When a band name their album Those Days Are Gone and open it with the line ‘I know that we fucked up, and I know that you don’t care’ you likely know what kind of listen you’re in for. Pair these two opening points with the fact that Nashville natives Free Throw are signed to the always excellent Count Your Lucky Stars and have toured / are touring with the likes of Grandview, Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate), Tiny Moving Parts and Kittyhawk, and that general idea about the band should become a notion that these guys are onto something both good and sad, and the band’s debut full-length confirms just that. Free Throw have been lingering on the peripheral of the modern emo scene for a while now, but with Those Days Are Gone they take a step forward, meaning they’re more likely to be associated with the genre’s forerunners in more than just acquaintance, establishing themselves on that sort of level with a debut that ticks all of the right boxes.
Like the two EPs the preceded its release Those Days Are Gone works best when taken in during one sitting. Listening to select songs on Those Days Are Gone only a few really stand head and shoulders above the rest, and this means that Free Throw’s debut is a record which should be absorbed collectively rather than individually. It helps that there’s a strong cohesive feel throughout which you lose by singling out certain selections; lyrics are consistently downcast and anthemic, whilst the general mood is one of melancholic introspection, juxtaposed by some dynamic instrumentation and fierce vocals. These harsher vocals tend to take a backseat, with Cory Castro’s more tuneful delivery taking the lead, but there’s a good medium, however between the two (think early Taking Back Sunday), and the two styles are a fair reflection of the band’s music as a whole – which is clean, intricate emo / rock with plenty of aggressive, heartfelt pangs. Free Throw settle into this niche as soon as opener Such Luck bursts into vibrant life, and the balance between angst and melody is similar to the balance struck by label-mates Two Knights earlier this year; there’s a calming nature to the majority of Those Days Are Gone, but it’s also very raw emotionally, unafraid to lay itself bare. Choice lyrics are verbal suckerpunches, whilst the upbeat openings to songs like the emphatic Let’s Get Invisible and sharp Good Job, Champ are spirited and somewhat relaxing. It’s an enticing blend – albeit a familiar one in the genre – and it’s a blend which lends itself well to Those Days Are Gone. This is a record you can immerse yourself in, it’s warm with some real gravity to it, and you can take comfort and find solace in a lot of the tracks here, be it the energetic and excellent What Day Is It, October, or the slower, painfully penned Kim Tastie, which hits particularly hard as Free Throw lament ‘How could we have ever known? Am I not all that you wanted?‘
I mentioned Grandview at the start of this review, and I’ll mention them again now. In terms of emotion in their music the two bands aren’t far removed, and a lot of what I loved dearly about Everything Between Paint And A Wall (Grandview’s 2013 debut) also exists on Free Throw’s debut, most notably in the records lyrics, which are personal and expressive, as well as very well-written, with Pallet Town a firm highlight. The track appeared as an acoustic version on a split between the two bands last year, but the full-band take which features on Those Days Are Gone is much better, another upbeat track initially with troubled sentiments keeping things thoughtful and reflective. It’s one of the longer songs on the record, shifting focus partway through, smoothing things out for a mellow sing-along and then returning with arguably the records most memorable line in ‘It must take a mastermind or some kind of genius to figure out the reasons behind all of this, and why I’m not over it’, and it’s a line that demands a reaction as it rings out over cathartic instrumentation. Grandview built the strongest songs on their last record through moments like this one, and Free Throw do it just as well, with the truly emotional moments towering and harrowing – see the huge, irresistible ‘Fuck everything about this!’ on imploding second track Two Beers In. Pallet Town is followed by another familiar track in An Hour Pissed, which has been updated to include a soothing instrumental first minute, before launching into the catchy two minutes which remain as memorable as they did upon first release just under two years ago on the bands eponymous debut EP as the two contrasting vocal styles rally off each other, with the track perking up for the records best chorus, which also showcases a great performance by drummer Zach Hall, who is excellent throughout. The musicianship on Those Days Are Gone is particularly impressive, and the bands talent for songwriting really shines on closer Hey Ken, Someone Methodically Mashed The Donuts, which is hazy in traditional emo fashion, delicate and cruising for the most part, seeing the record out in a sense – happy to drift – but not without one final emotional crescendo to cap things off, and as the song ends your emotionally shaken but better off in the long run for having experienced it in the first place.
Those Days Are Gone is one of 2014’s finer releases, but it does have a few rough edges which do hold it back, if only slightly. The harsher vocals are suitably raw, but at times they do grate, and on occasion the production stops the songs from perhaps sounding as ‘full’ as they could in their larger moments. Neither of these small issues really dampen the record, but I did pick up on them, and along with my opening point about a few tracks making more of a mark than other they’re my only real criticisms of the record. None of the new song titles are Pokemon references either, which is a bit of a downer, although What Day Is It, October takes its title from Billy Madison – arguably Adam Sandler’s best movie after The Waterboy – which does make up for this slightly.
Small niggles aside, Those Days Are Gone is an excellent debut from a band who’ve been a hot prospect for a while and realise that potential on their first full-length outing. It’s a graceful and grounding release, brimming with energy and emotion in equal measure, and I personally enjoyed it a great deal, and will continue to do so for some time. Free Throw’s debut LP is set for release September 16th, and is available to purchase through Count Your Lucky Stars – I’d definitely recommend it.
Listen to: Tongue-Tied, Pallet Town, What Day Is It October
Stream Those Days Are Gone here: http://www.avclub.com/article/stream-all-free-throws-debut-album-those-days-are–209010