Killer Cuts; Distance or Decay

Distance or Decay pairs melody with harmony, highlighting pop punk band In her Own Words on their way to being a couple steps short of the musical (and industrial) apex.


Antonio Llanos, Staff Writer

On May 27, 2022, LA natives and Pop-punk quintet, In Her Own Words, released their third full-length album “Distance or Decay,” more than a sequel from their previous release “Steady Glow” and a melodically hardcore echo from their initial release “Unfamiliar.”  The album is a starved and well-crafted demand for attention, not just from new fans who would have never heard of them, but for the effort they consistently deliver.  That being said, I’m  concerned about the band’s musical direction. 

           A lot could be said about this album, from vocalist Joey Flemming’s sensual, yet gripping, melodies to the intricate, powerful guitar structures.  No matter how far the band leads the listener from the original melody, they always come full circle, breaking down a common chord structure and experimenting with the sound in the process.  In short, Distance or Decay pairs melody with harmony in a way that highlights a pop punk band on their way to being a few steps short of the musical (and industrial) apex. 

“Distance or Decay” suffers from one aspect of the title to the other, either being too far removed from the band’s intended sound, or songs that are suffering from overproduction and reliance on simple musical ideas.  There are a number of slow tracks that stall the progression of the album. Where “Steady Glow” manages to blend both softer and heavier, energetically driven tracks, “Distance or Decay” pushes those tracks  to the forefront while leaving the latter half of the album to meddle in the emo-pop realm, making it sound as though the album is composed of two different EPs.  Songs like” Miracle” or “I Still Feel Her In The Air” sound like overproduced demos which were not fully fleshed out, essentially disrupting the flow of the album and killing the energetic foundation solidified with the initial five songs.  

           The album begins with a drum fill that is more than enticing within the count of the actual song. The track solidifies an accessible melodic pop sound, but it is still observant of their more punk/easycore roots. The first track, “Circles,” features fellow pop punk band, State Champs vocalist, Derek DiScano, who patiently takes a back seat to Flemming’s sensual but emotionally foundational vocals. These vocals, paired with guitarist Ian Berg’s and Andretti Amalel’s back-and-forth intricate guitar work, set up for a harmonic-melody combination that perfectly complements one another down to the pauses in actual sound.  When DiScano finally joins in on the song, he perfectly complements Flemming’s musical foundation and even contrasts it with a musical investment rooted in an aggressively gritty performance that aids in bridging and concluding the track very well. 

           “Circles” is followed by “Leaving Forever,” a more pop-infused, bass-driven hardcore song, which is the perfect follow up not only for its stark contrast, but for its well-carried Easycore sound from the band’s first album “Unfamiliar”.  Lyrically, “Leaving Forever” is a cathartic exploration that explores a person’s decision to stay in a relationship, questioning if the person is even valued. Flemming quickly switches his vocal style, contrastingly complementing the heavy guitars and rapid-pulsing bass drum that carries the track to its open-ended fruition.  It seems like the answer is simple: leave if you do not feel as though you are valued. If only the heart worked like this. The track emulates the internal struggle of mentally being shirked off and feeling unwanted.  Lyrically, the track is rooted in the stereotypes of an unhealthy relationship. Flemming iterates how miscommunication broke him from the inside out. This is not screamed, or even belted, but sung with a casual tone that solidifies how broken the relationship is. It forces the listener to think about relationships they might be holding onto, and it makes them think about their decision to let go.

           “Lights Out” is actually the second single, which came out at the beginning of May, prior to the full album’s release. This track carries a combination of the energy of the first two tracks, perfectly honing in on the modern pop punk sound. Lyrically, the track is about losing the spark of youth and questioning how things lose their curiosity, subtly referring to the loss of innocence and youth.  “Bring me back to when the timing was right, cause this time around// Yeah its over and done and I’m down and out// Maybe all this talk is crazy, thoughts in my head.”  Flemming’s emotional pleas take the listener back to a time when accepting truth and the results of youthful attempts. It is one of the most relatable points on the album, stacking youthful desire with emotional indifference and questioning the validity of such a situation.      

           Other guests on this album include Jonathan Vigil of The Ghost Inside, as well as Sierra Annie from Sierra Annie Band, recently (as of May) continuing as a solo act – Sierra Annie.

           “Caving In” is the second-to-last track on the album. It highlights life at its lowest points and once again makes you question all your relationships. Flemming’s vocals solidify the album’s theme and emote the feeling of being wanted but unwanted. Therein lies the problem. This is what keeps the album from being really great. It has to do with everything musically. “In Her Own Words thrived with “Unfamiliar” because it was about breaking ground as a band, putting out a full-length record and the weight it has on each of the members of the band.  “Steady Glow” built off that success and explored the ultimate feeling of loss after the death of Flemming’s father, further delivering on a more melancholy album while still bringing forth a positive energy.  

My concern for the bands future is highlighted in the same vein as my critique for the album.. Other bands who have taken this “downhill” option end up going through changes that either lead to the band’s break up, or drastic change that turns fans off from listening to their music.  I understand that bands have to go through some evolution and maturation to survive the demand of the music industry, both musically and individually (as people).  With that acknowledgement, how a band approaches change can be very telling and ultimately change the trajectory of the types of artists they are.   I hope In her Own Words breaks from this mold and realigns to a trajectory that pushes them to where they desire to be.  

This album gets 4/5