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pulses. — It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This, Album Review

pulses. released their third full-length record It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This on September 29th. I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Caleb Taylor (guitarist, vocalist), Matt Burridge (guitarist, vocalist), and Kevin Taylor (drums, vocals) to do a deep dive. As someone who has followed this band for a few years now, it is safe to say that this is their best-sounding, most eclectic, and most ambitious record to date.

The first track, “Different Strokes,” instantly brings the listener in with high energy, a bit of organized chaos, and a unique catchiness with a chorus that seems to slip out of the conventional key in precisely the correct way. On this track, Caleb stated, “.. I wanted to go for a dance punk vibe, and that was the kind of influence I wanted all over the record.” Caleb stated that Fake Shark, Real Zombie, and At The Drive In were all direct influences on the song which show pretty dominantly on it in hindsight

The second track and first single for the release, “Run The Ghouls,” packs a punch and finds itself again getting stuck in anyone’s head without really much conventional singing at all throughout the track. pulses. member Matt Burridge stated specifically that the musical influences were, “‘Church’ by T-Pain for the verses, and then Turnstile, End It, and Baltimore hardcore for the breakdown.” You can feel all of those influences through the push and pull between the mid-2000s R&B/hip-hop vibes of the verses and the crushing nature of the breakdown/bridge of the track.

“Loafers With The White Socks,” is the third track and last single of the record rollout, and the start of a slew of features within the album with Hansel Romero of Nightlife, Joey Lancaster of Belle, and Gavin Cole. This song slots in the three featured vocalists alongside Caleb, Kevin, and  Matt seamlessly, and this is due to the band’s focus and intentionality with each feature they’ve chosen both for this very collaborative record. Caleb Taylor, who also mixed this single and the entire record himself, stated that it was no small feat to blend and mold the vocal production to be as cohesive as it is. He said there were upwards of 60 (vocal tracks)” between all of the vocalists to sift through, edit, and mix, by far the greatest challenge of the album. The musical influences are described by the band as “trying to do the new Jack swing… it’s like ‘80s, like R&B hip hop,” but still keeps their post hardcore elements alive through screaming vocals, and a distinctive heaviness to the groove and rhythms prominent in the track.

“Ain’t Got No Ceiling,” draws from more classic early to mid-2000’s emo and posthardcore roots. The band specifically references Thursday and Taking Back Sunday as major influences for the song, with the back-and-forth singing between Caleb and Matt throughout really exemplifying the latter. As one of the tracks without guest spots, it’s a sharp reminder that this band has so many voices within its own lineup that every track can have immense variety in the tones and emotion delivered between vocalists.

“Honesty Honestly,” featuring Sierra Binondo of With Sails Ahead, is arguably the record's highlight. Sierra stated from her own experience writing the song with the band that the song comes from a place of “being real with yourself and giving the same grace that a friend would give to you.” The vocal delivery would speak to anyone dealing with inner turmoil or issues that can be exhausting. At the same time, Toonami references and some lighter pop culture lyrical choices are sprinkled throughout, giving the song a dynamic emotional perspective. From the songwriting side “Honesty Honestly,” feels like a palette cleanser from the first four tracks of the record. With more somber undertones leading up to the heavier, screaming bridge, it showcases an array of feelings, aggression, and introspection that wraps up with distinct closure.

“Ask an Unc,” has some Hey Arnold Pigeon Man references in it. That alone should make people love the song. On a serious note, the bass line-centric intro and overall groove of the track is a welcome closer to the first half of the record and sets up for the more unique, genre-bending songs on the back half of the album. This is the song to jam on repeat if you want to start your day off in a good mood. Enough said.

“Take a Look Y’all,” featuring Ben Rockwood is what I would label as the most nu metal track on the record by far. With the early 2000s-inspired production, record scratches, and great lyrical, this song blends the stylings of post hardcore, hip hop, and some alternative metal roots in a way that makes it feel like it could be thrown on an array of playlists across genres and it would settle in nicely. Kevin’s first verse specifically is a highlight of the track and the entire album.  

“Them Phones,” with JER featured on trumpet, trombone, and saxophone, is a mix of ska music and unrelenting posthardcore heaviness. Matt stated that lyrically this song comes from observing how people in various online and social media spaces become big headed in their self-proclaimed knowledge and professionalism in art, marketing, discourse, etc. as well finger finger-wagging on the correct way for bands and artists to handle themselves.

At just over two minutes “Kupo!” packs a punch. there is zero fat to this more aggressive side of pulses.  Caleb and Matt go back and forth with more aggressive vocal deliveries that remind you how crushing this band can be when they embrace their heavier side I should note that the band’s bass player, David Crane, delivers some backing lower vocals here that really send it over the top.

“Heaven or Helvetica” keeps up the aggression and is still a strong point for the record due to its instrumental intro that leads into a lot of organized chaos, dissonance, and heaviness that are showcased in a unique song structure that brings forth a tangle of emotions.

The final two tracks “It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This,” and “But It Is,” are extremely different in terms of sound, vocals, length, and production, but flow together as a pair. The former takes the idea of an emo ballad at the end of a record and flips it on its head, using primarily 2000’s R&B influences to shape the track both in the midi guitars and beat production. This song may have Caleb’s catchiest singing to date with every line getting stuck in the listener’s head as if they were each their own hook. By repeating the same notation as the album ender in one section, the band finds a way to connect both tracks subtly despite with the contrast in sound. “But It Is” features Carson Pace of The Callous Daoboys and includes lo-fi beats, spoken word, an array of riffs, and in-the-pocket drumming which sends the record off in a nice, neat bow.

On It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This, pulses. find themselves more in their stride than ever. With genre bending to ridiculous degrees that most bands would lose their minds over, the quartet continues to find a way to keep it fun, cohesive, serious, silly, and above all deeply connected their own point of view.

You can find the album on streaming services now.

Track listing:

  1. Different Strokes
  2. Run The Ghouls
  3. Loafers With The White Socks (feat. Hansel Romero of Nightlife, Joey Lancaster of Belle, and Gavin Cole)
  4. Ain’t Got No Ceiling
  5. Honesty Honestly (feat. Sierra Binondo from With Sails Ahead)
  6. Ask A Unc
  7. Take A Look Y’all (feat. Ben Rockwood of Granite State)
  8. Them Phones (Feat JER)
  9. Kupo!
  10. Heaven or Helvetica
  11. It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This
  12. But It Is (feat. Carson Pace of The Callous Daoboys)