Smithfield Boulevard owe their name to a road in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Most of the band's members are former SUNY Potsdam music students. Leading the group is North Country native and recent Vermont transplant Andrew Peryer. SB began as a cover band, as so many young musicians do. But in August, they released a debut EP of original work, The Golden Years.
Smithfield Boulevard's piano-driven rock ballads and existential-crisis lyricism are reminiscent of early 2000s alt-rock outfits such as Something Corporate or the Starting Line. The EP's title nods at bittersweet recollection of the best years. Accordingly, these four songs, penned by Peryer, touch on tried-and-true themes of burying the past, dealing with love lost and trying to figure out the next step.
It's immediately clear from opening track "Dreamer" that Peryer and company are feeling a little judged by the world. "From these questions I will shy / from the disappointed look in their eyes / 'cause I'm a man with a purpose / and I will prove I deserve this," Peryer sings. The dizzying crescendo of guitars evokes feelings of being overwhelmed and spinning in circles.
"Fit the Mold" is a heartstring-tugging little number about realizing your life plans don't mesh with your love life, choosing to stay your own course and not conform to your lover's wishes. Peryer's voice is at its best here as he coos lines such as, "You fill a void with every touch / I shy from promises / we expect too much." Simple, subdued piano and fluttering drums run underneath.
The upbeat, us-against-the-world message on "Hey, Kid" falls a little flat with this cringe-worthy rhyme: "But I'm gonna make you happy / and when your eyes are red and sappy / well I'll be the one who's always here." Still, the plucky sing-along is a nice breather.
The closer, "A Minor Reconciliation," is a brooding, six-minute sprawler built on morose guitar licks. "I float above the skyline / no ground beneath my wings / just a man alone with his thoughts / who sweats the little things," sings Peryer. An extended electric guitar outro wraps up the song and the EP.
Smithfield Boulevard's debut EP, The Golden Years, draws from emo-alt-rockers of yore. Yet, it's not accurate to place them in the confessional lyric tradition. Their writing lacks the urgency and feverish intimacy of that genre. In the absence of specificity, references to drinking the pain away, feeling adrift, losing love and chasing your dreams — while certainly relatable — come off as middle-of-the-road. With a decent instrumental foundation in place, it would be gratifying to hear Smithfield Boulevard dig deeper into their emotions.