‘We hope that the songs we made will stay as close to you as it will with us’.
They still do. I always felt The Graduate were destined for bigger things, mainstreams next big indie rock/ emo band. That’s not to say they were underappreciated. The band from Illinois formed of Corey Warning, Matt Kennedy, Tim Moore, Max Sauer and Jared Wuestenberg received critical acclaim and gained almost a cult following by those who had the pleasure of listening to their music. Just take a look at the comments from the Absolute Punk announcement.
Anhedonia, their debut LP, is for the large part dark and brooding. The narrative follows a character in trouble, looking to change their life, a reflection on the album title – an inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable.
The track Anhedonia finds Corey singing with his trademark emotional vocals:
‘But I don’t feel right in my skin/ So I don’t feel anything at all/ I leave emotion at the door’.
whilst the angular Doppelganger delves into the characters troubled soul, ‘My dreams haunt me in my sleep/ They stay hidden inside of me’. Painting a grey world of being alone, The City That Never Sleeps declares ‘Baltimore is quiet and cold/ …Oh, December never ends’ and:
‘So here’s to being alone/ To anyone on their own/ If anyone’s listening’.
The only glimmers of hope and salvation come in the form of I Survived and the final track, Sing. The former finds Corey leaving a God forsaken town to start a fresh. The chorus is almost a last bastion of hope:
‘I don’t want to die today/ I want to live and love and write it down/ I can live a life of dreams/ And be grateful I’m around’.
The latter, and most uplifting track on the album, leaves our character on a slightly happy ending with the song concluding ‘I’m somewhere in between/ Oh, who I am and who I want to be’, signalling progression at least.
The Graduate returned three years later with the follow up Only Every Time which might not have happened when their label, ICON Mes, folded. Luckily, they continued to write the album despite the setback.
Kicking off with the chest thumping Don’t Die Digging, we reunite with our troubled character and there’s no doubt about their state of mind. Having left them on a warmer note on Anhedonia, the first line reads ‘It’s just another lonely night that I can’t sleep’ – a nod back to previous themes of an unsettled mind and isolation. Despite the title, Stuck (Inside My Head) finds the character again looking to turn a new leaf with talk of moving on, learning to make it on their own and feeling stronger now.
Whilst keeping their indie rock sound, there seems to be a greater focus on sequencing and layering guitars which can be heard previously on Doppelganger. This progression from Anhedonia offers a rich, atmospheric sound with guitars seemingly weaving and playing off each other. It’s an all out attack on your ears accompanied by pounding drums which you just can’t help but stomp along to.
While this formula serves the album well throughout, it’s the ballad Pull In Me that really makes you take notice of their growth. What starts out tenderly with a piano gently twinkling, it continues to gain pace which leads to one of the most uplifting crescendos to a song you’re likely to hear with the track ending on a gang chorus of ‘oh’s’.
Pull Me In also showcases Corey’s vocals which shine throughout Only Every Time, confidently tackling longer notes with aplomb. For the first time, Corey sings of being at peace having found a loved one. Loneliness has dissipated somewhat, ‘I can’t remember feeling less alone/ When you call me yours’ while stating ‘I’m just fine, I’m alive, I am home’.
And a special mention to the gang vocal ‘ah’ harmonies which end the album on For the Missing – sending chills down my spine whilst unable to prevent myself from joining in only every time.
You can watch their fantastic interviews and process behind the making of Only Every Time below – the out-takes are hilarious.
And that was it. The Graduate announced an indefinite hiatus. At least they ended on the highest of highs. They made a DVD of their final show (From the Ground Up), which sold out before I could buy one unfortunately. But this week, I found out they put it up on their Youtube channel. Enjoy.
And you can listen to The Graduate’s discography on their Youtube channel too.
While I hope the indefinite hiatus is broken in the future, if they don’t, there’s no doubt those songs will stay close to me as they will with them.
What is your favourite song by The Graduate? Tell me in the comments section below!