Artist: Secret Keeper
Album: Cemetery Feelings
Have you ever thought about what would get played at your funeral? I’ll be totally honest—I have. What songs do you think people will remember you by, associate you with, frame the memories they’d built with you in? It seems like an apropos question (no doubt worn thin by the ghosts of high-school emo kids past), but really, think for a second:
What kind of music would get played in the wake of your passing away?
For Secret Keeper, one of Florida’s best kept secrets (I couldn’t resist waiting until the end to use that one), it isn’t so much about the music that gets played upon one’s passing, but the music made from it. Cemetery Feelings is one of the gloomiest, most downtrodden and emotionally heart wrenching releases to come out in recent history, and a large part of that is no doubt paid in part by a tax of loss and ache. Through its half-hour run-time, Secret Keeper use their debut full-length record to take the listener on a journey through everything that it means to lose—to lose one’s friends, one’s family, to lose romance, love, laughter—and even lose one’s self. While Cemetery Feelings might seem like a complacent and dull title for Florida’s resident sadboys, this record’s atmosphere fits the title beautifully, showing that this act have grown by both age and experience without losing their youthful, stinging angst.
Cemetery Feelings is somewhere between the mid-2000s alt-emo stylings of Armor for Sleep or The Get Up Kids and the post-hardcore/”emo” tinged elements of acts like Hawthorne Heights with a dusting of more mellow and moody acts like Turnover sprinkled over top. What does this really mean? That they’re a catchy, energetic band with moments of abrasive aggression and subtle, serene-but-depressive soundscapes woven in. Songs like the album intro, “Best Friends” walks that line exceptionally well, catchy without feeling overtly poppy—while the record’s lead single (and frontrunner for one of 2019’s best overall songs) “Sycamore” is that same dynamic but revved up, drawing on elements from “Gravestones” and boasting one of the catchiest choruses of the year to make it stand out. There are songs like “Blood Smell” that hit a bit harder and have a little bit more of an edge to them, and songs like “Mother’s Day,” a relative sequel to the acoustic anthem “Gravestones” that lack any sort of instrumental aggression—but compensate by cutting deep with heart-wrenching lyrical content. Where Secret Keeper fit in fairly well in the hole that Balance & Composure left, or alongside the likes of Transit, Armor for Sleep or early-2000s Taking Back Sunday, the fact is that they’re distinctly different, using an immense array of instrumental influences from mellow post-rock (parts of the percussion to the first half of the record feel very akin to those of early Minus the Bear) to abrasive, emotional and jarring “screamo” from the mid-late 2000s (referring to the colloquial screamo, not the “trve” screamo). The band are incredibly diverse all while keeping a very consistent atmosphere throughout Cemetery Feelings—something many bands with several full-length records under their belt are still trying to perfect.
Secret Keeper’s vocal element—and the lyrics that are delivered by the vocal element—are the true selling point to Cemetery Feelings. Anyone familiar with the band’s previous works know what they’re signing up for—especially after Ghost and Losing Sleep—but once more, Cemetery Feelings ups the ante. Frontman Kyle Burrier begins the record with “Best Friends” and “Six,” two tracks which feel, at first, underwhelming to a point. Here, Burrier uses poppier patterns and catchier vocal melodies while still touching on the same dark and emotionally cumbersome topics. This transitions—brilliantly—into material that is more “standard fare” for the band, but not without highlighting Burrier (and Secret Keeper) pushing the envelope and broadening his methods of emotional artistry. Compared to previous records—Losing Sleep especially—there is much less screaming throughout Cemetery Feelings, but when it does rear its head, it does an excellent job of imparting energy, aggression and angst into songs In a way sure to catch the listener off guard. “End.” is one excellent example—while the song is mellow, it features subtle elements of harshly screamed lines that beautifully accent the poetry that serves as the foundation for the record’s finale. Likewise, “Sycamore,” “Blood Smell” and “Best Friends” use screaming in a more traditional—but equally as effective—manner. Where Losing Sleep and Ghost felt as though they were largely directed at lovers past, Cemetery Feelings tackles loss in broader strokes—providing what might be the most important difference between Secret Keeper’s debut full length and their previous works. Sure, songs like “Sycamore” and “End.” Still feel very directed towards the demise of relationships; however, “They’re Watching” feels oddly akin to a sister song of “I Heard That You Died,” whereas “Best Friends” blossoms from the death of friendship. Cemetery Feelings doesn’t come from a single inciting event—no one episode of loss—but rather from loss as a concept, from the gut-twisting, heart-breaking notion of what it can really mean to lose someone or something.
Secret Keeper have outdone themselves on Cemetery Feelings. Coming out of nowhere to become one of my favorite records of 2019, the band expertly blend emotion and energy without missing a beat. Where it might have been nice to feel a little more from the opening two songs, by the time “End.” Is done, the listener might just be in tears, and ready to start the entire process over again. Cemetery Feelings is hard to listen to, in some ways—but in others, it feels incredibly natural. It is catchy, creative and cathartic, and I believe it’s the closest I’ve ever heard any record come to truly capturing the sound of loss.
For Fans Of: Armor for Sleep, Turnover, Transit, Hawthorne Heights.
By: Connor Welsh