By Ethan Brown
Album: Prison on a Hill
Label: Tiny Engines
Prison on a Hill is the third full release for the indie/emo band Somos based out of Massachusetts. The album was released ahead of schedule due to the unfortunate passing of guitarist Phil Haggerty, and all donations were given directly to the family to cover any funeral expenses. Haggerty was 28 and had just finished recording Prison on a Hill with his fellow band members, leaving it behind as his final act of creation for the public.
Although I went through a time where I didn’t listen to them for a couple years following their hiatus, Somos is an important band to me. They’re one of the many bands that introduced me to contemporary emo music, and also one of the ones that helped me get through the thick of my depression years as a bitter teenager lashing out at things for no good reason.
It was a pleasant surprise, seemingly bestowed upon me by the hand of fate, when I found out I would be reviewing this album for KTSW. I figured I would give it more publicity in any small way that I can as some form of tribute to a grieving band that unknowingly had a role in my life.
Somos takes a bold leap forward in their style on this album, and they explore different aspects of sound. When compared to either of their previous albums, the maturity in composition is apparent. They take a full dive into the world of synthesizers and produce tracks such as “Absent and Lost” and “My Way to You” that have a pop-rock sort of feel to them. That isn’t to say that building more of a pop sound defines musical maturity, but at a certain point a band must decide to keep putting out the same sound or to develop in a different direction.
Michael Forientino’s message reaches for a certain level of political charge at times where he aligns himself distinctly against the far-right. Specifically the track “New Blood” which addresses gun violence and the ever-growing division between warring factions under the same government. Emotionally charged lyrics are delivered by Forientino’s calming voice and accompanied by a bright style of playing that make the songs sound upbeat, but in reality the subject matter addresses current issues and directly speaks out against injustice and radicalism.
Prison on a Hill may be the final chapter to Somos as the fate of the band remains undetermined, but I believe it stands tall among the band’s other releases. It is a tragedy Somos has been fractured so severely so shortly after reuniting, but Prison on a Hill stands as a symbol for the outspokenness that Haggerty and Somos share.