On April 24, what would have been Georgetown Day, Back to Yours members Bryce Kassalow (COL ’21), Tommy Levin (COL ’20), Daniel Luttway (COL ’20), Aiden Jones (COL ’20) and Jiaan Mansuri (COL ’20) came together in their basement in Burleith to give their fellow students a taste of their upcoming debut album “Where Are We Going.” The student band, having played several Washington, D.C., venues since the fall of 2017 and releasing six singles prior to the album’s release, has been rather successful thus far. On “Where Are We Going,” however, Back to Yours presents a project that, while promising, is lukewarm in execution.
“Where Are We Going” is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the songs indicate the group is first and foremost made up of college students – not professionals – but others, such as the catchy and upbeat “Feeling,” sound like they might be found on a carefully curated Spotify indie-rock playlist.
Altogether, the group shows promise, and a listen through the entire album is worthwhile, with each track offering a different insight into the group’s unique sense of humor and multicolored soundscape. Even when the album’s mixed nature persists, it often fits with the record’s themes of ambiguity and uncertainty.
According to vocalist and guitarist Kassalow, “Where Are We Going” attempts to simultaneously serve as a reflection on the uncertainty of post-graduation life and the future of the band as well as an appreciation for the formative time they have already spent together.
The album’s title track also serves as the introduction to the project, but the song feels like it should belong at the end, asking a question that aptly reflects the band’s current outlook on life. Throughout the album, over a calm acoustic guitar, lead singer Luttway gently reflects on new beginnings and complicated endings.
In this uncertain time, as the majority of the band members graduate and Kassalow wonders what is left of his time at Georgetown University, “Where Are We Going” would have neatly closed the door on the group’s adventures throughout college. Because the album is focused on the band’s journey, it feels unnatural to begin at the journey’s end.
The body of the album reflects the college experience and mindset of the bandmates, such as “Bowl Song,” a lo-fi track about wanting someone they love to come hang out with them. The track, which features a pleasant, muted guitar and a straightforward chord progression, illustrates the band’s roots as a group of college friends. The simplicity of tracks like “Bowl Song” makes them stand out from some of the others with intense lyrical play that can be hit or miss.
Compare the songs “Mango” and “Mino Man,” two of the more lyrically complex pieces, both featuring plenty of metaphors and wordplay. What makes “Mango” a more enjoyable listen is that the song’s exciting instrumentals match the quickly paced vocals and witty lyrics. Lyrics like “If you were a mango / Would you be FDA approved?” are jovial and comical, fitting the upbeat tempo that defines the song. The song clearly does not take itself too seriously.
On the other hand, “Mino Man,” a song about a Domino’s Pizza delivery man, relies on the same comical wordplay but is much more serious in tone. Luttway playfully sings about a girl who wants “another piece” of love from a delivery driver over a rather dramatic and frantic instrumental. The resulting dynamic is a mixture of lyrical content and tone that do not always mesh well.
Another standout is the song “Feeling,” a track that seems to come straight out of a teenage rom-com. The song’s punchy chorus and simple upbeat melody work well together. It is this sound that perfectly captures the essence of the group.
A lot of work has clearly gone into “Where Are We Going,” and it comes through in the group’s unique sound.
“We’ve now been playing some of these songs for over two years, and they each remind us of different incredible moments we’ve shared as a band and as friends,” Kassalow said.
Although “Where Are We Going” can be shaky at points, the future looks bright for Back to Yours. The group of Georgetown students may not be entirely sure where they are going after graduating from college, but their debut album certainly brings them a lot closer to defining their relatable lyrical content and colorful sound.