Music Review—Bristol to Memory

Band: Bristol to Memory
Single: Watch Out
Album: Hello Anxious (Spring 2024)

Originating from Southern California, Bristol to Memory is an indie/rock/alt band that seamlessly weaves together alternative rock, emo rock, pop, and punk influences.  Their music not only taps into the nostalgia of the early 2000s but also injects a contemporary indie spirit.  The band, who formed back in 2005, took inspiration for their name from the cross streets in Santa Ana, the shared hometown of frontman Rory O’Connell, his brother/bassist Kealan O’Connell, and childhood friend/drummer Alex Buster.  The addition of Daniel Wonacott, former guitarist for Finch, completed the lineup, propelling the band into a musical journey aimed at crafting melodies infused with nostalgic excitement, dynamic guitar progressions, thrilling choruses, and poetic lyrics.

While I haven’t heard of these guys until very recently, I found myself immediately intrigued upon learning that their newest single, Watch Out, carries a sound reminiscent of Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Panic! At The Disco.  Given my recently renewed interest in emo music, I was eager to check them out and hear what they’re all about.

Watch Out serves as the lead single for the band’s second full-length album, Hello Anxious, set for release on Wiretap Records in early 2024.  Accompanying the song’s debut, the band also released a pretty cool video for it, which listeners can view on YouTube.

The song itself is pretty solid.  Admittedly, it took me a few listens to fully figure out whether the sound and vocals were up my alley, but eventually, it all clicked.  While comparing the band to Fall Out Boy may not be entirely fair, considering the notable difference in production levels, the vocal style does carry a My Chemical Romance flavour that my inner teenage girl can appreciate.

Now, while I’m generally not the biggest fan of the type of screaming vocal techniques Bristol to Memory utilizes, I think Rory pulls of the screams quite well.  Having said that, I am a bit confused as to the vocal effects he seems to be using; he seems to have such good control over both his clean vocals and screams that, at times, those distortive effects seem almost too much and maybe even unnecessary.  However, I will admit they work well in Watch Out, where they contribute to creating an angsty, tortured sound that complements the lyrics and the chaotic ambiance of the music video.

The lyrics themselves serve as a homage to the classic tale of a love-lost Frankenstein, whose destiny appears bound to suffering.  The figurative language mirrors that of Mary Shelley’s novel, portraying the singer as Frankenstein, ruined by the monster he created.  Watch Out deviates from typical love songs, taking listeners on a profound literary journey filled with emotional language and raw melodies.

While I’m still a bit on the fence when it comes to Rory’s singing style and his unique grit, I am absolutely adding their new album to my to-listen list.  You’ve got my attention, Bristol to Memory!