For The Win – The Black and the Blue

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

For The WIn

The Black and the Blue - Asian Man Records / Solidarity Recordings

One of Asian Man Records’ latest signings, San Francisco’s For The Win, couldn’t have found a more suitable label for releasing their debut.  Their album, The Black & The Blue, features 21 minutes and 11 tracks of memorable hooks, gruff articulation, and social awareness.  They perfectly fit along side alumni acts like The Lawrence Arms, as well as more recent Asian Man signings like the Mugwumps.

Stylistically, the vocals feel like a sloppier, more hardcore version of The Lawrence Arms’ Brendon Kelly or Avail‘s Tim Barry (which is fine by me since I love both bands).  Vocally and musically, For The Win achieve a natural balance between subject matter and instrumentation – drawing upon their hardcore side for darker subject matter, and their poppier side for more hopeful compositions.  For example, the opening track, “Let it Begin,” feels very uplifting, featuring simple, playful chord progressions that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Methadones or Copyright‘s album.  Furthermore, the subject matter is inspiring, speaking of an imminent social revolution and “taking a stand for new beginnings.” But For The Win understands that revolution doesn’t just happen, it’s a struggle and can at times have bleak realities.  Darker songs like “Another Day” or “Attack” reflect this by stripping away the band’s finesse and melody, revealing a non-linear, less-predictable soundscape of anger and frustration.

The short run time may suggest an EP more than an album, but even with the majority of The Black & The Blue‘s tracks clocking in at less than two minutes – with at least three hovering around the one minute mark – the band has crafted a very complete album.  When reviewing a great short album I usually find myself saying something to the effect of “the only thing I can really complain about is the short run time, I can’t wait until their next release so I may sink my teeth into something more substantial.”  But with For The Win, this just isn’t the case.  Admirably, every track has its own personality, offering lively intros, meaty choruses, and natural conclusions.  Simply put, from start to finish The Black & The Blue has no filler.  In a great decision, the band saves their longest, and most developed track for last.  The track, titled “Die Young,” uses big, Bouncing Souls-like choruses, and features well-executed drum solos to satisfyingly bring closure to the album.

While For The Win certainly haven’t reinvented the wheel, or even offered that much new, but they have demonstrated a command of their music that places them alongside the best in the genre.   I consistently find myself navigating to The Black & The Blue on my ipod without as much as a thought.  Thanks to the band’s knack for creating complete, emotionally connected compositions, For The Win’s debut has quickly become a personal staple over the past few months, and will likely continue in high rotation for months to come.