ALBUM REVIEW: half•alive’s jaw-dropping new record ‘Conditions of A Punk’
This is an album you cannot miss.
Hailing from Long Beach, California, Half Alive (stylized as half•alive) are an alt-pop trio known for their complex contemporary choreography and invigorated modern takes on time-honored alternative traditions. Made up of lead vocalist Josh Taylor, bassist J. Tyler Johnson, and drummer Brett Kramer, the band has been working hard since their first EP, released in 2017, titled 3. They’ve slowly garnered a larger and more cultish fanbase through the release of their first studio album Now, Not Yet, second EP Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 1, and their subsequent tours, including opening for twenty one pilots on much of the Takeover Tour. Now, half•alive has released the newest gem in their discography: Conditions of A Punk.
The history of Conditions of A Punk is surprisingly complex. This album is the release immediately following the release and tour of Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 1. Up until the announcement of the album, many fans were expecting the next release to be the second part to GMYS. That is until September 9th and 10th, when the band released two videos on Instagram showing the defacement of any apparent “part two” (the first video reveals the band crossing “Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 2” off of Taylor’s back, and the second shows the band burning a flag emblazoned with “Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 2” in an oil drum). On September 12th, half•alive’s Instagram posted a cryptic video with the caption: “… we didn’t need Part 2, we needed something beyond it.” Lo and behold, on October 14th, the band announced the title of the new record. And, without a doubt, fans definitely got something beyond a “part two.”
Conditions of A Punk is an 18-track escapade into the ups and downs and desires of love. As Josh Taylor puts it in his post to the band’s Instagram account on December 2nd, “…it’s the breaking and mending of a heart, it’s the realigning of a soul… loving requires a very painful and ongoing death of ego.” He says that if Now, Not Yet was more “cerebral,” then their sophomore release is more “emotional.” Conditions of a Punk is a project that simultaneously deals with corporeal love between people, but also the more metaphysical love that one can have for themselves, for humanity, and, in Taylor’s case, for God. Capital “L” Love.
Interestingly, Conditions of A Punk is not disconnected from Give Me Your Shoulders, Part 1. You don’t have to be an eagle-eyed fan to notice that all of the tracks from GMYS make it onto the COAP tracklist. The placement of these tracks is seemingly random, however, on a more thorough analysis, they are not. The band reposted one fan to their story who said “[this album had] home and adventure.” Indeed, that’s what this interpolation of older material accomplishes; just as love and emotions can at times feel completely foreign, and at other times feel intimately and unrelentingly familiar, the feelings conjured by the older tracks feel much more recognizable than the feelings that the new tracks invoke, no matter if those feelings are positive or negative. Instead of plastering the new album on the front or back half of GMYS, half•alive leaves long-time fans constantly wondering whether the next song or feeling they experience will be something brand new or something they’ve experienced along with the band 1000 times.
Musically, this album sets a new bar for half•alive, as it is easily their most sonically mature and interesting album. Just when you might begin to think that their shtick of dance-heavy and uncanny alt-pop is getting predictable, the band is able to flip everything you expect on its head. This album explores some of the loudest and softest, slowest and fastest moments that half•alive’s discography has to offer. This album, full of rocking, gritty basslines on songs like Everything Machine, subdued synthesizers on songs like High Up, and drumming in ⅞ time on Move Me is as pleasing to the ear as it is to the brain and heart.
Conditions of A Punk is an album centered around its lyrics and story. As previously detailed, it’s, in the simplest terms, an album about love. However, the subject matter is infinitely more complex. COAP delves into the delicacy and enigma of desire, the space between love and lust and desperation. The lyrics themselves mirror the rawness and vulnerability with which a human being can love; the songs don’t shy away from giving into corporeal fervor with Hot Tea or unabashed yearning with Move Me, both tracks that originated on GMYS. Taylor, Johnson, and Kramer are able to explore so many facets of what it means to be both in and out of a relationship, existing emotionally in purgatory, heaven, and hell, all at the same time.
If you’re looking for an album to dance to, to feel to, to sing along to, and, most importantly, to unseat whatever project you think is the best album of 2022, then check out Conditions of A Punk, the newest album from half•alive.