Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Short Fictions Oblivion Will Own Me And Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler)


Stop. You. Yes, you. You like rock music, right? Loud rock music? Hard-hitting? Catchy? Full of surprises? Smart, but also set aflame by raw feeling? Music that might have you punching the air, howling your lungs out, converting all that curdled emotion and pent-up energy into exhilarating release? That might leave you entirely spent, collapsing into bed, muscles comfortably aching, demons temporarily vanquished, uttering one last near-silent “dudes rock” before drifting off into satisfied slumber?

Short Fictions could be that band for you. Oblivion Will Own Me And Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler) could be that record. In the studio, the Pittsburgh emo crew constitutes band mastermind Sam Treber plus drummer Ryan Veith, and both are essential to the project’s success. Onstage, they expand to a quintet — it’s the only way to capture the bombast of the recordings. Treber is great at turning relatable feelings and widely beloved sonic touchpoints into dynamic, distinctive outbursts. Veith batters the bejeezus out of his drums, lending the songs an extra dose of vitality and launching them into the stratosphere when things get intense. There’s a bit of twee affect throughout, some softer passages here and there. But on balance these guys rock hard enough that it feels more accurate to say they fuuuucking ROCK.

At least one promotional email in my inbox pitched Short Fictions as a fifth-wave emo band. This might be technically accurate in that they emerged in the late 2010s, after the cresting of the fabled fourth wave (aka the “emo revival” of the early-to-mid 2010s), but it strikes me as a spiritual misnomer. Maybe I’m being too limited in my taxonomy here, but when I think of fifth-wave emo, I think of hyper-online chiptune-ass bands like Glass Beach and hey, ily and artsy high-concept fare like Home Is Where. I like those bands, but Short Fictions aren’t really like that. To me they sound more like blog-era indie rock with an extra shot of adrenaline.

In “Reno Nevada, January 2020” I hear the giddy anxiety of Los Campesinos! In “I’m Going To Kill Myself With A Gun” I hear the charmingly chintzy indie-pop of the Unicorns. “Anymore” gives me glimpses of both Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!’s twitchy neuroses and the shout-along splendor of early Titus Andronicus. The accordion-drenched interlude “I Cannot Possibly Perceive the Least Kinship Now Between The Dead Girl And Myself Which Makes Most Of My Days Inevitably Dreary” and subsequent nasally rocker “Wasting” could be any number of 2000s groups channeling the spirit of Neutral Milk Hotel (although the latter could also be any number of 2000s groups channeling Weezer’s Green Album). Imagine if Trail Of Dead were a bit more quirky or if Japandroids traded out their larger-than-life idealism for an obsession with catastrophe.

The phrase “obsession with catastrophe” should tip you off: Despite the blog-rock callbacks, this album is definitely, recognizably emo to its core, rife with hammer-on guitar theatrics and tight pop song structures and vocals from Treber that range from a melodious whines to searing screams. His lyrics tap into the genre’s signature yearning and melodrama, with an artful touch that ensures Short Fictions never hit like parody even at their most histrionic. As opener “Self Betterment In A Time Of Loneliness” explodes out of the gate like the Buzzcocks covering “I Melt With You,” Treber makes his introduction: “There’ll be no more nights spent staring at the ceiling tiles, no days spent inside/ I’ll be damned if I can make it through this grieving style, with tears left to cry.”

Short Fictions have always gotten equally worked up about global crises and Treber’s own individual experience; their first two albums were about climate change and romantic infatuation, respectively. All throughout the new record, he spills his guts about everyday trials, often blowing them up to a sonic scale that matches their universal scope (to the extent the scrappy punk-rock production allows). “Wasting” thrives at that intersection of the mundane and apocalyptic: “And if the world is ending, would you please call when you get home/ And if my friends are really dying, you think that you’d pick up your phone.” It’s both hilarious and unsettling to hear him cheerily intone, “I’m going to kill myself with a gun/ I need a lot more money than what I have/ I have none.” Even the less obviously relatable songs about life on tour have an engaging travelogue vibe, as if the band is letting you stow away in the back of the van, bearing witness to the way road life refracts common relational struggles.

The anthemic love song “Anymore” stands out as a peak for both Short Fictions’ kinetic musical power and Treber’s skill with the pen. “I miss the way that I felt back when I was 17/ Back then you could break my heart and I wouldn’t feel a thing,” he sings. “Don’t miss the way that I lived back when I was 24/ And I’ll never feel unimportant anymore.” The observations are sharp and vivid, the backing track tight and propulsive. As Short Fictions build to a climax and the song breaks loose into bashed-out ardor, hearty chants ring out: “Now I know exactly who I want to be! Now I know exactly what I want! Now I know exactly what I want, and I know that it’s you!” Lots of bands have aimed for that kind of tingling catharsis. Again and again, Short Fictions pull it off.

Oblivion Will Own Me And Death Alone Will Love Me (Void Filler) is out 10/6 on Lauren Records. Pre-order it here.

Other albums of note out this week:
• Drake’s For All The Dogs
• Sufjan Stevens’ Javelin
• A. Savage’s Several Songs About Fire
• Mary Lattimore’s Goodbye, Hotel Arkada
• Truth Club’s Running From The Chase
• Hannah Diamond’s Perfect Picture
• Jolie Holland’s Haunted Mountain
• Citizen’s Calling The Dogs
• Mutual Benefit’s Growing At The Edges
• Open City’s Hands In The Honey Jar
• Mil-Spec’s Marathon
• Svalbard’s The Weight Of The Mask
• Glasser’s Crux
• Keanu Reeves’ band Dogstar’s Somewhere Between The Palm Trees And Power Lines
• Adulkt Life’s There Is No Desire
• Sam Gendel & Marcella Cytrynowicz’s AUDIOBOOK
• The Rural Alberta Advantage’s The Rise & The Fall
• Axis: Sova’s Blinded By Oblivion
• Joey Nebulous’ Joey Spumoni Creamy Dreamy Party All The Time
• Slauson Malone 1’s EXCELSIOR
• Hunny’s Hunny’s New Planet Heaven
• Butcher Brown’s Solar Music
• MAX’s Saturn Returns
• Tré Burt’s Traffic Fiction
• Mitch Rowland’s Come June
• Bewilder’s From The Eyrie
• Prong’s State Of Emergency
• cEvin Key’s bRap and fOrth, vol. 9
• Old Dominion’s Memory Lane
• CARRTOONS’ Saturday Night
• The Keening’s Little Bird
• Mansions’ Tuff Luff
• Princess Goes’ Come Of Age
• Be’s Here
• The David Tattersall Group’s The David Tattersall Group
• Augustus Muller’s My Animal Score
• Call Super’s Eulo Cramps
• Lufthaus’ Visions Volume 1
• Snag & Coma Regalia’s split 12″
• The compilation Allen Ginsberg’s The Fall Of America II
• Blondshell’s Blondshell (Deluxe Edition)
• Alex Lahey’s The Answer Is Always Yes (Expanded Edition)
• Joni Mitchell’s Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972-1975)
• John Carpenter’s Anthology II (Movie Themes 1976-1988)
• Pale Saints’ In Ribbons (Expanded 30th Anniversary Reissue)
• Paramore’s remix collection Re: This Is Why
• Meat Puppets’s Camp Songs Live Album
• Incubus’ re-recording Morning View XXIII
• Omar Apollo’s Live For Me EP
• Church Girls’ Nightmare Nights EP
• Lecx Stacy’s A Glint In The Holocene! EP

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