New Jersey-based band, The Front Bottoms, premiered their new album, You Are Who You Hang Out With, this August 4. A landmark group in the modern emo scene, TFB formed in childhood house of leadman Brian Sella and childhood friend Mathew Uychich, later accompanied by Mathew’s older brother, Brian Uychich, on keyboard, and a great number of touring members and other artists who joined in for small periods of time before leaving to pursue their own lives and other projects. Now, TFB has returned to Brian and Matthew, but that does not mean they have returned to their old sound.

              What YAWYHOW is, more than anything else, is another step in the direction TFB has placed themselves in. While TFB fans often think of their two most popular albums, The Talon of the Hawk and The Front Bottoms, it seems to me that Sella and Uychich are forward thinking, working at cultivating an adjacent but different sound from what longtime fans might be thinking. Since their 2017 album Going Grey, TFB has moved ever so slightly away from their more acoustic, classic rock beginnings by incorporating electronic elements. YAWYHOW has songs that feel straight out of TotH, “Outlook”, their first single from the album, may have even gotten longtime fans hopes up. On the other end, YAWYHOW has songs with heavy autotune and more pop-adjacent elements. If you were to listen to the entirety of the Front Bottoms’ discography, you would see a clear movement away from the indie/alt rock sound to a more mainstream sound. And I want to make it entirely clear, this is not a bad thing.

              It is all too easy to become blinded by nostalgia in the face of something new. When TFB released their self-titled album in 2011, I was not an avid listener of the genre, much less the band themselves. When I first discovered the band far later, I was drawn to the raw, emotional music they had created with TFB and TotH. They had released poppier music, albums with just significant enough variations that I would not listen to most of the songs, maybe adding one or two tracks to one of my playlists. But there will be new fans who discover TFB with YAWYHOW and will immediately love what they’ve made with their 2023 release. In the same way that a 2011 high school student will find TotH and hate the band’s first album, I Hate My Friends, there will be someone who finds this new album and hates the “classic Front Bottoms” music, the most popular songs. This is not only a good thing, it is great! As much as your rose-tinted glasses might make you think TFB has fallen off, we need to recognize that if these artists are so afraid of innovating their music, taking inspiration from new places, and making music they truly love, we would not have the classic junior or senior albums from these artists that are their masterpieces. Without I Hate My Friends, we wouldn’t have TotH, with iconic hits as “Twin Size Mattress” or, my personal favorite, “Father.” Without Slaughter Beach, Dog’s (who I just published a review of their new album, Laughing, Crying, Waving, Smiling, which you should go read) Welcome, we would not have gotten my personal favorite EP from them, Motorcycle.jpg. Now, this isn’t to say I Hate My Friends or Welcome are bad albums. But I’d be lying if I said they were my favorites. Artists innovating, making songs we might not necessarily like, are essential to the creation of works we will love. And even if TFB was to stop making music now, there are still fans out there who will say YAWYHOW is the best album ever. And though I might disagree, even though I might not even have this album in my top three Front Bottoms albums, I am so glad they’ve made it.

Photo Credits from: Fueled by Ramen