REVIEW: Speak Low If You Speak Love – ‘Everything But What You Need’

speak low

Artist: Speak Low If You Speak Love
Album: Everything But What You Need
Genre: Acoustic indie rock
Label: Pure Noise Records

In the punk world, acoustic side projects often carry an unjustified stigma. While many of the records in the “sensitive pop-punk dude with acoustic guitar” genre tend to fall flat due to uninspired songwriting and lackluster production value, Speak Low If You Speak Love stands out brightly. The brainchild and passion project of State Champs guitarist Ryan Scott Graham, Speak Low self-released a record called Everything But What You Need in December of 2013. We loved it here at UTG, but it flew under the radar in the mainstream. The record has now been re-released by Speak Low’s new home, Pure Noise Records, and it still holds up as one of the better acoustic side projects of the past few years.

Speak Low combines Graham’s singer-songwriter inclination with a wonderful campfire-esque backing band that allows the songs to breathe the air of Graham’s individuality. It’s clear after a few listens that Speak Low takes a good deal of influence from fellow solo-project-turned-band Into It. Over It. Throughout the record, Graham’s voice often sounds a lot like Intersections era Evan Weiss and familiar songwriting elements come into play. For example, the distorted cymbal crashes that lead into opener “Art School” come straight from Proper’s “Embracing Facts,” and the bass-heavy rhythmic play in “Adjacent” calls to mind Intersections’ “Spinning Thread.” However, the heavy influence isn’t a bad thing, as Speak Low has more than enough distinct qualities to set them apart from the current emo soundscape. Vocal melodies are carefully crafted and Graham’s soothing voice takes the forefront. Vocally-powerful emo is a rare breed in the age of fuzzy low-fi 90s worship – Everything But What You Need is a nice change of pace.

While most of the record shows Graham and company’s slow side, tracks like “Ruined,” “Guess and Check,” and the aforementioned “Art School” break up the pacing with a more upbeat, catchier take on Speak Low’s breed of acoustic pop. “Guess and Check” is a fun track with cutesy lyrical themes about young love, very reminiscent of Never Shout Never’s “What Is Love?” – moments like this are rare in the record mostly consisting of heartbreak and sadness, but they do wonders to keep the listener interested across twelve tracks. A few songs here check in under the two-minute mark and only feature Graham with acoustic accompaniment, which serve as beautiful interludes and break the record up into easily digestible sections.

There are a few missteps, like “Tiny Furnace” which lasts for nearly six minutes and long overstays its welcome. “Adjacent” is mostly forgettable and boring, and “A List Of Things” is a bit too high in the track listing. However, Everything But What You Need is a very good record that’s sure to get many plays as warmer weather begins to become more consistent. As Everything But What You Need consists solely of older material, Speak Low is sure to beat it in albums to come – I’m excited to see what’s next for Ryan Scott Graham.

SCORE: 7.5/10
Review written by John Bazley (follow him on Twitter)

John Bazley

John Bazley was raised in central New Jersey by the romantic aura of the Asbury Park beachfront, punk rock, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. He is still trying to figure all of this stuff out.

In addition to UTG, John has contributed to Alternative Press and Full Frequency Media. Follow him on Twitter for pictures of his dog.
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