Review: Dropout Year – The Way We Play
Aren’t we glad the Dropout Year didn’t drop out last year? After hard years at the University of Hard Knocks’ Maryland campus they’ve produced this rich, thick, eight-song EP, The Way We Play. The airtight production on the album allows easy listening while at times falling into the drone of the commercial, pop/punk, top-forty onslaught. However, it does rise to the occasion several times showing not only the big labels what they’ve been missing but giving a shiny reward to the die hard fans that have been so faithful to them for so long and through so much.
Early last year, after two EPs and appearance on a Quickstar acoustic compilation Chill Out, their bassist/lead singer left the band in early 2008 and it looked as though Dropout Year might have succumbed to their own self-fulfilling prophesy. However, their manager Steve Reter stepped up from co-songwriter to lead singer and things began to fall back into place. If this wasn’t enough lemonade from lemons they found Dan Ciarrocchi as their new bass player and the music slammed back onto the tracks. Dan clicked immediately with Steve and consequently has been credited with co-songwriting credits on The Way We Play. The result: a refreshing take on the pop/punk genre. Dropout Year, locked and loaded once again, is ready.
Looking to be a great soundtrack of the summer, this EP holds its golden nuggets for the later tracks on the album. “This Notebook” is a great way to lead off the album but seems to shout ‘play me on commercial radio’. The next few sing-a-longs are meat for the fans but when the disc hits track five, “Pretty You,” the gears really shift.
The slow ballad on the album, “Pretty You” relates to how time can stretch, even over four minutes, when you realize that you truly love someone. Perhaps the most carefully crafted song of the eight-song EP it speaks to the fans who pleaded with the band to, “write more acoustic songs that make my heart melt,” after their participation on Chill Out. The evidence collected from this song points to Dropout Year’s growing maturity in tackling issues in their songwriting that don’t just pander to their core 15-year-old girl audience, but to that all important adult crowd looking for quality music during the long hours of commuting time.
The last two tracks pack a lovely punch as well, with “Change Today” having a slight second entendre, as the band’s change is now blindingly evident. Following it and finally at track eight is possibly my favorite song on the album, “As You Wish.” Its lyrics, “there’s no need to wear makeup when you wake up and I’m where you are” sing a delightful message that we should be happy with who we are at this moment. The musical complexity of the verse contradicts the simple, arm-raising chorus highlighting its sentiment and a nice button, sewing up the end of this EP.
When the album finishes, play it again. You’ll hear phrases, double-meanings, guitar licks, and production buried under layers that require more than just one take. Do a double-take or even a triple-take. You can find the album on Dropout Year’s webpage at www.myspace.com/dropoutyear and they are an easy find in the iTunes directory. A great return to album writing instead of single writing, Dropout Year’s The Way We Play should be listened to from first to last for maximum enjoyment.