Seven years on from the release of their debut album, Megalithic Symphony, and their smash-hit ‘Sail’, Awolnation have proven themselves capable of keeping up with the times. Here Come the Runts, their third album to date, is marked by a deep dive into modern indie pop and indie rock.
This may be in part due to the fact that Aaron Bruno, or “AWOL”, is the only constant member of the band. The rest of the band changes on an almost yearly basis; the band features a new keyboardist for Here Come the Runts, with drummer Isaac Carpenter and guitarist Zach Irons joining shortly before the band’s 2015 release, Run.
Stylistically, the album — at first — seems to lack one common theme. It goes from crunchy pop-rock ballads such as ‘Handyman,’ to high-pitched rhythmic pop stylings á la Portugal. The Man, on ‘Sound Witness System’, to dance-inspired indie on ‘Jealous Buffoon’. The underlying theme here, however, is that the album sounds absolutely contemporary; a tour de force of the current indie and popular rock landscape.
The album feels very well produced, and despite the frequency of stylistic changes, feels very deliberate and snappy. The production is clean, and every track is nice to listen to. Even the occasional ‘glitch’ sounds on ‘Miracle Man’ are not unpleasant to hear.
The album’s title track experiments with interesting changes in tempo, combining these with sudden drum fills and overdriven guitars, and it’s this, combined with the relatable, modern themes, that makes Here Come the Runts a very listenable and very well-thought-out album, even if it does not appear so at first.
‘Table for One’ feels a little overcooked, however, almost as if Bruno was trying to make the song sound as comically dramatic as possible – the chorus features a little too much wailing for my taste.
The hit tracks from Megalithic Symphony are emblematic of their time; featuring robotic melodies, overtly electronic influences in instrumentation, and distorted voices. The standout tracks from Here Come the Runts may not be worldwide hits, but they are definitely emblematic of their time; clean vocals, with electronic sounds being used alongside real instruments, rather than replacing them entirely.
With the massive variety of tracks in this 14-track album, which of those are standout tracks will vary from person to person. This, to me, is the album’s greatest strength: providing something for — almost — everyone, without compromising on quality of song production or songwriting.