Those familiar with A Social State and A Fire with Friends, two of the bands sharing members with Scranton’s Esta Coda, will find a lot of love on this group’s debut EP, “Kindness.” Delivering five tracks of gripping, uplifting alt-rock, “Kindness” forgoes the artiness of A Fire with Friends and the aggressiveness of A Social State in favor of polished pop-hooks and a solid-but-lightweight sound that soars, and invites you to come along for the flight.
The opening title track establishes the status quo without a moment’s hesitation. Melody-driven songcraft animates crisp ‘n’ clean, airy vocals, guitars that charm as well as chug, and authoritative, driving drumbeats. It’s a little bit Jimmy Eat World, a little bit Coldplay.
From the straight-ahead indie-emo of “Skeptic” to the atmospheric push-and-pull of “Henny Penny” to the deceptively sunny acoustic-and-keys combo of “All You Got” to the anthemic dynamism of album-closer “Fireworks” (appropriately band member Dan Rosler’s favorite track, as it’s certainly a standout), there’s not a single track on “Kindness” that isn’t ready for radio play, or for getting an entire arena crowd swaying ‘n’ singing along.
Interestingly, the bright, refreshing sound is almost in direct contrast with the darker shade of the lyrics here. A few selections:
From the title track, …
“This unity is bullshit / It only applies when you’re the one who benefits / I’m at war with my decisions / And worsening.”
From “Skeptic,” …
“I’m tired of feeding your addiction / This one’s mine / And I picture you standing in the kitchen / Blade to skin.”
From “All You Got,” …
“She’s running too fast / In the right place at the wrong time / I’m afraid this won’t last / I know we both have made an effort once or twice / If I could speak from my mind / I would be telling her why but scared to hear her reply.”
Far from being just a juxtaposition of gloomy thoughts with glittery packaging, though, the at-first apparent contradiction between theme and style in Esta Coda’s music ultimately reveals itself a mature, multidimensional treatment of the subject matters. It treats these ideas in a non-idealized (whether that be the optimist or pessimist ideal) fashion, as real-world emotional concerns with strongly felt emotional effects.
Though the lyrical narratives never truly resolve themselves, they don’t simply stew in the shadows either. Instead, by song’s end, they showcase a noticeable tonal shift that indicates the negativities of life and love are unavoidable realities, but that our narrator nevertheless, for better or worse, doesn’t stop trying, doesn’t stop hoping for something better.
“I read the prophets on the city wall / And hear more poets crammed inside our fire halls,” proclaim the final words of the album‘s title track, rich with imagery culled from Esta Coda’s local, NEPA roots. “So keep your ears on the radio / ‘Cause you never know.”
Choice cuts: “Henny Penny,” “All You Got,” “Fireworks”