Movements’ first album Feel Something was a real sleeper hit, combining post-hardcore, indie and emo in ways that weren’t necessarily catchy, but arresting and inventive enough to keep you coming back. It felt fresh, with vocalist Patrick Miranda’s odd word choices and brutal honesty in dissecting issues – as difficult as loving someone with depression or dealing with dementia – made it a rewarding listen.
Their second record, No Good Left To Give, retains and builds upon these core elements. Some will remark that it is not as heavy as the earlier material, which is true, but while they draw from many heavy bands, it is not an essential component of their music. Some of the best moments here are the softest and most gentle.
An important distinction, especially with regards to the title, is that while Pat’s depression is a focal point that many songs return to, this isn’t necessarily an album about that depression so much as one about resignation, impotence and futility. It reads not as the overt anger of early Trophy Eyes, nor the raw pain and aggression of Touche Amore, but more akin to the musings on the life of someone who has been defeated by existence itself.
Patrick treats his own existence with an almost epistemic curiosity. There are moments of levity – the fleeting love of ‘Skin to Skin’, the passion and regret of a one-night stand in ‘Moonlight Lines’ – that are tonally consistent with the album’s message and purpose. To me, No Good Left To Give has an underlying theme of tiredness and defeat from the life events of his past few years, which these songs are snapshots of – be they happy, crushing or simply obscure.
Not every track lands quite as flawlessly as the first four do
The opener ‘In My Blood’ sets the tone – a sombre examination of loss. Patrick’s delicate hushed tone over isolated guitars delivers a hauntingly catchy chorus: “The only thing I’ve ever loved/ Is left to gather dust/ I wish you knew/ I keep you in my blood.”
Up next are the three singles, possibly the three most varied songs on the album. ‘Skin to Skin’ is an honest and sweet appraisal of love, the sharp cyclical ascent and descent of the backing instrumental fluctuates as the song creates a synthesis of physicality and spirituality – “Sit back and I’ll paint your portrait/ The softest of lines/ The rest is so unimportant/ Right now you’re mine.”
Lead single ‘Don’t Give Up Your Ghost’ is the gentlest track on the album, returning to the question of how to care for someone with depression when you have it yourself. Pat’s awkward word choices and dark double entendre lend a sincere weight and empathy to his pleas – “I’ve been there before, sitting on the floor, with a sharp idea in my hand”.
‘Tunnel Vision’ is the most classic Movements track on the record with a harsher post-hardcore soundscape and unusual images (“send my illness into the trenches”) that builds to a climactic reprisal of Pat’s despondent screams, which are noticeably absent elsewhere on the record. Savour them while you can.
Moving into the deep cuts, not every track lands quite as flawlessly as the first four do. ‘Garden Eyes’ was co-written by pop producer Andrew Goldstein and, despite no lyrical flaws, the instrumental lands in an uncanny valley between clean pop rock and the hazy melancholy of Turnover or Citizen. It feels like a missed opportunity.
‘Santiago Peak’ comes across as a one-dimensional flip of the pop punk trope of hating your hometown. It’s clearly heartfelt – written about Pat growing to miss his hometown – but the instrumental doesn’t do anything for it. Likewise, the title track is a short 90 second interlude leading into the final track, and while functional, I do wish they had fleshed it out more if they were going to have a two-part final track. Especially considering it’s a title track, it feels like a missed opportunity to really get to the core of what the album is about and set us up for an excellent finish.
In a rock scene that begs for radio play, catchy hooks and easy listening, it is defiant in its insistence that you take multiple listens to get to grips with it
These are, however, situated between some truly excellent elements. ‘12 Weeks’ has a strong claim for best song on the record, with Pat’s voice tying together a vibrant array of styles; the empathy of ‘Living Apology’ again showcases his unusual imagery (“A harsh world for a gentle soul, a tight mask makes a dented skull”); ‘Seneca’ draws an analogy between the titular white deer and an old acquaintance who has just got married, who he sees as the one who got away.
The longing tone contrasts with the proceeding ‘Moonlight Lines’, written about a time he gave into his longing and his subsequent regret. His position as a complex, passionate and unreliable narrator already means the La Dispute influence is on his sleeve but in the second half he even borrows Jordan Dreyer’s shouted spoken-word poetry cadence, even down to the run-on sentences that abruptly pause for breath after each conjunction. No artist could ever compare to La Dispute but the inspiration here is tasteful and well deployed, it feels unique and vibrant, not derivative.
‘Love Took The Last Of It’ is a fitting closer, with dark and unfamiliar imagery tied to upbeat and complex melodies: “build the blame and lay it at my feet/ I’d break my fingers just to point them all at me”. It’s a fitting end that encompasses the strengths of the record as a whole. It isn’t flawless, but it is earnest, sincere, complex, layered and varied. It draws on a number of great inspirations to evolve Movements’ sound without losing the heart of what made the first record stand out. In a rock scene that begs for radio play, catchy hooks and easy listening, it is defiant in its insistence that you take multiple listens to get to grips with it. It is one of the best and most substantive rock-adjacent albums you will hear this year.
Recommended Listening: ‘Don’t Give Up Your Ghost’