Who It Is: The Cardboard Swords – The Cardboard Swords; Count Your Lucky Stars (2015)
What It Sound Like: Modern Baseball, The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, folky Midwest emo
The name The Cardboard Swords conjures up imagery of being young, full of imagination, and fearlessly embarking on adventures of the mind. The band translates this same childlike feeling of magic into music on their self-titled debut LP.
With light, jangly guitars and personal lyrics, The Cardboard Swords succeed in creating a sound all their own. There is much variation throughout the album, with some guitar tones often reminiscent of The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die’s Harmlessness. The vocal delivery radiates authenticity – unfiltered and earnest, embracing quirks and minor flaws. Much like the subtle clicks and pops of a vinyl record, this yields positive results, giving additional character to the music.
The band has an ability to blend slight pop leanings with a more artsy, almost folky sound. These two contrasting styles share the spotlight on the opening track, “(S)He Said,” and what is probably the most memorable song, “Flannel.” The first of these embodies the more poppy side of the band, focusing on a smooth melody and somewhat sexual lyrics that appear light on the surface. Much on the other side of the spectrum, “Flannel” hinges on its chilling marathon of a spoken word section. The delivery of the vocalist here is astonishingly quick and exact, which is an impressive feat. If the first song serves to catch your attention, this is the point in the album that will flip the switch to show that The Cardboard Swords are onto something special.
There are a good amount of lyrical standout moments on The Cardboard Swords as well, the biggest of which comes on “Exit 47A.” The lines “Twenty-one is the new sixteen / is the new eighteen / is the new twenty-three” encapsulate the confusion that many experience during these formative years. Certain struggles come with growing up, but wanting to maintain your youth, leading to fluctuating differences between one’s actual age and how that person acts. Many of the lyrics revolve around love and the various other emotions that are associated with it. “If I had / a nickel for every single / girl I’ve met / that is just like you then I would only / have five cents / and still be just as poor as I have / ever been” from “Nickels” has an incredibly heartfelt sentiment and becomes even more emotional when it is repeated, backed up with multiple vocal tracks.
This album gives the audience a lot to digest. It stays interesting by presenting a variety of sounds, keeping listeners on their feet. The emphasis put on lyrical content draws them in and makes sure they are paying attention. Especially considering this is a debut album, The Cardboard Swords have delivered a standout product. This excellent first full-length proves that emo never truly went anywhere and it is definitely still here to stay.
You Should Probably Listen To: “Nickels,” “Flannel,” “Exit 47A”
Overall Rating: 8.2/10