Life can really suck sometimes, and I am aware that this might be too gloomy and cynical for an introduction to a music review. But it is not something I can just shake off, and I know I am not the only one who had delved into these kinds of thoughts. Mental health issues have been steadily rising, and the exponential spread of COVID-19 has worsened these conditions. Coupled with social and political turmoil marking their presence internationally, it is no wonder that we fancy shutting down from the world every once in a while. However, there are times where these issues can stem from a place as close as home. Everyone In Search of an Exit is a reflection of these all too familiar conundrums, as Familiar Spaces bring out the best of pop-punk flavored alternative rock along with heartfelt anecdotes for the anxious and the distressed like myself.
My first impression of Everyone In Search of an Exit is that it is mighty boisterous. From the guitar strums leading to an explosive opening in “Not Like it Used to Be” to the emo-laced and anthemic self-titled track, this EP channels the energy and the liveliness not uncommon within the pop-punk circles. A good part of this energy comes from the drumming; it is powerful and persuading, with enough personality to pop colors out of each track. Supporting the drums are arrangements that marry pop-punk, alternative rock, and emo wonderfully. “Happy Enough” perfectly exemplifies this, where the pop-punk/alt-rock combo segues into a riff that will warm plenty of Midwest emo hearts, guiding towards a refrain worthy of getting up the imagined concert stage and belting out the lyrics along with the singer.
Which leads me to say that there is a common thread between each of these tracks: They are catchy. Like, head-bopping, chest-pounding, pre-breakdown hardcore sing-along catchy, and this is not a coincidence. Of course, one can argue that making songs catchy results in more listens, and, come on, who can deny having fun singing to catchy songs? But I think it goes deeper than that. The distresses and torment showcased throughout this EP is not packaged in neat metaphors and revealing allegories. The lyrical content in Everyone In Search of an Exit is defiantly direct. I say defiantly because, unfortunately, we have been raised in times where we are silenced or shunned upon for expressing our mental health problems. This EP is a response to that, and it does so by crafting these catchy songs not merely to sing along to, but to make sure they connect with the listener.
Every cadence gives way a stinging emotional weight midst the uplifting and almost bombastic instrumentation on Everyone In Search of an Exit. This EP focuses on different scenarios where mental illness impacts daily living. The opener “Not Like it Used to Be” highlights depression through the acceptance of insufficiency, feeling guilt over becoming a burden for others. This feeling of being a burden continues with “Happy Enough”, addressing how mental illness can take an emotional toll on a relationship. What Familiar Spaces excels at here is how the music does not only serve as a vessel for the subject matter at hand, but also amplifies the listening experience through carefully crafted modulation. Using the aforementioned tracks once more as examples, “Not Like it Used to Be” fluctuates between the morose croons off the verses to the cries for help on the chorus, while in “Happy Enough” there is a pause right before the soaring outro that further intensifies the dread coming from a relationship on the verge of falling out.
Hope is not entirely abandoned on this EP, however. In the middle of the despair, there is a sense of accountability and self-awareness that instills composure. Because the beauty of Everyone In Search of An Exit lies precisely in the courage of speaking out. “In the Open” embodies this with what is one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard all year. And hey, we can agree that it takes a lot to reveal yourself to others like an open book. All the fears of humiliation, rejection, and otherization settle in when delving into such thoughts, but this EP serves as a silver lining to all of this. The self-titled track, which also acts as the closer, signals out one very necessary fact to combat these inner conflicts, and that is that we are not alone. We are not alone and, indeed, everyone is in search of an exit for the better.
I have nothing negative to say about Everyone In Search of an Exit, to be honest. Apart from the fact that the unashamed display of mental health is commendable and paramount in today’s social climate, the musicianship is stellar. Familiar Spaces proved in mastering the art of saying a lot with just five tracks. The storytelling along with the music is impeccable, being accessible enough to enjoy rocking out while simultaneously bringing awareness to such a topic in a most personal manner. This EP is nothing short of a conversation, a mirroring of troubled times worthy of discussing. And what better way to make this visible than through songwriting? Music once again proves to be a familiar space (not sure if to make this pun intentional or not; your choice!) for those of us who feel crestfallen or simply unusual from time to time, and Everyone In Search of an Exit is an excellent effort to continue this much-needed tradition.