Sorry State Of MindHopeless Records
By Cole Faulkner
For most, Anthony Raneri is synonymous with the success of long running pop-punk band Bayside. His smooth, calculated and above all sincere vocals make their mark one carefully enunciated syllable at a time in a way matched only by peers like The Smoking Popes and Motion City Soundtrack. Crisp piano ballads add to further emotional peaks without every degrading to the cheesy territory that so many pop-punk bands end up in. Put differently, Raneri offers a plethora of reasons to become a fan.
It’s only natural then than Raneri would explore the possibilities of a solo career on the side. That being said, with the release of his debut EP, Cathedrals, the album wasn’t quite as striking as it perhaps could (should?) have been. While not weak by any means, it just lacked the same conenction typical of Bayside. Fast forward to Raneri’s follow up EP, Sorry State Of Mind, and something seems to have clicked. This time around the tracks sound more genuine, choruses more heartfelt, and melodies crisper.
Starting with the sort of swanky, soulful vocal dominance of nearly-instrumental opener “Smithereens,” the simple but supportive guitar serves to place Raneri’s lyrical talents front and centre from the earliest moment. From here Raneri takes a stab at confronting church authorities in the line, “Any god that don’t work on Sunday, No god that could work for me, You take what was written with man’s hands, How’d you know that was what he means, How could you know any more than me.” His blunt question serves as a quiet departure from Bayside’s more secular content, but maintains an approachable air in his simple assertion over the personal nature of his faith.
Shortly thereafter, “Gone” ushers in Sorry State Of Mind’s first full multi-instrumental track. Meshing combinations of subtle autotuned backup vocals with beats born of soundboard thumps and snaps, Raneri creates the perfect combination of catchy and casual. An acoustic guitar grounds the verse between highly produced choruses, defying convention by maintaining artistic integrity in spite of all the bells and whistles. Conversely, “No Good” follows with one of the disc’s simplest and most emotionally in tune piano ballads. “Take it from me a saint, who hurt the one he tried to save,” sings Raneri as he burdens the weight of misguided intent. For a slow, four-minute tear-jerker, the effect works well.
Of course there are some just plain old easy to fall in with pop-rock goodies scattered about as well. The title track houses perhaps the most upbeat infusion of acoustic strums over Raneri’s bounding piano notes and oh-so-honest vocal delivery. The shout of a jazzy saxophone pipes up at about the midway point with emblematic effect. It’s really remarkable how Raneri commands such tight control over his craft. The same can be said of “I Never Want To Fix Myself Again,” in which Raneri tunefully drags each line’s final syllable across all sorts of escalating and descending octaves.
And if you’re not convinced about Anthony Raneri’s knack for honest and relatable tunes, then just try to resist “Run And Stumble.” Wrapping up Sorry State Of Mind in simple acoustic fashion, Raneri presents heartfelt imagery in a way that reveals the depth of a man in his early thirties finally learning to live life for what it is (the passage about his young daughter being one of the most precious and personal of his career). It’s a track that simply challenges you to embrace life, warts and all, and be a better person. Ultimately, this unapologetic realism is where Sorry State Of Mind succeeds most readily.
Anthony Raneri’s latest solo outing marks some of his best material to date. Sorry State Of Mind is personal, reflective and relatable in the best of ways, and is both a no brainer for fans and a wholly appreciable starting point for those curious as to Raneri’s talents.