half•alive gained major steam in 2018 with the release of their single “still feel.” The song rose to popularity for its groovy and punchy pop sound and for its music video, which features precise, flashy choreography. Luckily for the band, what initially drew listeners to “still feel.” happened to be their strengths. Their debut album, “Now, Not Yet,” released a year later and garnered hundreds of millions of streams.
After the release of a short partial album in February titled “Give Me Your Shoulders, Pt. 1,” half•alive has released “Conditions Of A Punk,” which contains the seven songs of their previous release, plus 11 new ones. Although this album doesn’t reinvent the wheel, fans of the band won’t be disappointed as half•alive continues to master and expand their varied indie pop sound.
Beginning with just piano and vocals on track one — which is also the title track — the sound quickly transitions to a soft backbeat with electric piano before adding guitar and more voices to the chorus. Through this variation, the song stays relatively understated until the end, which builds without getting too intense.
It continues to “Summerland,” one of the tracks featured on this album’s precursor. This tune turns up the mood, with more complex percussion and various backing synths adding depth. It’s very much a feel-good song, with hopeful harmony lifting the spirits and lyrics promising the virtues of Summerland.
From these first two songs, one of half•alive’s main draws is made clear: their music can change feeling on a dime, transitioning quickly and cleanly between moods. Although the instrumentation may not change much, and the sections may not sound all that different, the feeling of each is noticeably distinct. This makes every song feel eclectic and fast-paced, never staying in one place for too long.
“Everything Machine” is another highlight, utilizing a prominent bassline, wide-open synths and pointed percussion. Although most of the song features the same harmonic progression, half•alive mixes it up a bit in the pre-chorus with a couple out-of-the-blue chords to keep the harmony from becoming stale.
At the song’s halfway point, it dips down to just the bass drum with synths and a simpler drumbeat, gradually adding instruments and effects over the repeated pre-chorus, building back up to the energy of the chorus. The culmination of this build is delayed until a line into the chorus, increasing the anticipation and making the resulting effect more poignant.
The album ends with “Lost,” a ballad mainly featuring just piano and vocals. This style is not half•alive’s most utilized; their music is typically very detailed and frantic, with a virtually uncountable number of things happening at once. “Lost” strips away this detail, embellishing the main texture only with backing vocals and soft feedback.
Although this sound isn’t typically in their wheelhouse, they perform it fairly well. The slight embellishments are just enough to keep the piano/voice texture interesting, and the melodic content is fairly engaging. Overall, this is one of the album’s weaker efforts.
“Conditions Of A Punk” builds upon half•alive’s discography nicely. Although it’s not particularly innovative, it demonstrates a steady development of the band’s distinctive sound and provides many strong examples of it. The deep, complex textures that half•alive have become known for are on full display here, with each song sounding at once incredibly distinct and perfectly at home amongst its neighbors.