Club Only)
100 - Translucent Orange
200 - Opaque Yellow