Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Sorority Noise has never been afraid to pair uplifting instrumentals and emotionally crushing songs on a single album. Last year’s You’re Not As _____ As You Think helped push the Hartford, Connecticut-based band past the highly satisfying place where their excellent 2015 album Joy, Departed left off. Described as an “emotional bulldozer,” that album matched front man Cameron Boucher’s intimate, confessional lyrics about addiction, death and religious turmoil with hooks that urge listeners to sing along as they face their own demons. The group’s latest release, YNAAYT, is a nearly song-for-song rework of the 2017 album that trades its peaks and valleys for a more direct approach. With stripped-down instrumentation–acoustic guitar, maybe a little piano, and perhaps some soft beats–Boucher’s post-traumatic lyrics are stripped of dense hooks and brought to the fore, showcasing just how well-spoken he is about the machinations of grief. Unfortunately, without the songs’ full arrangements, they feel half-formed and unsatisfying. Sorority Noise is typically defined by the balance it strikes between the maudlin and the cathartic, and while the new album confirms that Boucher is a talented songwriter, the stripped-back approach diminishes the band’s signature catharsis. It’s easy to see the merit in the simpler approach. Here, lyrics like “God called you to fulfill a vacancy/ I tried to see why it wasn’t me”” aren’t drowned out with second-wave emo guitar sounds, which throws Boucher’s gut-punches into relief. While last year’s album feels like the tortured work of someone who has come to terms with great trauma, the companion piece seems like a prequel in which he’s quietly working out the demons he’ll get to shout about later. Without his screaming vocals, Boucher also loses half of what makes him a compelling singer, leaving his performances beautiful but flat. The biggest problem is that none of these songs sound better than their fully-formed counterparts. Given the option between the aching piano and soft strumming of the reworked “A Portrait Of” and the triumphant guitar noise of its You’re Not As counterpart, one would be hard-pressed to choose the former, if only because it’s more satisfying to hear Boucher shout about his persistent demons. Oddly, the best case for the project may be the versions of “Letters”: already the quietest of the batch, it’s less jarring to hear it in a different, sparser arrangement. On the other hand, the originals of “Where Are You?” and “New Room” have been swapped out for a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2” and the new song, “Windowww,” but these feel tacked on and leave you wishing for a full-fledged rendition complete with distortion and a shouted chorus. If you already know You’re Not As front-to-back, YNAAYT is more than worthy of your time, especially since it may be a while until we see more from the band; Boucher announced their hiatus in early March, citing a need to focus on his mental health. The uninitiated, however, would do well to skip an exercise that fundamentally (and perhaps purposefully) ignores what makes Sorority Noise such an exciting band.