It’s good to be living in Texas anytime Blue October releases a new album. It’s where they’re from, where their biggest fans reside, and they always do something special for their Texan friends.
“Sway” was released on August 20th and the band spent its first week performing acoustic sets and doing autograph sessions at six Barnes and Noble stores across the Lone Star State, as well as an intense 24-song CD release show at the House of Blues in Dallas, during which they played every song on the new album with the exception of the instrumental “To Be.”
The songs on “Sway” are remarkably different from the material on the last Blue October release, 2011’s “Any Man In America.” The powerful passion and emotion in Justin Furstenfeld’s songwriting is as strong as ever but all of the lyrics full of anger, resentment, and desperation have been replaced with words of hope, joy, and gratitude.
(Photo by Terry Walsh)
Justin’s newfound sobriety, along with the bliss that his new wife and daughter have filled him with, completely changed his attitude. I recently read that some fans have selfishly worried that a happy Justin would hurt the band’s sound, but in reality, he sounds more inspired and invigorated than ever.
Tracks like “Angels In Everything” and “Things We Do At Night” have the potential to be big commercial hits, and with no label backing, “Sway” is currently third on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart, thanks in large part to the strength of lead single “Bleed Out.” To gauge how good a song really is, however, is to hear it played live.
As soon as Blue October hit the House of Blues stage, you could feel a different level of excitement from them. Opening with the title track from the new album, they had the sold-out crowd mesmerized as Justin shouted, “Come on Dallas! Dance with me!” From that point on, they treated fans to a 2-hour-long, cleverly put together mix of hits, deep tracks, and new songs that kept their most faithful fans riveted.
(Photo by Terry Walsh)
Harder rockers like “Put It In” and “James” cranked the heat up, while “The Worry List” and “The Feel Again (Stay)” moved many to tears. The intensity of the extended instrumental jam at the end of “Debris” was mind-boggling, and the honesty and beauty of “Fear” and “Not Broken Anymore” left us all stunned. Violinist Ryan Delahoussaye and guitarist CB Hudson played to melodic perfection, and energetic drummer Jeremy Furstenfeld pounded the skins with a crescendo.
Sing-along moments during “Into The Ocean” and “The Getting Over It Part” and a slow-dance opportunity during “Congratulations” were perfectly delivered, and put smiles on every face in the room. By the end of the show, we were drenched with sweat and emotionally spent. So many of today’s Alternative bands are forgettable, but what sets Blue October apart from the rest is the songwriting.
When you listen to “Sway”, or any of their albums, the words Justin Furstenfeld wrote will resonate with you, and you bond with the songs. You feel like you know him because he bares his soul in each song, and you start to really care about him. After hearing Justin express his pain during the “Any Man In America” era, you’ll find yourself rooting for the good things in his life to continue after listening to “Sway.” It’s a truly uplifting record, and one of the best of the year.
Tim Taylor is a writer for Zoiks! Online, and is based in Dallas, TX. Follow him on Twitter at @nutgoat. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.