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The Night Game – The Night Game

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Sep 5, 2018.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    Do you remember your first kiss?

    A few weeks ago my mom stopped by for dinner and brought with her a shoebox she had found in the basement. The box, now flimsy and tattered, contained love letters and notes from elementary school up through college. I laughed when she gave them to me. Over the years she’s dropped off countless things from my childhood whenever she decides it is time to redistribute the stuff neither of us knows what to do with any longer. When she left, I almost just tossed them aside. However, on top of the pile, I caught a glimpse of something that caused sensory memories to start flooding back. I took a sip of beer, mumbled “fuck it” under my breath, and pulled a few folded pieces of paper from the box.

    I recognized handwriting. I recalled the way specific notes were folded. Ink colors. Inside jokes. Faded pencil sketches of pen-names and scribbled between class “I love you’s.” I started to feel long-buried memories of when these little pieces of paper, pre-cell phone and instant messaging, meant everything to me. When each letter represented possibilities and of being so in love that these possibilities, these fleeting ideas of a future, all felt inevitable. And each, now, clearly also representing a moment of heartbreak; of unfulfilled youthful promises.

    Do you remember your first kiss?

    Do you remember the way the car tires sounded when you pulled into the driveway to drop her off? Do you remember going back years later and driving by his house? Just trying to feel, something. The turns and directions from your high-school to the front door came back almost too quickly. Imprinted on your muscles in ways not even time can erase. Do you remember feeling the knot in your chest when you first said I love you? And laying in bed alone with your heart ripped out and never thinking you’d recover? Do you ever stop to think about what’s between the missing and loving — knowing now it was never to be and can’t ever be again?

    Do you still feel the hair on your arm raise when you catch a smell, hear a particular record, or read their name?

    That feeling of wistful remembrance, of looking back at what was once great and once equally as painful is the feeling the debut album from The Night Game captures in eleven songs. It’s goddamn exhilarating.

    The Night Game is the brainchild of lead singer Martin Johnson. Martin, best known as the frontman for Boys Like Girls, has always had a knack for a hook and catchy melody. While Boys Like Girls got pulled into the Fall Out Boy/Panic! at the Disco wave of pop-punk, Martin’s ear for melody always seemed slightly more heightened than his peers. Moreover, while this album has ties to the more pop side of his former band, it stands as a new entity altogether. Martin’s created a group and a record that alludes to his past work — in lyrical themes and even some melodies — but also stands alone in a distinct way. It doesn’t feel like a solo album as much as it feels like a reimagining. His vocals are undeniable, but the way he plays with pacing and almost speaks some of the words help to differentiate between this project and the still poorly named former band.

    At first, I wanted to call this music “nostalgia rock.” Not nostalgia in that it sounds like something from the past, although it wears those influences on the sleeve, more-so in what the songs are about. It’s about going home, seeing the town you grew up in, thinking about the times spent there, the friends, the girls, the boys, the love and the heartbreak. It’s about wondering where your youth went, where your friends are now, and what could have been. It’s flipping through the pages of a yearbook with a beer. Thinking about the people you used to know, the people you forgot, and getting lost in that moment. It’s thinking about the conversations you had with a summer romance, stealing moments away from the heat and dreaming about the future. You wonder where they are now. Did he get everything he wanted? Does she ever look through her yearbook and think the same things?

    This album excels at creating a mood. It reflects this universal feeling back into your ears, and by surrounding it in melody, you get the essence of what good pop music always strives to be. You think about the person you were, the person you wanted to be, and you measure those summers of possibility up against the person you became. An album like this unlocks the part of you that wants to believe your best moments aren’t behind you; one that ties a nostalgia for youth around your battle-worn heart. It’s a fine line to walk, and it takes a songwriting daftness that borders right on the edge of cheesy to pull it off. We know it’s silly. That’s why we love it.

    We open with “The Outfield” and are met with synth, glossy vocals, and a soaring chorus. It’s the kind of pop song that feels equally capable of being played with friends on an open road and experienced alone on a warm night. The album finds a way to blend pop, rock, and even a little hint of Nashville. It flows together perfectly to set the hook, then set the mood, and then expand its theme. By the time it is over you’re thinking about the nights with friends sitting on the tops of cars with a song just like this playing over the speakers. You’re thinking about what you wish you could have told your stupid younger self. As this album progresses, you’ll have sung along to the obvious pop hits, like “Bad Girls Don’t Cry,” and stadium built “American Nights,” and you’ll have found yourself wishing the album ended with “Coffee and Cigarettes” instead of “Back in the Van.” However, besides that small misstep, odds are you’ll be grabbing another drink, hitting play again, and re-opening this mythical musical memory-book.

    Through 45 minutes this album puts a modern spin on a pop-sound that’s proven timeless. From the soft instrumental interlude of “Sunset on the Beltway” to the call and return pop-magic of “Do You Think About Us.” The programmed drums and electronic elements found in some of the songs provide a nice mix between 1983 and 2018. Often the vocals and melody are the focus and only a few times do these electronic flourishes seem to overpower the songs. Most of the time the instruments or vocal effects provide a modern dichotomy to the more classic songwriting style.

    The feeling of the album shines through in moments like, “The Photograph,” where the chorus begins:

    Cause it’s gone, in the past,
    but we’ll always be together in the photograph.
    No, our love didn’t last, but we’ll always be together in the photograph.
    No I won’t forget/all the things she said/and the way she looked at me.

    And in how the song ends with a refrain of “she’s not the one,” a repeated mantra that’s almost trying to convince the singer to believe it. Or in one of the album’s highlights, “Die a Little,” where you’re pulled through an exceptionally catchy song with:

    What killed me yesterday, baby it’s still a part of me.
    I had to die a little, to learn to survive a little.
    And after all the pain, baby there’s nothing I would change.
    I had to die a little, to learn to survive a little.

    A song of self-reflection and coming to terms with how the worst we go through can become what makes us stronger. The vocals reach a crescendo as the emotional punch in a song built to get stuck in your head. Then we can look to “Summerland,” where the narrator reminisces about a summer romance and “fire and matches and cigarette lips” while searching for true love in the sand. But, the feeling unlocked with these songs always carries with it that key ingredient of nostalgia … a bittersweetness.

    Summer loves always end.

    It’s precisely because of this shelf-life, this never fulfilled fantasy, that they sit on our minds for the rest of time. I think that’s the magic in this album. It taps into a universal feeling of what yesterday was, and just as importantly never became, because that lets us lie to ourselves about what could have been. Deep down, we all know that feeling is a mirage. It’s a feeling you can only get because you don’t see the ending. The roads not taken are full of infinite yous doing infinite impossible things. You can find yourself staring at a box full of letters, and each one can represent a different version of who you might have been. That feeling is perhaps personified best in “Coffee and Cigarettes,” where a soft beat and whispered vocals reflect on a love that once said they’d wait forever but are now gone.

    Pop music is often dismissed for its saccharine sentimentality or melodramatic portrayals of youth and love. However, when a pop song hits you just right and can pull memories of what it was like to routinely feel those feelings, isn’t that part of why we’re drawn to it? There’s the innocence of a simple song getting stuck in your head and what it was like to put it on repeat. There’s a beautiful release in remembering the look and feel of your teenage bedroom — the CD covers taped to the walls and the pain of adolescence feeling as melodramatic as the music coming over your speakers. When the music can capture a feeling you’ve experienced and send it back to you wrapped in a chorus you can’t get out of your head — that’s when pop music feels transcendent to me. That’s when these silly songs can become so much more. Because I think there’s much good in being reminded of where we started, being forced to reflect on what we once let dominate our thoughts, of where we once dreamed we’d be, and the people we once thought would be there with us. Like reading a love letter full of words you thought were lost to time and then letting yourself, for just a brief beer-painted moment, remember, and I mean, really remember, that first kiss. That first I love you. And seeing how closely all of these feelings, these gloriously brutally perfectly awful feelings, coincide with when you first fell in love with music as well. They were tied together from the start. They still are.

  2. tyramail

    Trusted Supporter

    Great review. Very excited for this one.
  3. SoundInTheSignals

    @Bake_Wear /

    Great review. I really enjoyed your approach to the review.
  4. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    Thanks. Trying to find why I wanna write about something has changed my approach on music reviews over the years. It gets me excited about writing about music. So, I chased it.
  5. Mr. Serotonin

    I'm still staring down the sun Prestigious

    So excited. The review made me kinda sad, but that good bittersweet sadness you prolly got when listening :crylaugh:

    Great review.
    Jason Tate likes this.
  6. duritzfan13

    all we have is time

    Jason, this is incredibly articulated. You had my heart pumping by the second paragraph haha. So excited for this album.. and even more so now.
    Jason Tate and Mr. Serotonin like this.
  7. Haha, thank you! I really appreciate that! I think you're going to really like it. I've read your posts for years and think this is right in your wheelhouse.
    duritzfan13 likes this.
  8. chavril


    Didn’t know this band existed, but your review has me excited for this release
    Jason Tate likes this.
  9. SEANoftheDEAD


    This makes me wanna get drunk and tear through some old photographs and watch some home videos.
    Jason Tate and Mr. Serotonin like this.
  10. FTank

    Prestigious Prestigious

    God damn I need this
    Mr. Serotonin likes this.
  11. Zip It Chris

    Be kind; everyone is on their own journey.

    You're a goddamn wordsmith...can't wait to listen to The Photograph, love what I've heard so far!
    Mr. Serotonin likes this.
  12. CAC3


    I didn't realize Martin started a new project. This review has made me very excited to listen.

    HOWEVER, I'm here to comment on the review. Really wonderful writing. Maybe I am especially sappy when it comes to nostalgia, but those first few paragraphs really hit home.

    I do remember.
    FTank, Jason Tate and Mr. Serotonin like this.
  13. [removed]

    Trusted Prestigious

    I was already excited for this, but damn Jason what a review.
    Jason Tate and Mr. Serotonin like this.
  14. morken

    Not everything means something, honey Supporter

    Fantastic write-up Jason. Friday can't come soon enough. Damn, this weekend will have the best soundtrack.
    Jason Tate and Mr. Serotonin like this.
  15. Thank you very much! I really appreciate it.

    Thanks! Glad you liked it!

    Thank you! I think you're going to be a fan of this one. Excited to hear your thoughts.
  16. JamesMichael

    Software Engineer Prestigious

    Excellent review Jason, reading through has me highly anticipating this album even more now.

    Can't wait to listen to it this Friday morning at work.
    Jason Tate likes this.
  17. Fletchaaa

    Trusted Supporter

    Great review, from the songs out so far this reminds me of bleachers
    Jason Tate likes this.
  18. Honeymagnolia

    Regular Supporter

    Awesome write up.

    Going to have my first listen of this on a plane journey to Greece. Should be a great place to lose myself in it and have it on repeat for a few hours.
    Jason Tate likes this.
  19. jeff.dart


    I was fortunate to learn about this act when they opened for John mayer last year, and I've been anticipating this ever since. Can't wait to hear the album. Great write up, man. Those are some serious feels.
    Jason Tate likes this.
  20. Ryan G

    Moderator Moderator

    Really really enjoyed this review. One of my favorites I've read in the last few years, easily.

    Excited for this album - seems like it'll be a good one as summer winds down.
    Mr. Serotonin likes this.
  21. fran.182 Sep 5, 2018
    (Last edited: Sep 5, 2018)

    Regular Prestigious

    Can't believe I've never heard about this band and Martin Johnson having a new project. After listening to two tracks ("The Outfield" is superb!), I stand by this review.

    It sounds right up my alley - a follow up to Boys Like Girls' great debut ten years later as if these new songs reflect back on those old ones (just like at 24 I reflect back on 16).
    Mr. Serotonin and Jason Tate like this.
  22. Butinsmallsteps


    Wow, what a review. Fantastic writing. Very excited for this album
    Jason Tate likes this.
  23. Thanks Ryan! I really appreciate that.
    Ryan Gardner likes this.
  24. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Goddamn @Jason Tate, I loved reading this. I think we look for the same things when we read (and write) about music: that sense of what music means to people, instead of just what it sounds like or the genres/bands it exists in the context of. Martin Johnson has always struck me as very good at articulating the bittersweet euphoria of looking back in time and remembering everything that was and everything that wasn’t. This piece did that too. Really excited to hear the record now.
  25. CyberInferno

    Line below my username Supporter

    Chalk me up as another one who had never heard of this band prior to this review, but the review left me tantalized. "Do You Think About Us" gives me chills. Looking forward to hearing the full thing on Friday.

    Side note--the Amazon link isn't super-useful. Here's a direct link or here's a link to all the available streaming/buying options.
    Jason Tate and Mr. Serotonin like this.