“Growing In Strange Places” – Thank You, I’m Sorry Album Review
Written by mccormacke1 on October 9, 2023
Review by Jake Roseboro
Growing In Strange Places is the third full-length LP from indie/emo group Thank You, I’m Sorry. Gaining a larger and larger following through social media and word of mouth, Thank You, I’m Sorry have firmly cemented themselves as pioneers of modern emo. What is collectively referred to as the “5th Wave” of emo, the genre is taking steps forward into becoming more progressive, inclusive, and experimental. Bands don’t have to strictly adhere to specific guidelines when it comes to their sound or lyrical content, and Thank You, I’m Sorry has taken full advantage of this. Not only having a female lead singer, the wonderful Colleen Dow, but strictly writing songs from the female perspective. In a male dominated genre, this band’s approach to emo feels incredibly refreshing and forward thinking (both lyrically and instrumentally).
There was plenty of fun to be had on their debut LP Matla House and follow up release I’m Glad We’re Friends, but the lo-fi quality of their production stood as roadblock for the band’s experimentation. Their tinges of power pop and slacker rock weren’t felt quite as much in their studio recordings. With Growing In Strange Places, not only have they found their groove even more so, but they have progressed into an entirely new stage of their career. Gone are the awkward growing pains that inevitably come along with earlier releases. Thank You, I’m Sorry have majorly stepped up their game and tapped into their true potential.
Lead single “Chronically Online” turned quite a few heads back in April, boasting a tighter, well put together sound. The band’s individual performances have grown leaps and bounds in just two years. Colleen’s singing feels more natural, the guitar work is precise, the rhythm section props the song up with bouncy percussion and smooth low-ending. By prioritizing production quality and songwriting, (and sacrificing some sonic aesthetics), the band’s sonic direction has matured along with them.
Shedding off the more underground, “D.I.Y.” corners of their sound was the best possible decision the band could’ve made. By not pigeonholing themselves to the contemporariness of their peers, Thank You, I’m Sorry have gained a ton of personality and charm. We get more experimental tracks like the slower, post hardcore inspired “Train Car,” or the riot grrl anthem that is “Head Climbing.” We get to see them push their band into new molds, new shapes, and new sizes.
Experimentation can be a tricky thing to pull off, especially if you aren’t an established artist already. I could think of over a dozen examples of modern emo acts forcing themselves to change in order to not grow stale, only for it to derail any sort of momentum they had in the first place (i.e. Seahaven, Have Mercy, The Maine). When done correctly however, it can completely change one’s perception of said group and elevate them into a more versatile artist.
Two elements that have been pretty consistent throughout each Thank You, I’m Sorry release have been Colleen Dow’s overtly honest lyrics, and an optimistic spin on dire topics. While the lyrical content may sound self-defeating on paper, when it’s paired with the up-tempo, more positive sound of the band’s instrumentation, they feel hopeful and therapeutic. Not once would you ever think to call this group melodramatic. “Autonomy Shop” is a song about telling a toxic friend or romantic partner that you are done with their schtick, shedding yourself of this negative relationship. A topic that will definitely hit close to home for most listeners. The chipper guitars and 2000s inspired synths prop up the themes and undertones of Dow’s words, and create an uplifting experience.
Tracks like the one I just mentioned are prime examples of why Growing In Strange Places is such a cathartic listen. The band is always writing from the perspective of the underdog, the little guy. Giving a voice to those who may not be in a place to say it themselves. We see that on other highlights such as the softer “Self Improvement” or the indie pop jam that is “This House.” By incorporating even more elements of power pop, 90s slacker rock, and jangle pop, their brand of “inspirational emo” received even more of a shot in the arm.
Being genuine is emo’s ethos as a genre, and Thank You, I’m Sorry are firm believers in that mission statement. Not once do you feel like the band is exaggerating or are putting on an act. “Parking Lots” is an endearing ode to falling in love, “Chronically Online” is an earnest look into one’s over-reliance on the internet for a dopamine rush,”Mirror” touches on body image issues . By laying all of their cards on the table emotionally, the band’s songs become even more universal. And on this project specifically, we get a wide array of topics that could fit nearly any mood of the person listening to it.
Despite my genuine love for Growing In Strange Places, it does have a few cracks in its formula that hold it back from being the band’s magnum opus. Some of the experimentation is a bit awkward in places, the production isn’t spotless, and some of the performances leave a little to be desired. These are minor mistakes that don’t hold a ton of weight, but are still present. And these present setbacks cause me to favor the stronger songs heavily over the more forgettable, creating a little bit of gap in quality. Tracks like “As I Should Be,” “Brain Empty,” and the useless “Interlude” just feel out of place when compared to everything else.
These tracks are not album tankers by any means, they all have their individual merits. However, they all don’t feel up to snuff with the quality of the entire record, creating a cohesion issue. “As I Should Be” was underwhelming as a closing track, “Brain Empty” was too simple and sloppy, “Interlude” was just filler. On the surface they are fairly inoffensive, but that same inoffensiveness is what makes them stick out like a sore thumb.
I chose to draw attention to these nitpicks because of how much I truly connected with the rest of the LP. Thank You, I’m Sorry have grown leaps and bounds with the latest release and I couldn’t be more proud of them. And even despite my squabbles, this album proves the band is capable of so much more in the future. Growing In Strange Places gets a strong 4 out of 5.
Favorites: “Chronically Online,” “Autonomy Shop,” “Mirror,” “Parking Lots,” “Lleeny Hut Jr,” “Your Backyard”
Least Favorites: “Brain Empty,” “As I Should Be, Interlude”