by Wheaton Hop

Yo. We’re  about to get deep.  

You get it, I know you do. Life is messy, honestly. People are messy. Oftentimes, life gets in the way and leads us in a direction we didn’t intend to be heading and we end up on some godforsaken dirt road we never meant to go down. But we keep going, chugging along.  It can get heavy and you know that in order to keep it real, sometimes you need to keep pretending. That’s just how life rolls. It’s what’s holding us together and, at times, tearing us apart. It’s a tale as old as time. We keep “fighting and losing but we try and we try. (F.B.T.)”  and, hopefully, eventually we will get there. With all that said, once in a blue moon, an album comes along that encapsulates it all, puts it all out there…. the angst and yearning, frustration and hope, regret and resolve; and it becomes the perfect soundtrack to this roller coaster called life. It’s one helluva sonic ride. So buckle up.

Keep Pretending. Those aren’t just words we tend to live by, it’s also the title of the debut full length album from Portland, Maine’s Borderlines. And luckily for us, this album showed up on the scene this past month via Hey Pizza Records for vinyl, Mom’s Basement for the CD, and Memorable But Not Honorable has just the cassette you need to pop in that old jalopy’s stereo because this, by far, is one of the best road trip albums to come along this year. I say that because it’s exactly what I did. Got in the car and tried to get lost on the road and in the music. And it was fantastic. So let’s go! Grab your keys, hop in the truck, press play, and let’s escape together with Borderlines.

The minute you crank the engine, Innocence Thrives comes blaring through your speakers full throttle….  Picture it….  top down, cruising down the coastal highway, drumming that wheel and singing at the top of your lungs in all your glory and it’s all thanks to the catchy hooks and melodies weaving through this entire release.  You’ll find yourself still humming and singing along to not just Innocence Thrives but every track on this ripper of an album long after the last note plays and the engine goes quiet. Lyrically, it’s quite a dark song but the driving energy and pop sensibility of its delivery brings a visceral surge of catharsis from all the shit we’ve come through. I’m energized just thinking about it as I write this. To me, Innocence Thrives feels like an anthemic ode to the oft forgotten poignancy of extraordinary events that have become far too ordinary in our lives. It’s the perfect opener to an album that should be on everyone’s list this year.  Following Innocence is another melancholic story, The Greatest Resignation, which leaves us “with nothing but holding on”, “wondering where we belong ” and a reminder to “get off the floor”. As we careen around the curves and bends, we’re well aware we aren’t where we should be. But strangely, it’s exactly where we need to be in order to figure it all out. Rounding out the trifecta that is the opening to Keep Pretending, Hold Me Down is another heavy hitter that kicks off, maneuvering adept and tight rhythms paired with heartfelt, honest lyrics and effortlessly manages to make us want to dance through the storms that we can make for ourselves. Happily.

The hits keep on coming the entire length of this 12 song, 29 minute album.  F.B.T  is a heart wrenching story with an all too familiar atmosphere, reminding us of what kind of world we all live in today. And it’s a banger that should seriously, along with How Many Hours, be screaming over the terrestrial radio waves. Hours is another instant earworm of a hit that happens to traipse upon the delicate tightrope that we try to balance on within the juxtaposition of self doubt and enough enduring hope for it to have all been worth the ride. Too Easy recognizes “things get heavy and you’re tired of trying” “as you scream goddamnit and give in again, give in again. You gotta give it time.” Just keep your eyes on the road. You’ll get there. Pump Me Up, Trial Run, and Falling Again continue in the vein of traveling along, taking wrong turns, and wondering what the right decisions are or were…. overanalyzing as we are wont to do yet still bopping along the best we can on this bumpy ride. Twenty Four is a totally rockin standout for me as well, with a Green Day-esque intro and an honest look back at what could have been. “You wanted the world. I just wanted you”. Yup. Right in the feels. Parrott takes a seemingly mundane scenario a la an estate sale, “The auctioneer raises his voice a bit, he pounded on the desk for emphasis”  yet captures the rawness of the shit life collects for us, and sometimes it’s just too heavy to carry,  with “We’ll save the furniture, we’ll save the tools. We’ll put them back for the use of future fools”  which may seem like just a sarcastic, flippant thing a Mainer would say but it’s what it doesn’t say that cuts deep. That’s some craftsmanship right there. Ratwheel closes out this instant classic album chockablock full of a blend of punk infused stylings, full on fleshed out rock and roll melody, and just pure pop magic that cleverly melds the lyrics of pain and embarrassment about fucking up, misspent time and emotions with tight, crisp guitars, a banging yet precise rhythm section, and vocals that rate as good as anyone you’ll hear today. Ratwheel is the perfect synopsis of this journey, “The house is on fire now but they keep pretending.” “We all know where I’ll end up. Stuck in a rat wheel, out of bounds….  deep in a dive bar buying rounds.”  But you’ll  be dancing to the beat of your own drum as you go through it all.

Listen, we Mainers are natural born storytellers. We’re pretty rugged when it comes to traversing the turns and twists that life likes to throw at us and we just try to plow through and eventually end up in the right place. And that’s precisely what this installment’s album, Keep Pretending, does. It gets you there.  It will captivate you with artful, honest and raw stories and leave you sonically wanting more.  It’s not bubblegum but it gives your heart and musical taste buds something to chew on, for sure. These 4 guys: Matt, Andrew, Matt, and Mike have been around for some time now and they’ve got stories to tell; stories you know because you’ve lived them too. They come from snotty pop punk roots and earned their chops the honest way. Like all of us, they have stumbled and fallen and stumbled again. And they grew up along the way. With this album they’ve proven that not only do they have grit and impressive instrumental talent, they’ve shown that the years have given them something else. Wisdom. Wisdom and the guts to be emotionally honest. Borderlines held on, pulled themselves up, worked hard, and delivered the goods. So hop in and let’s go for a spin. You won’t regret it. You can get there from here.

~Wheaton Hop Out.