Album Review: Upside Down by Set It Off

Album Review: Upside Down by Set It Off

Liz Keller

By Liz Keller ’17, Arts and Entertainment Editor

From Tampa, Florida, pop-rock band Set it Off released their third studio album, Upside Down, via Equal Vision records on October 7, 2016. The band consists of singer Cody Carson, guitarists Dan Clermont and Zach DeWall, and drummer Maxx Danizger. On their previous albums, Cinematics and Duality, the band had more orchestral punk and pop-punk sounds respectively. However, the quartet decided to return to the pop-rock sound featured on their earliest EPs: Baby Don’t You Tripajaharda and Calm Before The Storm. However, the band’s meaningful message and use of horns persevered. Though the sound of the band has changed, Set It Off are still unapologetically themselves on their new album.

The first song, Uncontainable, is a sassy, catchy fight song. In true Set It Off style, the beginning of the song features singer Carson talking to the listener. The message, that you should fight to be yourself, is framed around a boxing match. The song is a refusal to back down and do what everyone else wants you to do. The next song on the album, Something New, is also about not backing down and about questioning what you are ‘supposed’ to do. Something New, like many Set It Off songs, features horns played by guitarist Dan Clermont. The song is a bridge between catchy pop and meaningful pop-punk which makes it accessible for many listeners but not boring. Though the band doesn’t have a bassist, this track still features a strong bass line.

Next up is Life Afraid, which is more pertinent than ever after the results of the election. The song is a call to anyone that is a little bit different to be themselves and to not let fear limit them. It is a reminder that even when life sucks, you can make it though and change the world. The song features a call and repeat section which will be a crowd pleaser at concerts. The song sounds jazzier than Something New and is also quite upbeat and high-energy. The title track, Upside Down, is about the desperation to become famous and is an amusing change from the themes presented earlier in the album, though it still focuses on not letting other people bring you down. The song features a lot of amusing situations that demonstrate that every cloud has a silver lining, such as that losing your job means you have more time to ride your bike.

The fifth song, Want, has a very different sound from the first four songs on the album. The beginning of the song is creepy and almost sounds like the backtrack to a sci-fi or horror movie. It represents the despair of people who realize that something is wrong, but can do nothing to fix it. With the line “There’s no need to kill the lights”, the song harkens back to the song Kill The Lights off of Cinematics, which calls the listener to cut out the liars and cheaters. Even though it may not be what you want to do, you have to cut out those that hurt you. Diamond Girl is also very different from anything else Set It Off has put out before. The song sounds like an older jazz song and musically it feels to me like a Christmas song. It is about a girl whose boyfriend has cheated on her, and even though she may not think so, she is beautiful and worth something. The song showcases that no matter what, women are beautiful and valuable.

The next song, Tug of War, is one that you can’t help but dance to. The song, like many other Set It Off songs, is about giving up on relationships that just aren’t working, doing what is best for yourself, and refraining from returning to a toxic relationship. The lyric “I’ll be damned if I sing another swan song” is a reference to Swan Song, on Cinematics, which is also about failed relationships. It is followed by a verse about how easily things can go wrong. However, the song fights against it with the simple message that you should leave a relationship that makes you feel unhappy. The eighth song, Admit It, is about taking responsibility for your actions. A new route for Set It Off the song features some rapping. It is also a long string of idioms such as “you made your bed, now lie in it” and “you dug your own grave.”However, according to the song, “The truth won’t set you free” and the consequences of your actions will stay with you.

Hypnotized is a song that, in the beginning, sounds a bit more similar to what the band has done previously. It starts out with the ticking of a clock and a piano. Hypnotized features some angrier vocals which were prevalent on both Cinematics and Duality, however there is a voice that sounds somewhat similar to a radio voice, which is new. This song also features rap as well, though Set It Off can’t be considered a rap group. It is a continuation of the themes on the album that people should leave abusive relationships and that it is not their fault, but the fault of the other person in the relationship.

Contrarily, Never Know, is a bit more straightforward and more traditionally Set It Off than the middle chunk of the album. This song has a theme more similar to the first section of the album: that you need to take chances and be yourself. Taking risks is simply a part of life and growing up. It is much more light-hearted and very catchy as well, providing a break from the thematically heavy songs that preceded it.

Once again, the album takes a different turn with the song Crutch. This is about unrequited love. The person in the song would do anything for the person they love, and it is destroying them. The song is also much slower than many other songs on the album and is more sad than hopeful or angry. The final song of the album, Me w/o Us, is the ballad of the album. Also about love, this song is much happier. The narrator of the song begs the person he loves to have faith in him. However, he is also desperate and says that he would be nothing without her.

Upside Down is appropriately named because it introduces fans to a completely new side of Set It Off, which is nothing to shy away from. The band has continued to evolve throughout their career and are now a group of jazzy, pop-rock musicians with a touch of R&B and rap strewn throughout. Though they have ventured away from the orchestral sound that gained them many of their fans, I believe that this album will still be pleasing to many of them, since it still encompasses many of the themes that Set It Off is known for.