New Pocket, the second full-length record from tongue-in-cheek indie rockers Runaway Brother, finds the band in a more introspective place. A less bombastic record than their first LP Mother, but still brimming with life and excitement, New Pocket shows off a more inwardly focused side of Runaway Brother that is even more technically proficient and no less enjoyable.
The record, which is out now via Tiny Engines, opens with the track “Apply Care Directly,” a tone-setting song that showcases some of the band’s greatest hits—fuzzy and intricate guitar work, humorous, abstract lyrics, and vocalist Jacob Lee’s soaring refrains—in its three minute sixteen second runtime. From there, New Pocket continues to show off the band’s talent and passion as it spins itself into a jangly, self-assured work of guitar pop bliss. My favorite moment on the record is the cello solo that appears rather unexpectedly in the final minute of “Conscience in Tumult.” Moments like that, like when horns show up in “Paws” and clarinet on “All Saints Day,” are what make New Pocket such a rewarding listen; despite the band’s ability to play their instruments with such proficiency, they are unafraid of adding interesting twists and turns to keep their sound fresh.
After the one-two-three punch of the previously mentioned tracks, the band rolls on, allowing themselves to get even more self-indulgent with their guitars. Whether fuzzy and affected (“Cats in the Sun”) or gentler and intricate (“Stolen”), the result is the same: a fun, engaging, and exciting sound. Runaway Brother are masters of their Midwest-emo-meets-power-pop craft, and the evolution they have shown across New Pocket makes their budding career even more of a joy to watch.
Lyrically, New Pocket keeps its true meanings close to the vest, as the songwriting is so uniquely abstract (‘Hey hiphead, you’re giving off negative discharge / it must have leaked out from your pillow’), but you can feel the general concepts of loneliness, anxiety, and ennui throughout the record. The songs tell the stories of wanting to make meaningful connections with others and how often that is more difficult than it should be. The non-traditional lyrics of New Pocket make listening to the record even more fun, as there is something new to discover on each return visit, a line or a meaning that you missed the first time, not to mention the layers and layers of instrumentation that there is to pick through.
New Pocket succeeds because it was made by a group of passionate, talented people who have spent years improving their musical abilities together. Runaway Brother is a band unlike any other because they are so explicitly themselves, and that confidence shows on New Pocket. The band have toned down some of the frantic energy found in their previous releases and focused on their instruments and their songwriting, but in doing so have proven that they have the chops to play whatever the hell they want to play, and it will be awesome no matter what.