REVIEW: Cordova – If Only I Could Focus [2013]


Artist: Cordova

Album: If Only I Could Focus


How often is it that you can actually remember your dreams? Statistically speaking, I’d be willing to say not very; the average person dreams as many as eight times per night, so, assuming you wake up in the morning (or early afternoon) remembering a vivid, intense adventure, you could only be remembering one-eighth of the story. Where does the other seven-eighths go? The answer is a simple one–or at least now it is: Cordova’s debut full-length album, If Only I Could Focus. Filled with enough atmosphere to lull the listener into a surreal pseudo-dream state, spiked with just the right number of violent outbursts to jolt them back into the realm of the conscious, If Only I Could Focus is a wonderful, atmospheric release which finds itself straddling the line between scenic post-hardcore and explosive emotional hardcore with an ease that will make the works of Cordova’s peers swoon.

The first thing that will strike the listener about Cordova is their mastery of instrumental atmosphere. Cordova are capable of painting brilliant soundscapes with dynamic, splashy drumming and stunning, vibrant chords. Tracks like “The Unknown,” and the almost-post-rock ballad “What I Think About You” display this brilliantly. Rolling hills of fluid, ethereal sound go as far as the eyes can see (or rather, the ears can here). Pastures of lush, green, Edenic harmony seem almost unending, until, with a flick of the wrist, stellar soundscapes are cast asunder into emotional, violent discord. “If Only I Could Focus” and the indicatively-titled “Bastards” are evidence of this. Slow, melodic chords and subtle, smooth drumming morph into rapid, furious riffing and violent, explosive percussion. The smooth, soft sounds which lull the listener into a half-dream are the very same ones which change like a chameleon into surreptitiously stormy bouts of din and chaos. This instrumentation is a canvas which is vibrant and brilliant on it’s own, but is only amplified by Cordova’s stunning vocal performance and lyrical prowess.

Vocals are another element which guide If Only I Could Focus along its sleep-cycle like rhythm through deceptive, dreamy calms and sonically explosive episodes. If Only I Could Focus’ lead single, “She’s Broke, Not Broken,” alongside “Bliss is Ignorance” is beautiful evidence of the use of subtle crooning to impart bitter, emotionally poignant lyrics which cause the listener to emotionally sync completely with the track. Meanwhile, the volatile break-neck track “Bastards” is immature in the best ways possible. Where there was once subtle, smooth crooning, there are lacerating screams and noxious outbursts of unfiltered emotion. Some tracks, like “She’s Broke, Not Broken” combine these brilliantly, layering soft singing with faded, harsh shouts and yells. Moments like that track’s climax are evidence of the band’s prodigal use of vocals to create an enveloping atmosphere for the listener. Completely swaddled in dynamic vocal harmonies, there is nothing the listener can do–or would want to do–other than sit there and absorb every syllable. While this sonic Eden is nothing short of an idyllic blending of influences from a cavalcade of influences, not every track sees the same level of glory–not every dream is quite as memorable, so to speak.

While “She’s Broke, Not Broken,” “Bastards,” and “Bliss is Ignorance” are all examples of Cordova functioning as a beautifully well-oiled machine, excelling at whatever sound they find themselves aiming for, some tracks find the listener wishing If Only I Could Focus could do just that, and focus. “Freestyle” and “When We Touch” in particular suffer from an odd, blurry and almost sloppy sound, which sounds neither wrong nor intentional–just unrehearsed. While moments found like the ones in those songs are incredibly few and far between, they are still there, disrupting the ebb and flow of the album’s serene tide. More often than not, however, the vocals and lyrics are guiding the listener by the hand through a wake of beauty and angst. Whether it’s the absolutely stunning lyrics and straightforwardly emotive climax of “Bliss is Ignorance” or the captivating story told within “She’s Broke, Not Broken,” Cordova set out to force the listener to truly feel the atmosphere in each track, and, 90% of the time, they succeed without a single hiccup.

If you’re trying to remember what it was you dreamed about last night, perhaps Cordova’s debut release, If Only I Could Focus is a good place to start. Packed with ambient, melodic emotion and hard-hitting harmonies, Cordova are capable of creating a dynamic not dissimilar to a dream-wake cycle. Drawing from an entire arsenal of post-rock, post-hardcore, emotional hardcore and metalcore influences, Cordova create a completely immersive, diverse and multi-faceted experience, even if they do so at the risk of seeming scatterbrained.



By: Connor Welsh

For Fans Of: Thursday, La Dispute, MaybeSheWill, Shindu