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Frameworks - "Smother" | Album Review

by Nick Otte (@ottenicholas)

For years Frameworks have been a band to watch. Their promising early releases – particularly the shatteringly powerful Small Victories EP and their most recent single Time Spent – painted this melodic hardcore/screamo act from Gainesville, FL as a group poised to make their mark. While their first full-length Loom was a powerful effort, it didn’t quite live up to the admittedly high hopes of some of the groups long standing admirers. That album’s turn towards a darker, grittier sound certainly satisfied an area of the bands appeal, but gave the impression that there was more to come, further sonic landscapes left to explore. If Loom was an oncoming storm, Smother is the storm itself.

“Fear of Missing Out” opens the album on a tone of untethered frustration, pulling all of the Frameworks’ signature moves while delving deeper into a melodic song structure that feels fresh and exciting, building skyward on the strength of their best work. “Peculiar People” feels like a callback to the band’s early days, drawing form the raw aggression and guitar lead indulgence on their Every Day is the Same EP, and is one of my favorite tracks on the record. It has all the same unbridled emotion of those early efforts, but has been sculpted with the deftness one has come to expect from this band. Their ability to cram such explosive moments of angst and rhapsody into three minutes or less is a power they wield with all the confidence of a group one can expect to find among the ranks of the Deathwish label, Frameworks’ fitting new home. 

If there is a shining single on the album it is “Purge,” a song for which the band have already released a music video. Matt Horner’s drumming is a force to be reckoned with, and his unique personality, blending indie and old-school dance rock structures with a relentlessly heavy hand, has never been so confidently displayed. The dueling lead guitars of Cory Fischer and new addition Bobby Heilman are never flashy, but play their melodic roles with a keen awareness of one another and of the room necessary to create the musical drama they strive for. If there was ever going to be a Frameworks song fit for radio, it’s this one – and if you think that’s some sort of dig, you might be missing the point of this record. Smother’s appeal lies in the ambidextrous nature of these songs, whose approachability doesn’t do battle with brutality, but rather melds the two together, in a feat few bands of the genre have accomplished with any grace. 

Songs one might assume to be filler reveal themselves as standout entries in the bands catalogue, with tracks like “Tinnitus” and “Trite” offering more and more on each consecutive listen. Luke Pate writes lines of frustration and internal confusion, of wondering at one’s place in the world and coming to grips with the reality of a true self as apposed to a perceived self. “So convinced of our own / untapped greatness / it creates this crises of unmet expectation / demanding a promotion / regardless of performance / we’d rather win the lottery / than any honest earning.” His lyrics have never been so thoughtful and his delivery continues to impress, as if he’s swallowed up the genre’s vocal tropes, chewed them up, only to spit them back out in the face of expectation. Comparisons to groups like Touché Amore and The Saddest Landscape cannot be denied, but are reminders that Frameworks have managed to maneuver their way to the top tier of their genre, one they feel comfortable maneuvering within, and seem to have mastered on a level with their most highly regarded peers. 

The one two punch of “Tangled” and “The New Narcissistic American Dream” clinches this albums power as a concise work rather than a collection of tunes. These songs could not be more different in their approach, and showcase two sides of the band that manage, by this point, to not be at odds but rather act as perfect counterweights for one another – their lighter side mixing with their darkness, much like on the albums artwork, creating a concoction that consumes a thing that now reaches up a hand to be born. 

Smother is, in short, a meeting place for the best Frameworks has to offer, and while we may hope that the band has more up their sleeve for the future, the culmination of their long-gestating identity is undeniable and quite satisfying. Crystalline clarity and crushing brutality coalesce in some of the band’s most punishing, and simultaneously uplifting work. Frameworks are no longer a band to watch, they’ve become the band we always knew they could be.