AJR - Neotheater | Album Review

Anika In't Hout Tue Nov 19th

The American indie pop band, AJR, are back again with their third full-length album, Neotheater, which was released at the end of April. Neotheater is definitely a step up from their previous album, The Click, with new sounds and insightful lyrics while still maintaining the frequent additions of cheerful horn sounds and almost operatic chants in many of their new songs. While AJR had much success with their previous album, Substream Magazine explains that the band did not just want to copy the old album and instead wanted to be original and different, eventually deciding on a music style of “Disney / 1940s meets more modern production.” This New York band of brothers (AJR stands for Adam Met, Jack Met and Ryan Met) really bring a fresh and exciting perspective with Neotheater as the album discusses their complicated relationships with things like growing up, mental illness, the music industry, and pop culture.

What I Liked:
Honestly, while many people out there hate this new album, I am actually a huge fan. Neotheater honestly sounds like it could be a Disney soundtrack as many of the album’s songs are exciting and sentimental with their peppy and cheerful horn solos and soft and delicate piano introductions. I also found that the lyrics of the album’s songs were often clever and meaningful, invoking different emotions in me. I had so many favourite songs on this album, but my absolute favourites would have to be “Birthday Party,” “Don’t Throw Out My Legos,” “100 Bad Days” and “Dear Winter.” 

When you first hear “Birthday Party,” it sounds a little weird, but it is actually very good. The song’s premise is from the point of view of an innocent baby--newly born--and how they would see the world. Weird, I know; but the song is trying to make people think about topics like divorce, the side effects of social media, immigration and racism. As AJR is no stranger to commenting on social issues with songs from their previous albums like “Burn the House Down” which touched on the current political climate and gun violence, “Birthday Party” also touches on social issues with lyrics like “I bet my ignorance is always bliss / Except ignoring pigment in our skin / I bet my country’s nice to immigrants.”

“Don’t Throw Out My Legos” is a meaningful and touching song that talks about nostalgia and the pains of growing up. With lyrics like “Oh no, don't throw out my Legos / What if I can't let go / What if I come back home, back home,” AJR highlights how sometimes it can be hard to grow up and let go of the nostalgic parts of your childhood--in their case Legos--when you move out of your childhood home.

“100 Bad Days” is an uplifting and inspiring song about how to see the positive in negative situations. While the song talks about a variety of bad situations (i.e. broken heart, no one attending their concerts, etc.), the song also explains that there are silver linings to everything, with lyrics like “Maybe a hundred bad days made a hundred good stories / A hundred good stories make me interesting at parties.”

“Dear Winter” is a sentimental song dedicated to the lead singer’s future daughter, Winter, who has yet to be born. While the lead singer is not expecting a child anytime soon, this sweet ode to his future daughter really pulls on the heart strings. With lyrics such as, “It really doesn't seem like there's anyone for me / But dear Winter, I hope you like your name / You know I cannot wait to teach you how to curse / But shit, I gotta meet your mom first,” you can tell that the lead singer will have so much unconditional love for his daughter.

What I Disliked:
While I do rather enjoy listening to AJR’s Neotheater, there were a few things that I think could they could work on. Even though some of their songs had sentimental and meaningful lyrics, other songs had lines that I found confusing, dark, and bitter. Examples of lyrics I did not like include, “What doesn't kill you / Makes you ugly / Life gives you lemons / At least it gave you something”, from the song “Break My Face". I just found these lyrics to be very bitter and bleak for no reason. Another example would be from the song "Beats", specifically when they sing, “Would Beats by Dre, pay 20K / For us to say that they are great / Recording costs, for this whole song / Could all be paid, by Beats by Dre”. The lyrics in the song are just strange because if you are not working with Beats by Dre or associated with them in any way, why give them free promotion or mention them at all?

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I really enjoyed AJR’s third full-album, Neotheater. I thought it showed a sense of growth and maturity as it touched on a whole bunch of important topics like growing up and mental health. While I loved all of AJR’s previous work, I think this album shows how much they have grown both as artists and human beings. Therefore, my overall score for this album is....