Proper Dose is the fourth full-length record by Californian rock band The Story So Far, highly anticipated as their last album was released in 2015. The band had been in the studio since April 2017 working on this record and it is everything we could have expected and more.
The record begins with “Proper Dose'” and immediately you know this is TSSF‘s iconic sound. Parker Cannon with his unique and raspy voice begins singing about the fact that his medication makes him feel numb and absent from life, ending ultimately with the realization that this is how things will be for a while. The song has a feel-good rhythm that I can see myself jamming out to anywhere and any time of day.
The next two bangers are “Keep This Up” and “Out Of It”. A theme you’ll notice throughout the record is an awareness of how drug addiction is affecting his life, “My pessimistic views stem from all the drugs I use” in Keep It Up as well as the chorus of ‘Out Of It‘ “my appropriate opiate has me out of it, out of it”
Proper Dose slows down with “Take Me As You Please”, the last single released before the album’s debut. This song seems to be an ode to failing relationships, the lyrics state that he’s finding himself writing sad songs about them which in turn has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Parker’s vocals are slightly isolated which makes for a beautiful and cinematic feel to the song. The next few lines “How many times can I say I love her? That’s not for this song ’cause I’m done with all the noise.” seem to be about Parker having written three albums about the same girl explaining his love for her and she ended up hurting him. It could also be a nod to TSSF changing up their sound as it used to be upbeat, loud and angry, and Parker finds himself moving past such energetic music as heard in this track and album.
From a rainy day listen to a ray of sunlight, the mood transitions to “Let It Go” in the snap of a finger. The song’s introduction is sweet and calm before an all-encompassing summer feel takes wind. The same percussion returns while the relaxing temperament continues to soothe your listening ear. Geyer & Levy’s beautiful guitar riffs pair seamlessly with Parker’s angelic vocals, creating one of the highlighted tracks of the album.
Like a new chapter of the same book, the mood changes with the turn of a page. “Upside Down” was the first single released leading up the album’s debut and many made the comparison to TSSF’s cult-classic “Clairvoyant” in that the song radiates an overwhelming sense of loneliness while the instrumentals ring quite gloomy. This is a truly heartbreaking ballad and “Upside Down” is definitely a certified tearjerker.
“If I Fall” begins with the sound of a lighter, quickly followed by an infectious drum beat, peppy guitar and bass lines that make you want to dance until your legs fall asleep. Channeling the spirit of their early releases, “If I Fall” is most definitely a standout track on the album. Cannon’s vocals take the front, transitioning beautifully between the soft and harsh tones of his range throughout the song. The song ends with an angelic Parker Cannon singing “hold me down, help me drown” leaving you no choice but to melt into the soft clouds of his beautiful voice.
Going back to the band’s gritty pop-punk brand, “Need To Know” instantly makes you want to start headbanging. The lyrics seem to focus on Cannon’s struggle with his creative process, as he no longer has the crutch of writing about breakups and lost lovers; the target of his songs are now only himself and his feelings. This is very much so reflected in the rest of the album as Cannon is presenting himself in his purest form, allowing vulnerability to take hold and be completely open. The fast-paced percussion and gritty guitar riffs make for a punk anthem meant for jamming.
“Line”, most likely a bit too long to be a proper interlude, is the perfect bridge to gap the album and it’s conclusion. A more ambient and electronic sound graces the album, seeming to mark the band’s departure from their distinguished hard punk sound and into a more pop-punk centric space.
Transitioning back to yet another acoustic ballad, “Growing On You” is soft and melodic, and fits the tail end of the record perfectly. Lyrically, it seems to focus on Cannon’s contemplation of whether he should continue his drug use or get the help he needs and live a real life.
“Light Year” wraps up the album with a heavier, rocking and catchy tune. The lyrics of this song are lighter as they highlight Parker expressing that he’s finally coming out of this dark place he’s been in the past few years. He’s ready to leave the past behind him, whether it be drugs or this mystery girl, and move on to a real life. There’s no doubt that this song left our pop-punk cravings feeling satisfied.
Proper Dose told a beautiful and heartwarming story of Parker Cannon’s recent struggles in a raw light, a side of him that has not been seen as much of his writing came from a place of anger and heartbreak on previous albums. There has clearly been an immense amount of personal growth on Cannon’s end as shown throughout the entire album, which I respect and support wholeheartedly. The production on this record was crisp & gorgeous, both lyrically and instrumentally. This album has set the tone for the band and where they’re taking their sound, and we are just dying to hear what they’ve got in store next.
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