Free Throw

Piecing It Together

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Available on light pink with yellow and magenta wax

Piecing It Together is a corona-lockdown album through and through. Believe it or not, this is a good thing: it’s not a quarantine album due to Zoom-related lyrical themes or virus-inspired melodies (well, I mean, it is a damn catchy record), but rather in its attention to intricate details. Free Throw have always been a band that appears to care about the little things, slowly progressing from emo-infused pop punk to… well, still that, but much more sophisticated and just a little bit twinklier. The band’s latest record isn’t going to radically change anyone’s opinion about the loveable collective of Pokémon-playing sadbois, but it’s abundantly clear that Piecing It Together was crafted with all the time and care in the world.

And yet, no one really wanted all this time on their hands. No one, except for perhaps mr. Schrute, was aching for a pandemic to happen. Interestingly, this is transformed into Piecing It Together’s double virtue: the record is as intricate and well-crafted as it is due to the lack of time constraints, while it simultaneously finds strength in the anxieties inherent to the past year and a half. ‘Worry Seed’, true to its title, pairs bouncy, energetic riffs with simplistically effective existentialism: “And I feel so weak / I think this soon will pass”. It’s almost ridiculously to the point, but fuck, is there a more direct way to sum up the uncertainties coupled with the almost contradictory sense of optimism that has been clouding the world? Here, Free Throw find this odd, faux-hope in the only real certainty of life: “It’s a duel between logic and dread / And the fact is I know we all end up dead someday”. It’s not fun, sure, but hey, why not try and actively seek out the fun through a wry sense of humour and some ridiculously captivating melodies? Might as well, you know.

While the band stick to their trusted formula throughout the record, every element is elevated to a slightly higher level, resulting in Free Throw’s most dynamic full length to date. ‘The Grass Isn’t Greener’ needs a mere three minutes to cruise through palm-muted riffs, throaty yells and an elegantly calm section, while feeling perfectly coherent. Piecing It Together is brilliantly, wait for it, pieced together, allowing each moment to both shine in its own right and charmingly flow into the next. The album’s centerpieces, ‘Second Wind’ and ‘Force of Will’ add some much needed breathing room after the first section of sheer Bangers. The former is shrouded in relative ambience, reminiscing on the days of Those Days Are Gone with the kind of nostalgic ambiguity that is all too familiar. Subsequently, ‘Force of Will’ boasts the record’s most heavenly twinkles, solidifying Free Throw’s ability to keep themselves from falling into annoyingly wankery math rock traps. Rebelling against, well, the entire fucking world, Cory Castro declares that ”Life’s not fair / Stop stalling time / Wasting years”. Unlike the average pop punk revolts against hometowns and parents, it’s a fight that’s already lost and can never truly be won: oof.

Thankfully, Piecing It Together isn’t all outcries of privileged misery. Where 2019’s What’s Past Is Prologue guided Free Throw towards the light, this light hasn’t fully disappeared here: it is merely more dim than expected. Most poignantly, ‘Trust Fall’ shows the importance of simple human connection in times of doubt. In true Cory Castro fashion, its beauty isn’t eclipsed in expansive metaphors, as he opts for touchingly straightforward statements: ”Know that I am sure / You are someone adored by me / Without a doubt”. It’s the kind of tear-jerking Free Throw does like no other band; sitting comfortably within intricate drum patterns and catchy call-and-response melodies, the album’s most lovingly delicate moments present themselves. As the record comes to a close, ‘Equilibrium’s quiet meanderings hint at a brighter future where light actually shines a little damn brighter.

‘Dawn of a New Day’ is no exception to the unspoken Free Throw-rule of boasting excellent closers. Implementing some more streamlined vocal lines, the song presents an epically modest conclusion to the turbulent record. Finishing on the idea that ”It’s all ups and downs”, there is really no better way to sum up… you know, life, duude. Seriously, though: it’s not all fun and games; it’s not all misery and sadness. A goddamn pandemic may mess things up, but if the certified sadlads in Free Throw are able to (re)discover some light and craft as excellent a record as Piecing it Together both due and in spite of the unprecedented eventz, surely we’ll be able to pull through as well.