Written by Carmen Mueller
Despite being busy on the road, Real Friends has dropped new material in the midst of playing in the last ever run of the beloved Vans Warped Tour. It’s been two years since their last album, but that changed when they released their third full-length album Composure on July 13th.
The first song “Me First” starts off with a bang: here is a powerful song about the trials of a one sided love and how lonely that can feel. The guitars add to the heavy feeling while still providing a sound you could rock to. It’s a powerful way to open up this new record and provides a lot of momentum for what’s to come.
Thank goodness for the buildup that the opening song provided, because “Stand Steady” is a fast paced jam. It's a song that deals with the pain that can be felt if one has had a really tumultuous past. This story is not one of defeat, but rather a triumphant battle cry of victory; no matter what is in the past, there is always a chance for redemption which is echoed in the closing line of the song “Watch me try”.
The third track on this album is one of the album’s singles, and for good reason. “From the Outside” is a happy sounding track that deals with more intense subject matter. The song tells that story of how people must put on a mask; they silence their pain with pills and drinks just to maintain the façade that everything is fine. It’s something that a lot of us do and it’s great to hear it being talked about so openly. There’s a lot of depth to the lyrics and the rock instrumentation really does a great job of complimenting the message.
“Smiling on the Surface” ties in perfectly to the previous song; it’s a reflection of how that person has changed since they started using substances to hide their true selves. This person is so far gone that they have lost touch of what’s real and they feel like they are seeing the world through eyes that are not their own. Still, despite the apprehension, there is still an effort to keep the feelings hidden. Like the rest of the album up to this point, the instruments are upbeat and help elevate the message of the song by not being too overpowering.
“Hear What You Want” mirrors the issues that were first brought up at the beginning of the album: toxic people becoming an unnerving strain on a relationship. Despite the unhealthy pairing, it’s hard to get away from because being stuck in a familiar pain can become one’s routine. The drums and guitar are really strong in this song and create an urgent feeling which is totally different from the next song.
The album starts to slow down with the song “Unconditional Love”; the rhythm reminding me of Bad Suns’ “Cardiac Arrest”. However, there is no shortage of guitar solos as the song progresses. The song reflects on how hard it is to handle a love that it is too overwhelming, one that never seems to lose its intensity. Sometimes it’s easier to try to let go rather than catch up with someone else’s feelings.
The transition into their title track “Composure” is perfectly seamless which is something that I can always appreciate when sitting down to hear a full album. The common theme of having to pretend in order to function returns. It’s one thing to be able to point a finger at a problem, but the problem will remain if nothing changes. Fast paced guitars and great vocals are all throughout the album, but I think the drums really stand out on this track.
“Get By” was the first single that was featured off of this album and just by the title alone, I can see why. The album has dabbled in the idea of self-improvement and how toxic relationships can be a hindrance. It can be better to leave others behind in order to be a better person; being selfish isn’t always a negative thing. And this message is backed up with strong instrumentation and powerful vocals.
The toxic relationships, masks, and feeling of mistrust continues in “Ripcord”. Frustrated vocals are reminiscent of the frustration that comes from being used by another person. Once again, the instrumentation is really strong on this track and provides an enjoyable way to tackle larger issues.
Closing the album is “Take a Hint” and it leads us out with a positive mindset! The lyrics deal with banishing unproductive thoughts: being able to see what needs to be done and doing exactly that. The drums are powerful, and the extended guitar that brings us to the end of the album is a great way to transition out.
Overall, the album has great production and the instruments never waver; it’s not incredibly boisterous which is nicely balanced with the already heavy subject material. It has the go-to pop punk vibe while providing messages that anyone could relate to: hiding behind a mask, looking for ways to deal with pain, toxic relationships, and the need for self-improvement. This is a great album to listen to and it will surely translate great at Warped Tour so try to snag a ticket if you can!