Over the years, AWOLNATION has developed a signature electro-heavy approach. Lead singer Aaron Bruno has shown that he isn’t afraid to keep his band progressive while staying true to their trademark style.
Bruno wanted to create an album based on the concept of underdogs, The Runts—he wanted to convey the intimate moments they have between all the quick chaos that life keeps pouring out.
From the outset you’ll hear a pounding, yet not overbearing, electric force. You’ll feel the magnetic energy pulling you in through the first four tracks—the most surprising being ‘Sound Witness System,’ which is a stab at the Rap Rock style made popular by The Beastie Boys.
This initial force is balanced by the middle of the record. Tracks from ‘Handyman’ to ‘My Molasses’ work as a respite between the amped tail ends. Here you’ll find acoustic offerings, as well as the country-influenced piece, ‘Seven Sticks of Dynamite’.
But no song reaches for your heartstrings as much as ‘Table for One’. Spy that violin spaced between the verses. Feel the emotionally charged lyrics and steep breakdowns. Listen to this magical flute-like synth that pops up out of nowhere. On the first take, you might count this track as nothing more than a playful singalong ballad. Multiple replays will help realize how it plays into the overall theme of the album and be one of your Go-Tos.
Prior to Tracks 11-14, we get a great representation of how AWOLNATION can stay true to their style and still sound fresh.
Then you get to the end—and boy what an ending it is. The last four tracks are a beautiful derailment you’ll want to ride until the last lyric is belt out. This final section gives the album the UMPH it needs and easily becomes the highlight of the record.
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Let’s start with ‘Cannonball’. It feels nostalgic—an alt-rock track ripped right out of early 2000. It would fit into any music-heavy, coming-of-age film. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist? Definitely.
Then we flip. Tall, Tall Tale is beautifully digressive. It slides into the darkest corner of the album. You start feeling it splintering in a dangerous way—right before it hits you with the all-instrumental track ‘The Buffoon.’
‘The Buffoon’ has this melodic buildup that breaks into airy silence out of nowhere, only to leave room for the 3-part, 6-minute treasure of an ending:
‘Stop That Train’.
When a song is thematically and compositionally parallel it takes on a life of its own. ‘Stop that Train’ is that song. You will feel yourself on this track gathering steam—AWOLNATION is inviting you along for the ride, a ride you’ll want to experience in its entirety. By the end, you get this magnificent metal section that brings to mind System of a Down. Give it a listen. You won’t be disappointed. It is incredibly rewarding.
Overall, ‘Here Come the Runts’ is a well put together concept album, but not perfect. Not every song is going to stick with you and there is plenty of room for AWOLNATION to still grow. Aaron Bruno never fears to take a step in interesting and divergent directions. If you liked AWOLNATION before, you’ll be pleasantly satisfied with this undertaking, but not incredibly surprised. It is a well-produced alternative rock album that should definitely get a spot on your playlist.
‘Here Come the Runts’ is out now via Red Bull Records. The album’s full tracklisting is…
- Here Come the Runts
- Sound Witness System
- A Miracle Man
- Jealous Buffoon
- Seven Sticks of Dynamite
- A Little Luck and a Couple of Dogs
- Table for One
- My Molasses
- Tall, Tall Tale
- The Buffoon
- Stop That Train