When they shine, half•alive glow with potential.
A whopping eight years ago in 2011, singer songwriter Christina Perri gave an interview regarding her preference for lowercase titles; her debut and all its songs, sans single “Jar of Hearts,” stuck to this mentality, a style now seen in the biggest pop songs. Perri hardly was the first to do this, but she certainly foretold the lowercase trend, a stylistic choice which captures the sarcasm, nonchalance and self-deprecating humor of today. It also exists in acts like the fresh-faced trio half•alive, whose album title Now, Not Yet further cements their debut as a contemporary capsule of 2019 just on the cusp of entering a new decade.
The mixture of lowercase titles along with bizarrely placed capitals and punctuation in the song titles gives the impression half•alive struggled to create an album that visually resembling the Billie’s and Ariana’s of today. Capable of their own brand of hook-driven pop, half•alive rightfully gained traction in late 2018 for “still feel..” An intersection of Two Door Cinema Club, big band funk and Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” this single exemplifies the group’s exciting draws such as Josh Taylor’s staccato’d tenor and well-placed electronic flourishes. A few more upbeat synth rock tracks a la Friendly Fires would elevate Now, Not Yet’s status, but as it stands, the album solidly introduces a wide-eyed, enthusiastic group with plenty of space to grow.
When they shine, half•alive glow with potential. Starting with a distorted guitar riff that recalls the beginning of an All American Rejects song, opener “ok ok?” quickly shifts into a 6/8 stroll. Soft clicks and claps carry along the lush chorus, which grows to maximum effect on the finale when the guitar returns. Surprises such as “ok ok?”’s intro, the drop in “still feel.” and the acceleration halfway through “BREAKFAST” ensure listeners stay on their toes, keeping an eye out for tempo shifts and the occasional brass instrument.
Now, Not Yet stumbles over itself with a few misplaced ideas and stylistic choices. “Runaway,” which builds to innovative snare sections and sliced choral voices in the second verse, begins awkwardly with Taylor’s corny stream of consciousness. The uptempo “ice cold.” finds a worthy partner with Kimbra, but banal lines like “Holding that pain is holding you back” dim its magic. Equally grating is the English-accented narration of “the notion,” which gives off an aura of Skins ASMR. “I find it so rare meeting people who are young and believe here” suggests that no young people possess any faith, when in reality many people who might have followed an organized religion are now merely agnostic.
half•alive, to their credit, wear their religion proudly, and its presence lends Now, Not Yet a few praiseworthy moments. Choral vocals on “BREAKFAST” add a cinematic feel to their music, while the closer, “creature,” features some of their best lyricisms: “I am creation/ Both haunted and holy” is as apt a description of humanity, secular or not.
Overall,Now, Not Yet gives itself away with its title; half•alive sounds exactly like right now, not necessarily the future, but it’s always best to get your footing before you set off on something unknown.