Have Mercy have their sound and they're sticking to it. Over the course of three albums now, the Baltimore outfit have stayed the course, opting to build on and fine-tune what they've done in the past rather than expand their sound. As such, their latest album, Make the Best of It, is an improved rehash of 2014's mediocre A Place of Our Own, which itself felt like a more competently produced, yet less inspired iteration of the previous year's The Earth Pushed Back. For the most part, you wouldn't even know that singer Brian Swindle is the only original member left after the others' unexplained departure last year.
Make the Best of It is a top-heavy album, leading with its three most memorable songs and peaking with the emotionally charged single "Coexist." "Reaper" finds the band in great stride, despite sophomoric and frankly clichéd lyrics about murdering someone's boyfriend. The latter half is lighter on standouts, but well paced and full of feeling. There are also moments when Have Mercy diverge from their norm, if only briefly. "Good Christian Man" and the verses of "Smoke and Lace" have a markedly dark energy, though the former stands out for the wrong reasons. The album also trends toward radio-friendly pop-rock at times, as on "Baby Grand."
This album leans once more on Swindle's oft-used hooks and lyrical themes of failed relationships and unrequited love — standard fare for bands in their genre. He sings of romances that either fell apart or never had a chance to exist at all, and how time can change people and tear them apart. To his credit, Swindle's voice has matured considerably since the band's debut to a near-perfect mix of gritty emo-rock and smooth pop euphony. He has the discipline to burst into a howl only when the music most commands it, no longer leaping into the icky screech found on earlier songs.
If one thing's for sure, it's that Make the Best of It is Have Mercy's most consistent effort yet. The fact that it's essentially more of the same might make it uninteresting to some, but to fans of the band or any of its widely known predecessors like Jimmy Eat World or Taking Back Sunday, that sameness will bring a welcome sense of comfort. (Hopeless)