By Allyson Bills
A lot can happen in the span of four years. This time span applies to the journey at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Slingshot Dakota endured on route to completing their fourth album Break, produced by Todd Schied and released by Topshelf Records. Between the releases of Dark Hearts and Break, vocalist and keyboardist Carly Coronado and drummer Tom Patterson got married while on tour with Title Fight, quit their day jobs and moved into a new apartment. Even Coronado won an Emmy Award for her song “Everyday,” which was aired on The Simpsons. Break portrays Slingshot Dakota’s twists and turns into the early stages of their marriage while maintaining their signature, lo-fi pop sensibilities.
Break opens with “You,” a poppy, lo-fi tune reminiscent of early Mates of State, layered with Coronado’s vocals aping Paramore’s Hayley Williams. In “You,” Coronado sings about finding the right person at the right time to go through the trials and tribulations of life: “I always thought I had control // I never thought I’d lose it all…I’ll never trade a second living with you.” The harmonies belong nicely with “You.” However, for an opening track, “You” didn’t grab me musically. This is especially the case with Patterson’s drumming being too subtle for such a powerful-sounding song. In “Monocracy,” Slingshot Dakota attempt to channel their inner Sleater-Kinney in this choppy-sounding tune about expecting the unexpected: “I never thought I would see a knock at my front door,” Coronado sings after describing changing her locks. Musically, this song is catchy with keyboard breakdowns that make you want to hum your heart out. Even the chorus exudes enough might to knock down a glass of water. For this reason, “Monocracy” is one of the best tracks off Break; it’s such a well-crafted song.
For those who are married and remember their early years’ struggles, you can’t do any wrong with “Lewlyweds.” As a pedal effects-laced track, this song accounts the experiences of bed bugs that Coronado and Patterson endured from their downstairs neighbors, and how this long-term incident took a toll on their relationship: “This is not the way we imagined // The way we thought it would go // We couldn’t sleep // We are alone in our dreams.” Although bedbugs aren’t the sexiest topics for a song, “Lewlyweds” makes Slingshot Dakota personable to the listener. One of the ballads on Break is “Stay,” a song where the keys eerily remind me of “Valentine” by The Get Up Kids. In some parts of “Stay,” Slingshot Dakota sounds like a four-piece, especially with those blasting power keys. Coronado, in her almost-signature Hayley Williams-like voice, details the harsh realities of love: “You love me so much // So much it tore you apart // That I broke my own heart.” These are lyrics that you think would come out of an ABC After School Special, not an underground pop-punk band.
“Doreen” is the song that appears to be loosely based on both Coronado and Patterson quitting their day jobs after the release of Dark Hearts. This is especially evident in the following lines: “Pinky swear I won’t tell your secret // Let’s make a promise to quit our jobs to find the things what we want.” Despite the introspective lyrics, “Doreen” is musically lacking in substance. I mean, the only distinct part about this song is the “buzzy” beginning, while the rest of the song sluggish. Another gem off Break is “Paycheck.” This catchy tune reminded me of “All Hands On The Bad One” by Sleater-Kinney with its sharp keys and bursting beats. “Paycheck” is about Slingshot Dakota’s living that paycheck-to-paycheck life, but with the their life partner: “Let’s just stop pretending we have nothing in common // I’m sick of our excuses so it’s time we drop them...Working paycheck to paycheck // I know it’s hard sometimes.” A majority of American citizens live paycheck-to-paycheck, so “Paycheck” is a very relatable track if you are living this very reality. So blast this song!
Slingshot Dakota switches gears in “Too Much,” a brooding tune, which I consider one of the ballads of Break. The music matches the somber lyrics: “Is it too much for you to be around me…want to have a conversation, but no one’s ever home.” Based on these lyrics, I thought it was a song about abandonment issues. However, I found the meaning later: “Your baby’s growing up, but I’m still yours,” which appears to be about still needing someone as you age. I guess the best way to think about “Too Much” is the extent you need to be loved while going about your adult life. “Storytellers” is a carefree tune once again showcasing Coronado’s keyboards. This song speaks of when times are simpler and free of worry: “Take me back to my blissful youth,” and going back to how things (whatever these things may be) used to be. However, throughout “Storytellers,” things take a sullen turn lyrically: “I can hear the gunshots in my head // You got away for who wanted me dead.”Again, Coronado shows her lyrical prowess in another lackluster-sounding song.
Break ends with its title-track. Despite it being musically labored, “Break” is lyrically an appropriate song in which to end this album. It sums up the trials and tribulations of Coronado’s and Patterson’s marriage: “It’s the kind of love that will make you break, but worth it enough // The chance you take, a chance to try is a chance to know.” This song is a feel-good song in the possible realization that the right person for you is out there and will help you through struggles and make you a better person for this reason. This is no better indicative of the closing lines of Break: “We fell in love at the right time.”
Lyrically, Break is the quintessential “adulting” recording with Coronado’s powerful lyrics to help you overcome any obstacle. Musically, it’s another story. Throughout the album, Patterson’s drums failed to keep up with Coronado’s keyboards. If the drumming was stronger, Break would have the entire package and be a fantastic album.