Anthemic high school rock never cut so deep, but as soon as the reedy vocal kick in on “Start Talking” – the opening track on Aye Nako’s debut Unleash Yourself – you know that there is more at stake than would usually strut in these skins. Rarely has such juvenile music sounded like such a necessary catharsis; such pop-punk derived guitar music sounded so fresh and exciting.
“Visitors” has one of the most emotionally wrought guitar kickoffs I’ve ever heard, followed by lyrics <about presenting yourself in a certain, untruthful way in order to avoid scrutiny>. The lead singer’s voice seems almost incapable of handling the lyrics it is producing; words fail her again and again, and we only know this because the tight emotionality behind her voice spills out in manifold triumph over the words she shapes it into. Words fail her because words have to fail her, though as a result we are left with a lot of the very typical, overwrought language one finds in use by younger rock acts.
“In Sickness, Pt. 1” is a calm meditation on a relationship’s disintegration; the drawn out cry of “inflicted upon” couldn’t possibly sound more naïve, nor could it sound more earned. “Howl” almost sounds like it could have been written by Harry and the Potters, and its vocals stand in a nicely rigid contrast to the acoustic strumming that the song starts off with. “Howl” takes a bit of an unfortunate sway once it enters harder rock territory, mostly because it abandons a sweetly nuanced chord progression in favor of amped up pomp, but the vocals and guitar playing manage to carry the track through alright.
The rhythmically clever “In Dog Years” closes Unleash Yourself with a nice bit of slightly distonal scuzz pop. The verses provide for some of the most satisfying guitar playing on the album by way of sharp, decisive rhythmic parts, which offer a nice break from the over-overdriven lead drones. It is very apparent, from “Start Talking” all the way to “In Dog Years,” that Aye Nako are a band with something to say, and not just music to make. Unleash Yourself is as powerful an opening statement as they could have hoped for.