Nothing More has been around the block; their latest album, The Stories We Tell Ourselves, is actually their sixth release. Their most popular — a self-titled release from 2013 — was came out four years ago, taking the modern rock genre by surprise. The band’s breakout party charted them at No. 8 on the on Billboard’s Independent Albums and got them to No. 33 on the Billboard 200. It has made the Stories album drop all the more intriguing as the band attempts to build on the long-standing foundation they began laying back in 2004.
For many reasons, Stories holds its own as a successful departure from Nothing More’s previous rock stylings. Without a doubt, it is the same Nothing More that gave birth to their eclectic, unique self-titled album sound, but Stories is largely its own creation. There are still anarchistic winks and broken-hearted prose, as much tailored to this album as any of those prior, but it’s clear from the jump this album pulls in some new influence. It’s impossible to dismiss the ratcheted-up rock that naturally settles into the framework of the band’s core. With its wide variety of sounds and styles, this album provides a fresh backdrop for what is hopefully the next era in the band’s career.
The prime example of a genre trial run on Stories is “Don’t Stop,” which dips its toes into some EDM. When matched with vocalist Jonny Hawkins’ high-registered screams, it gives life to the album; noticeably absent an overuse of autotune, letting Hawkins’ voice shine.
Although not as divergent from the Nothing More norm, “The Great Divorce,” “Ripping Me Apart,” and “Let Em Burn” approach the darker, harder side of rock, occasionally dipping into the metal world. Maybe it’s the ardor by which they’re delivered or perhaps because you can get lost in political and personal angst; whatever the reason, these carry extraordinary liveliness.
On the other side of the coin, the band does well to pull your emotional cords, taking you away mentally without effort. “Tunnels” does this the best as the most lyrically and creatively stacked on the album. It’s in good company with the sole acoustic track, “Just Say When,” an exercise in Hawkins’ exploration of relational complexity.
For those audiophiles out there, the multitudinous interludes provide plenty to appreciate. From short snippets of speeches as overlays to instrumentals, Nothing More excels at musical connective tissue. They truly seemed invested in lacing the collective theme together with these quick tracks.
For the lyrical connoisseur, there is plenty of meat to enjoy. For example, in the closing track, “Fade In Fade Out,” Hawkins recounts a conversation with his aged father as he simultaneously looks back at his own life. It is touching and kind, very much like a paternal version of Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” Much like that beloved Southern Rock staple, “Fade In Fade Out” is heavily loaded with love, tinted grey with the reality of mortality and generational passage. With its significance and strength, the bookend provides the appropriate candor to conclude this album.
Nothing More has created something important with Stories. With its universally-relatable material, it avoids the archaic trap of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Like many socially-aware punk, metal or rock acts that have come before them, Nothing More reinforces the need to touch on social constructs, relationships, and the complexity of carrying on a family bloodline. With these Stories, the world is gifted something amazing.