Win the Day – Win the Day (2012)

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Charlie Gathe wrote and recorded all of these songs, all by himself. In this way, the stirring desire for connection found on Win the Day makes sense. But the album doesn’t play like a conversation held all alone, and it’s got a remarkable musicality to boot.

Gathe, who works as Win the Day out of Lafayette, Louisiana, opens this self-titled release with “Live Again,” a churning rocker marked by an unguarded, stirringly hopeful vocal. The album’s tone is set, then, from the very first: anthematic, stubbornly upbeat, vibrating with guitar-driven energy.

A stuttering metal menace then informs the complex “Save Me,” as that fierce sense of propulsion eventually begins to work in perfect counterpoint to a more contemplative lyric. “A Hole in the Sun” dips deeper into this minor-chord atmosphere but, as with so much of this self-titled release, never quite falls all the way in. As its chorus takes flight behind a series of tough riffs, it becomes clear where Gathe got the name for this album, and his band: Whatever comes their way, Gathe’s characters simply don’t – maybe, can’t – give up. There’s too much left to believe in.

Tracks like “Runaway Queen” and “Walk the World” add a fleet, punk-influenced verve, but offset that with a sweetly conveyed, vocal call and response straight out of the late 1960s. Gathe’s turn at the mic on this track is particularly effective, as he uses echo to convey the unmoored feeling that comes with falling head over heels in love.

“Where Will Tomorrow Go” catches a more spacious, acoustic-based groove, and Gathe downshifts into a matching, very confidential approach to the lyric. “So I’m thinking, and I’m dreaming, and I’m wishing,” he sings, in a lyric that’s representative of the emotional netherworld Win the Day often moves around in. Moments later, as he sings “we are golden” during “Little Angelface,” the track moves into a kind of blissful euphoria – finally free of the things that bind us all to this world’s worries.

These storylines are often lived somewhere between what we understand to be true, and what we hope was so – and the swirling musical landscapes match that sense of outsized expectancy.

Not that there aren’t moments of indecision, and of darker concern: “The Elephant in the Room” is a cutting indictment of those who let greed rule their lives. Meanwhile, “This Mourning” explores the sweeping emptiness that follows losing someone forever to death’s embrace. “To Catch a Rabbit,” which features a series of echoing piano counterpoints, struggles to makes sense of the miscommunications that can split any relationship.

Just that quickly, though, “In Silence” comes bounding in, with a sky-clearing lyric (“If I could have a little time, maybe I would clear what’s inside my mind”) and a gas pedal-mashing hook. “In Your Way” recalls the gritty grooves of “Runaway Queen,” but with a chorus that boasts this billowing, stadium-rock chorus – and an ear-worm guitar solo to boot.

“Phoenix,” this scuffed-up power pop gem, might actually be a stalker song deep down, but it’s so sun-filled that the threat seems harmless. Moments later, Gathe is lost again in reverie with “When We Dance,” as he runs a gurgling noise loop under a series of lovestruck lyrics: “We’ll dance until the end of time,” he sings, even as the chorus is enveloped in a gust of strings. “When our feet leave the ground, trust me you won’t fall down.”

That leads to a difficult revelation, explored in the album-closing “No One”: What happens when our dreams come true – knowing the next move you make will break the spell?

It’s a perfect ending for Win the Day, an album that so often gets lost in passion’s end-over-end ecstasy.

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