You Say Party (YSP), formerly You Say Party! We Say Die!, is one of those few Abbotsford bands to escape our Bible belt. Playing shows across Canada and internationally, the group has been performing since 2004 (with a hiatus from 2011 to 2012). The band has had a tough history, with their drummer, Devin Clifford, collapsing on stage on April 16, 2010 and passing away two days later due to an unpredictable brain hemorrhage. This was a huge blow to the psyche of the band, leading to their hiatus. It was at this time the group changed their name out of respect for their band mate.
This tragedy seems to play an important role in the tone of their latest self-titled release. The record is beautiful, yet haunting and atmospheric while still feeling incredibly personal. Upbeat drum rhythms penetrate each track, offering direction and momentum to the rest of the production which is predominantly synthy and mellow with lo-fi vibes. The prominence and consistency of the drumbeat in every track contributes to the overall vibe that the record is a sort of elegy to their late friend.
Stylistically, YSP’s new album is far different from their earliest releases. Much of their music was punk rock with strong themes of political and economic activism — dissatisfaction with current social conditions. This new release leaves those themes behind, instead resonating with a more contemplative tone. YSP has flirted with this approach before; the last half of the last track on the band’s first two albums dabble with synthy melodies and electronic drumbeats, and now this continues to their new release — the band decided to not replace Clifford and instead rely on a drum machine.
This album has been a long time coming. Their last live performance was in 2013 (for the CIVL fundraising gala) and their last studio album release was XXXX from 2009. In an article from Exclaim! in 2013, Kristina Loewen, the band’s keyboardist at the time, talked about plans to release more music later that year — this did not happen as planned.
Two previously-released tracks, “Friend” and “Heading in the Direction of the Rising Sun,” which bassist Stephen O’Shea talked about back in 2013, do appear on this new album. These tracks seem to have been produced with much thought and intention over the years as the band came to terms with the tragedy and began to become at peace with it.
While the feeling of sadness penetrates the whole length of the album, there are strong emotions of hope and peace as well. These two emotions live together most prominently in the harmonies of “Fortitude,” the sixth track on the record. The synthesizer glows with a high-pitched, cheery, yet melancholy melody as the bass and other instruments weave a mellow undertone. This album is YSP’s most introspective and exquisitely layered release to date. Not the kind of album to be listened to lightly, YSP’s attentiveness and care needs full consideration and respect from the listener in order to be accurately mined from its depths.