EP Review: Sleep On It - Lost Along The Way

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If you've not heard of Sleep On It before, they are a pop punk band hailing from Chicago, consisting of five members: Zech Pluister (vocals), TJ Horansky (guitar/vocals), Jake Marquis (guitar/vocals), AJ Khah (bass) and Luka Fischman (drums).

To introduce you to their sound, Sleep On It are a culmination of warm vocals, metal influenced drums, rock guitars and bass. Their tracks have the feel of being anthems destined for popular radio play, or tunes for cranking up to eleven and thrashing around to in a living room. The band brings a sense of fun into their songs as well as into their music videos. They make skilled use of the different nuances of their voices to inspire different sentiments in their songs, having multiple layers of vocals giving depth or going head to head in what almost feels like a battle. With all of this combined the band feel very much at home in ballad-style songs with a punk edge and a hint of pop softness. But their message is what matters.

The last twelve months have been turbulent for the group. Pluister is freshly appointed on lead vocals, having departed from Bonfires. He describes there having been “loss on many different levels”, including relationships. Fischman sums up the upheaval of the last year by saying, “We lost our singer. Zech left his band. It was rough for both parties.”

The five current members of Sleep On It have joined forces, and channeled these experiences of loss into the music of their new EP, aptly titled Lost Along the Way, releasing on 21st October 2016.

The hum of an amplifier welcomes us into the first song of the EP, with Pluister’s vocals and the lyric “These lines will carry us home” ringing out. Thirty seconds in to Counting Miles and it already feels like a road trip and a confessional. Warm vocals, a catchy riff, heavy drums and an energy of anticipation make the track feel comfortable and exciting. It feels like we’re included in something really good here.

The lyric of “The world seems too big if you never grow” is a hook of Counting Miles that is all but beckoning us to try something new, but there’s also a feeling of it being okay to fall back to what we know. The beautiful bridge (“I feel tired, I can’t sleep a wink. I’m counting miles instead of sheep”) is a stand-out and it feels like a magnetic pull toward whoever it is that means ‘home’. It starts as plaintive before building up into the close of the track, with additional vocals by Horansky and Marquis.

If track 1 had us on a road trip with the band, then track 2 (entitled With Friends Like You, Who Needs Friends?) is us listening to someone in the car having a confrontational phone conversation with someone who did them wrong. The chord selection and timing creates a feeling of angles and edges from the outset. The lyrics are direct and accusing: “Can you feel the tension? How the fuck do you sleep?” In the second verse are vocals going head to head which amplifies that sense of conflict. The song ends openly, feeling heavy and unresolved.

The heaviness doesn’t last too long though, as the skipping beat of See You Around on track 3 is lifting and light, like someone left the car windows open and the awkward conversations blew out and into the wind. It’s not light and fluffy subject matter though, with the lyrics talking about on-again and off-again love. “Your silence is so loud. There’s a buzz in my head from what you never said.” The chorus features a heavily distorted guitar sound which may seem at odds to the lightness of the verses but is a perfect reflection of that off and on kind of relationship. The layered vocals of this song are a stand-out, such as the “It’s alright, I’m okay on my own” appearing at the end.

Unspoken begins with a lone guitar before a building up of sound and the cry of “It’s been a long year”. Lyrically, Unspoken is directed emotively toward a lost relationship, and feels unresolved as questions are asked and confusion reins: “Is this the end or is it another night I’m broken?”. The bridge is captivating, with the band going head-to-head vocally. There’s a time change and also a change of emotional state with the line “I’ll never let myself collapse again with every word you fake”.

Let Me Go closes the EP, beginning with Pluister’s plaintive request to be let go “before I lose all hope or I lose myself”. It ironically feels less like a release and more like a gripping on and a begging (“please just tell me that I’ll get through this with my heart still whole” / “Just tell me one thing so I can finally rest”) and a last ditch effort. Which makes it a perfect last song on an EP about loss. Fischman’s drumming and Khah’s bass combined in the bridge pull everything together and it opens us up into.. "CHANGE!" It’s a beautiful moment in the ‘story’ of this song, lyrically and musically as there’s a key change and a brighter outlook. Let Me Go is an impressive close to the entire EP, and a seed of curiosity planted as to what will come next for Sleep On It, if they too will grow into something new from their experience of loss.

Recorded with producers Seth Henderson (Real Friends, Knuckle Puck) and Derek DiScanio (State Champs), Lost Along the Way has us feel like part of something special and offers a sense of hope even when things feel dire and lost. It's a solid EP, with every song a pleasure for the ears and soul. I’m looking forward to what Sleep On It come up with next.

Review by Kelly Burch
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