“I gotta go so much bigger/ So everybody’s proud of me/ Welcome to the Neotheater/ Won’t everybody take their seats?”
AJR released their newest album, “Neotheater,” in April 2019. Each of the twelve tracks contributes to the overall flow and expression of anxiousness about growing up in this world. Despite lyrical emphasis on stress and worry in many of the songs, there remains a message of hope and that everything will turn out alright.
Like much of AJR’s music, the album features samples, inspiration and mixing from wide-ranging and obscure sources. The song “Birthday Party” features a piece of David Lynch’s 1977 film Eraserhead in its creepy, old-school bridge. They even go so far as to sample their own music in other songs. The entirety of the album contains sound clip Easter eggs, to the point where every song on “Neotheater” contains a piece of another song on the album.
Both the opening and closing songs, “Next Up Forever” and “Finale (Can’t Wait To See What You Do Next),” use the style of closed harmony choir, recorded on old telephone microphones and inspired by the MelloMen of the 1940s. This style creates a floaty, almost Disney-opening-like feeling to begin and finish the “Neotheater” experience.
In an interview for the Zach Sang Show, band member Ryan Met claimed that “you can’t really describe what it’s about in one sentence” for each song on the album. The lyrical and musical complexity of each song ensures that this statement remains true.
As a whole, the entirety of the album ties together thanks to the Easter eggs, bookend songs, transitions between each song and overarching feelings of worry about the future. Slower songs such as “Dear Winter” and “Turning Out Pt. ii” center on stress about love, both future and past respectively.
The lyrics of more upbeat songs like “Don’t Throw Out My Legos” especially detail relatable feelings to college students and young adults. The band wrote this song in particular after recently moving out of their parents’ house, focusing on the nervousness that accompanies leaving home for the first time.
“Karma” delves into the concept of moral dessert, questioning how we can feel so empty even though we do good deeds and are “helpful and friendly.” The end of this song consists of 15 different lines without a breath that share a repeating melody. The repetitiveness and length of this section with no stops creates a build to a higher level of anxiety.
Despite the worrisome, relatable stress of many of the lyrics, these songs, along with “Beats,” “Break My Face” and “100 Bad Days” maintain a mixed-in buoyant party style with their hip hop beats, mixing and blasting horn sections.
After the success of their previous album, “The Click,” AJR sought out new ideas for this album, while staying true to their unique style. “Neotheater” succeeds in creating out-of-the-box sounds following “The Click,” and as the album ends, “We can’t wait to see what you do next.”