Retirement Party: Runaway Dog (Counter Intuitive) - Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, July 5th, 2020  

Retirement Party

Runaway Dog

Counter Intuitive

Jun 01, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Retirement Party, one of Chicago’s preeminent pop punk and emo torchbearers, has released a sophomore LP following 2018’s excellent Somewhat Literate. Two years out from that record a lot has changed for the band. The unrelenting pace of touring exacerbated personal conflicts and the ever-present difficulties of juggling professional and personal lives. During this period lead singer Avery Springer was not only fronting an up and coming rock band, but also taking classes at Columbia College, leading to an extended period of writer’s block. Runaway Dog takes this turmoil and turns out an album that reflects the best of what the band has to offer. 

Runaway Dog opens with the title track, already displaying a solid musical progression from the band’s debut. “Runaway Dog” has a great sense of scale, opening with a galloping bass instrumental. Slowly the whole band locks in and then reaches an intense fervor, not letting up as they rip through the second half of the track. It’s a bombastic opener compared to the emo revivalism of Somewhat Literate. Yet, although over half the track is instrumental, it still holds the listener’s attention through every second and is extremely catchy.

The band does go on to tread a lot of the same ground as its debut. The music holds on to the emo and pop punk aesthetic of the band’s previous work, but with more space for the other members to shine. The band describes the recording process as more collaborative this time around, which the band credits in helping Springer move past her writer’s block. It very much shows in how tight the band is on these tracks. Drummer James Ringness works the band up to a mosh pit ready intensity on “I Wonder If They Remember You” and lead guitarist Eddy Rodriguez shows off his own skills with shimmering emo and math rock influenced leads on “Old Age.” This space also results in some unexpected moments, such as the distorted noise elements that close out the record on “Wild Boyz.” Retirement Party pulls out of the proverbial “sophomore slump” by walking the line between incorporating new ideas and keeping a lot of aesthetic similarities to Somewhat Literate, creating a true progression for the band. 

As with Somewhat Literate, another shining point in the album is Springer’s writing. They take a wordy, anxious perspective on the loss of something you love, be it a friend, family member, or creative passion. One example is how Springer verbalizes the balancing act of art and capitalism on “Compensation” as she sings, “Oh when the quality’s poor how can you sell a feeling without unethical means of promotion?” It is satisfying to see Springer’s writing branch out of her own mind and examine the world around her. Her delivery is conversational and loose, which fits the band’s hook filled brand of emo quite well. Her distinctive voice also lends the band its own sound within the genre. 

“Fire Blanket,” “Ebb,” and “Better Off Now” all take different perspectives on the loss of a friend, whether it be anger, acceptance, or moving forward, giving the album a sense of narrative progression. We see Springer contend with losing passion for music as well as losing friends and loved ones, before coming out the other side with a renewed commitment to her art on “Afterthought” despite the difficult realities she deals with throughout the album. 

Runaway Dog is a step forward from the band’s debut in nearly every facet. The band brings just as many hooks and fiery performances as its debut but with an expanded scope, tighter chemistry, and very few weak points in the tracklist. Not only is it an improvement over the band’s debut, but it is also an outstanding album in its own right that contains some poignant reflections on loss and creative passion. It seems that Retirement Party has come through its trials better than ever. (  

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10


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