album: if you're not afraid, i'm not afraid - queen of jeans
words: Aaron Eisenreich
Listening to the new Queen of Jeans of album, If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid, feels like an escape from the overwhelming noise of everyday life. The reverb-soaked layers of guitars and harmonies wrap you in a warm, reassuring embrace and give you the nerve to “pull your head out of your ass and try.”
Born out of heartbreak, personal grief, and seemingly endless public tragedy, If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid, is an album very much reflective of American life in 2019. At the same time, the songs have a classic feel that keeps them from feeling too rooted in one particular time and place. Despite its heavy topics, the album is triumphant and reassuring. Ultimately the songs are about resolve and acceptance in the face of struggles; the ability to pull yourself together and confidently go on.
One of the talking points around the album was the band’s decision to work with producer Will Yip. Similar to his work with the Menzingers, it seems like Yip was able to take an excellent band and allow them to fully explore their sound while bringing out and shining a light on the best parts. The resulting album demonstrates a more fully realized and confident expression of what the band is.
The three singles that preceded the album (“Get Lost,” “All the Same,” and “Only Obvious to You”) are standout tracks, but honestly it is hard to pick a favorite song on the album. In addition to the aforementioned singles, “Tell Me” and “I Am in Love With Your Mind” stick out from the rest.
“Tell Me” begins with just Miriam Devora’s hypnotic voice and a palm-muted guitar before breaking into a lush cocoon of harmonies and layered guitars. The song takes a turn about halfway through, leading to one of the more direct and biting lyrics on the album: “While you spew sick intolerance/I’m afraid to leave my house.” In just two lines, Devora captures the day-to-day impact that our country’s politics of hate and intolerance has on individuals.
“I Am in Love With Your Mind” comes after “Not a Minute Too Soon” (another great track) and begins with a guitar riff that would sound at home on an old Motown record. It is one of the shortest songs on the record and reaches its breaking point with Devora’s voice letting loose over waves of sounds and textures.
If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid is full of outros and codas that feel like the musical equivalent of lying back down in bed and wrapping yourself in blankets for another few minutes before getting up the nerve to face the day. Just as the songs seem ready to end, they explode into these beautiful, uplifting moments in the face of the sometimes devastating feelings in the lyrics.
The album ends with “Take it All Away,” a song that seems like a call to action to do the simple, but courageous act of continuing on. When the album title comes in with the chorus “If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid/If you want it changed/Then wake up and claim it,” it sounds like a mantra made to be internalized. The lyrics in the song are reflective of the album as a whole; understanding, comforting, and reassuring. When Devora sings “And I don’t blame you for staying inside to lock things out,” you know she truly understands that desire to shut out the world. Ultimately though, you can’t hide in your home all day and have to face reality. Her lyrics in the bridge can sum up the message of the record: “Break down that sorrow/Rebuild things tomorrow.”
The album ends with Devora repeating “take it all away” over the band rocking at full capacity. It’s a beautiful moment of triumph and acceptance of the fact that even the lowest of moments will give way to new beginnings and avenues to happiness.