This rock band out of Florida might be seen as a one-hit wonder for many, after they gained considerable attention in 2006 with the hit single “Face Down.” The song has amassed over 200 M streams on Spotify and no other song of theirs has come close to reaching that height of popularity.
For myself though, along with many other angsty youth, it was one of the greatest things I’d ever heard and there was no way I was going to let the band pass me by. The accompanying debut album Don’t You Fake It is an absolute goldmine of emo rock anthems and it is one of the most influential albums of my life.
By the time their 2009 sophomore Lonely Road was released, the band had completely fallen out of the brief spotlight that they had. The lead single “You Better Pray” got some time on Much Music but it didn’t seem to get much attention.
The sophomore album lost a bit of the angsty emo appeal of the first, as the band took on a more inspirational rock approach in a way. It didn’t diminish the band’s charm at all though for me. I probably spent more time with the sophomore than the first and it’s a toss up between which one I’d say is the best. Either way, they are two of my favourite albums from my teenage years.
2009 was the last of my CD buying days and, after that, my relationship with music and how I discovered it began to change. I began to transition from relying on Much Music for new music, to finding it on my own. Because of that, I missed 2010’s The Hell or High Water EP and their following third full-length Am I the Enemy in 2011.
It was probably 2012 when I finally realized this, and I listened to the EP as soon as I could. I was surprised to see they were pushing a bit of a heavier sound, incorporating more guttural screams into their songs. I loved what I heard though as they still held onto some huge rock hooks with songs like “Choke” and “Don’t Hate.”
Funnily enough though, I hardly remember a thing from Am I the Enemy. Skimming it now, I’m hearing a super strong rock sound less reliant on screams, still holding a strong melodic presence. I feel like I must have listened to it and I definitely remember the catchy title track. But, maybe I owe it to myself to spend some more time with that album.
I can say for a fact that I missed 2013’s Et Tu, Brute? EP. I vaguely remember seeing that it existed but for one reason or another, I never listened to it.
2014 was the year that I began sharing pictures of the albums I was listening to (no reviews, just pictures) and, so, I have picture proof that I listened to RJA’s fourth album, fittingly titled 4. I lost a lot of faith in the band with that album. The rock-strong songs just weren’t doing it for me and I didn’t find that same feeling their older stuff gave me.
After that album, I really felt like that was it for the band. They disappeared and I was thinking, even if they did return, they would never be able to move me again.
Boy, was I wrong.
Again, I let them slip an album past me with 2018’s The Awakening. I didn’t come across it until nearly a year after its release, and I went into it with low expectations. They continued to push this guitar-solo type of rock music that I generally can find a bit tiresome but frontman Ronnie Winter sounded as good as ever before and I was shocked by some of the infectious melodies.
While, of course, it would never move me like their first two albums, it showed me that these guys were still in it and that I shouldn’t give up on them.
And, finally, that brings us to this latest EP.
I was not too stoked on the lead single “A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Called LA,” released all the way back at the end of January. The title alone was silly, and the sappy lyrics detailing the formation of a romantic relationship felt so unlike what I would expect from RJA. I liked the frantic pace and the overall feel though, and I couldn’t deny the strength of the songs final 90 seconds. Despite talking about buying a wedding ring from Tiffany’s, the half-time outro proves pretty dam rewarding, and I’ll take musical feeling over the lyrics any day.
The second single “Brace Yourself” had me sold much more easily. The song has such a modern day rock sound to it with these wicked crunching guitar tones with that real juicy kind of texture that just oozes through the speakers. And holy hell, does the chorus ever pack a punch. It’s a fitting song for a world in distress, encouraging you to “brace yourselves in case of emergency.” It really is wonderfully powerful and the drop-in to the chorus is one of the heaviest doses of rock emotion I’ve felt this year.
While “Brace Yourself” might be the peak of what this EP has to offer, I am stunned by the quality of these other songs.
“Don’t Buy Into It” has them taking a stand against transphobia, Trump’s wall, and hate in general. There’s not much subtlety to their lyrics but it makes it easy to follow. Ultimately, I’m just looking for something that makes me feel good, and this song drives in such a strong feel-good melody in the hook.
They invested in a video for the heavy-handed “Is This The Real World?.” The song smashes so hard, packing another massive punch with the chorus. There’s a bit of glitchy synth-rock feel to it within the pulverizing guitar work. You also get some nasty screams from Ronnie in the bridge breakdown.
It doesn’t let up there. “Stuck On Repeat” is another absolute rocker with a great sing-a-long hook, and closer “Please Unfriend Me” is about as heavy as things get on the EP. They beat you with another drop-in crashing chorus and pull off a very strong move by letting off the gas pedal for one bar at the end of the chorus and then dropping right back into the crashing beat. It makes for an awesome little surprise.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has shown me that they’ve still got some fight left in them. This EP blew my expectations away, balancing an aggressive rock sound with massive melodies supported by Ronnie Winter’s fabulous vocals. So happy to hear this quality of music from these guys and who knows what to expect next.