In 2017, Bloomington, Minnesota emo outfit Remo Drive released their debut album, Greatest Hits, to tremendous acclaim. Formed around brothers Erik and Stephen Paulson, the band’s dynamic musicality appealed to critics and fans of angsty indie rock alike. Signing a deal with Epitaph Records the following year, the band quickly dropped well-received a 3-song EP, titled Pop Music, which presented a cleaner sound. A year later, the band has delivered their second full-length effort, Natural, Everyday Degradation.
The result is a mature masterclass in beating the sophomore slump. Diehard fans of Greatest Hits might be disappointed by the lack of singalongs and shouting. However, the band makes up for that with sharp songwriting and a fuller sound, thanks in part to a production assist from Joe Reinhart (of Philly acts Hop Along and Algernon Cadwallader).
“Two Bux” opens the record and quickly places the emphasis on Erik Paulson’s songwriting, here discussing his relationship with religion. With a simple yet powerful chorus, “The Grind” is one of the catchiest songs Remo Drive has released to date. The band then slows down the pace on “Shakin’,” a song that repurposes the chorus from AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” to extraordinary effect.
“Separate Beds” and “Ezra and Marla” are the centerpieces of the album, with the former—a slow song built around a danceable chorus—being a prime example of the band’s musical chops, and the latter telling the story of a relationship falling apart. The penultimate track, “Mirror,” marks the record’s emotional peak, with a bridge that sees Paulson opening up about his insecurities and delivering one the best lines of the whole record: “How can a cynic find the truth if he can’t even find himself?“
Remo Drive could’ve turned in another batch of songs in the same vein as their debut, and no one would’ve questioned them. Instead, the band shows how much they’ve matured in all facets, and in the process built one of the strongest rock records of the year.