The title of Single File's debut album Common Struggles tells you a lot about what you are going to find when you give it a spin. The emo-pop trio focuses on everyday issues like girlfriend trouble, long-distance relationships, love troubles, lying girlfriends, and zombies. Well, maybe that last one isn't so common, but you get the picture. Single File isn't dealing with earth-shaking issues, and despite the tremulously passionate, angst-ridden vocals Sloan Anderson sometimes lapses into, this is a pop record more than an emo record. The slickness of the sound and the underlying sweetness of the melodies, matched with the lyrical innocence and singalong choruses, are pure pop, the angst seems more like a handy pose than anything else. This pop-leaning approach is only a problem if you came to the record seeking a deep and meaningful experience. Otherwise you can just bop along painlessly and sing along with silly lyrics like "Pizzagirl's lovin' me to pieces" or "Meghan is a vegetarian and so are all her peepz." Or you can be glad that the band manages to escape being a cookie-cutter emo-pop band by adding smart little tricks to the arrangements to keep things interesting. Whether it's the acoustic bass and sunshine pop vocal harmonies on "Melody," the whistling on "Girlfriends," or the bongos, organ, and handclaps on "Don't Hate," the band and producer Howard Benson take care to try and make Common Struggles more than a run-of-the-mill album. That they succeed as often as they do is quite impressive. It won't redefine emo-pop or change anyone's life, but it is a breezily pleasant way to pass a half-hour musically.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo