Issues is a band that exploded onto the scene. Their unique twist on the stagnant genre of metal-core was refreshing at first listen back in 2014, and they still remain one of my go-to bands. I even went as far as to name their debut album my album of the year. When “Headspace” was announced, I couldn’t wait for the release to see if my enthusiasm toward their music would flourish or diminish. I think I have figured out by now which one of those is correct.
This track was a lot to take in on my first listen. It’s so bizarrely written, nothing seems to make sense. The groovy, funk beat matched with the screams and pop vocals is weird, but I can’t help but enjoy it. There is something sincerely charming about how this track comes together. It has the consistent Issues vibe to it that takes it from being a gimmick to being real, and that’s something that is hard to create. Overall, this is a strangely satisfying track that sets the album off right.
This is classic Issues. The pleasant balance of hard, powerful instrumentals and soft, pop vocals that have been their reigning talent since forming. Tyler’s vocals are elegant and work perfectly in contrast with Michael’s harsh screams. The instrumentals are as beautiful and rocking as ever, and come together to make a wholly satisfying song.
Again, the band focuses on delivering their signature sound. Michael gets a bit more of the spotlight here, but it still flows like normal. They decided to add in a chorus-chant toward the bridge of the track, which I find to be a bit odd. It doesn’t fail completely, but it takes away from the fantastic groove the song had built up until that point. This track has a great groove to it that keeps you tapping your foot, but that chant doesn’t do much else. Other than that, this track works pretty well.
I remember listening to an interview with Tyler pre-release of the album and he said that they were attempting a country-influenced track. I couldn’t imagine in any way what this would sound like. Well, here it is, and it works surprisingly well. The beat on this track is absolutely addictive. It’s one of the more radio-friendly tracks the bands has released. Even the guest vocals work decently well. I do have to point out one serious flaw though; the lyrics on this track are clich and idiotic. The “I’m young so I can do whatever I want” trope is one of my least favorites in music, and I hate hearing it here. Sure, Tyler is heavily influenced by the pop scene, but come on guys. Take this song for what it is: simple, happy and stupid.
This track is a mixed bag. Vocally, I think both singers do a great job. Tyler’s soft vocals bring an eerie tone to the mix and pair well with Michael’s screams and cleans alike. They shine here, but the instrumentals are dull, especially in the chorus. The overall product is just okay. I can’t say that this track is an absolute failure; it has a lot of strengths. It’s not to the extreme of being a filler, but it’s close.
“Flojo” is easily one of the more unique tracks on the album. With a funk-inspired beat and a free verse on the bridge, there is a lot of unique flavor here. Does it work? Mostly. I think the general beat along the course of this track is fantastic. It feels right coming from Issues; I don’t think many other bands in the genres could have pulled this off. The free verse section is a bit, well, silly. It sounds completely forced and unnecessary. Without that segment, this would have been a homerun. As it sits, it’s more of a ground-rule double. (Go Cubs)
If we were looking at this track from a musical standpoint, it would be fairly routine. The Issues beat is in full force here, and everything sounds as good as usual. There isn’t anything particularly unique instrumentally, but it works. What makes this track shine though are the lyrics. They show off the serious side of the bands mentality and justify tracks like “Yung and Dum.” This track shows the band’s mature side in a glorious light that gives a much needed balance to the overall tracklist.
On my first listen, I found this track to be fairly basic. It hits the normal chords, it delivered the same old polished vocals, it was okay. After giving it a few more listens though, I realized that this is one of the most incredible tracks the band has released. I know that realization may seem extreme, but I can’t describe it any other way. I started to appreciate fully the dynamic way that the band blended powerfully balanced instrumentals with one of the best vocal performances the duo has ever produced. It’s sleek and perfectly tuned. I can’t explain why it took me as long as it did to realize it, but “Coma” is easily one of the best tracks on this album.
This track follows the formula heard on “Flojo.” The beat is groovy and addictive. Unfortunately, this instance is much more forgettable. The “Nobody’s got time for that” lyric that is repeated constantly throughout is tiresome and does little to add to the track. I searched for a quality in this track that would set it apart, but it fell flat. It’s Issues, so you know what to expect. I find it hard to believe this one will sit at the top of anyone’s favorites on the album, but hey, what do I know?
Serving as one of the more controversial songs the band has ever released, “Blue Wall” deals with the heavy issue of police violence across the country. I have grown to appreciate this track for what it is. The band focused on heavy vocals and instrumentals alike here, and that was a smart decision. With such a heated topic, the emotion needed to be expressed in as natural of an avenue as possible. The band sounds inspired to speak its mind. It’s a track that won’t play well in everyone’s ears, but to those who care, this is the anthem of a violently influenced generation.
Dealing with personal issues within the band, “Someone Who Does” does a good job with continuing the emotional journey this album has provided thus far. Michael«s cleans here are the best example of his development on the entire album. Everything works quite well here, though the lyrics, at times, come off as a bit weak. The verse about baseball games and arcades doesn’t hit as hard as it could have. I appreciate the personal sentiment here, but I think the ideas could have been portrayed a little stronger with other lyrical choices.
I didn’t expect an instrumental track on the album. Going into this, I was expecting something slow moving to help close out the track. Fortunately, what I found was something much better. This is a perfect example of how to have an instrumental bridge close out an album. The atmosphere of this track is incredible, and bleeds into the closing track “Slow Me Down” with great finesse. This is fantastic.
You can tell me that Issues is a gimmick band. You can throw any number of arguments as to why this band is flawed, and I will listen with respect. However, it’s hard not to appreciate the extreme talent on this track. It is rare for a song by any band to achieve the absolute beauty and atmospheric value that Issues has reached on “Slow Me Down.” Every aspect of this song is playing at full power, vocally, instrumentally, lyrically. Everything is perfect. Paired with “I Always Knew” as a lead in, this is one of the best closing tracks I have heard on any album so far this year, and sits as one of the best tracks this band has ever created.
“Slow Me Down”
Did Issues succeed in following up their fantastic debut album? Yes, definitely. Will this album be for everyone? No. It’s an album that takes chances and has the guts to try new things. Sometimes it falters in its endeavors, and other times it shines. There is a lot of great content here and any fan of the band should be pleased with the outcome. If anything, it serves as a sign that this band still has a lot of tricks up its sleeves.