Transit‘s last full-length, 2013’s Young New England, was poorly received, to say the least. Muddy production and shoddy vocals brought down any songs that could be redeemed by their lackluster lyricism. And this was the album following their breakout, Listen & Forgive; it was the album that mattered to Transit. So it was a big deal that they proved Young New England was only a hiccup for them on their latest album, Joyride.
For the most part, they do prove that. “The Only One” is an infectious track, and a killer opening. Good luck getting its hook of “I know / I’m not the only one” out of your head. At least until track two, that is. “Saturday Sunday” is just as catchy as “The Only One,” just as the single “Rest to Get Better” is just as catchy as “Saturday Sunday.” Each song seems to display a more captivating hook than the last, which is truly an impressive feat. If a single song had to be picked out as the most accessible, it’d likely be “Sweet Resistance,” which finds Joe Boynton asking us to “keep, keep, keep [him] at a distance.”
Let’s get to back to “Rest to Get Better” for a while, though. Being the album’s lead single, this was the song their hopes were riding on. This would be fan’s first taste of Joyride. It was very likely the best song the band could have chosen for this position, in fact — and fan opinion seems to agree. It almost sounds like it could’ve been one of the more pop-forward songs off their seminal Listen & Forgive, giving off an early autumn vibe akin to that album’s — in contrast to the summery sound of this one — and featuring similar lyrical content.
All the songs I’ve mentioned so far have been loud and fast. This doesn’t mean Transit can’t play softly just as well. The album’s second half houses these songs. None of them are ballads like “Forgive Forget Space” or “Skipping Stone,” but there’s a definite change of pace, starting with the side two opener “Fine By Me.” There’s a piano introduction to “Loneliness Burns,” which works well leading into its first verse, and “Summer Dust” manages to never sacrifice catchiness for subtlety, although its hook pales in comparison to the following track, “Too Little, Too Late.”
The chorus of “Too Little, Too Late” consists of very few lines, really: “I knew I’d never be the right one / the right time / for anyone / too little, too late.” The key is that they’re repeated over and over, to the point that the words are nearly impossible to forget. This is a pattern throughout Joyride: write three lines for a chorus, and repeat them twice or thrice. It’s fine when it’s used a few times, subtly, but that’s the formula for every song on the album. It comes off as a crutch, which is upsetting coming from a band who’s proven in the past that they can write catchy music without succumbing to techniques like this that feel lazy. It doesn’t ruin the album by any means, but it gets frustrating to see (or hear) Transit writing like this.
The other problem with Joyride is another holdover from Young New England: the production is a bit much. Boynton isn’t an exceptional vocalist, but that’s not what Transit’s about — and that’s never been what Transit has been about — and it was always fine in the past. On Joyride, there’s so much pitch correction that it gets overbearing. There are parts of the album, like the bridge of “The Only One,” that just sound unnatural. The hooks on this album are spectacular, but they could be so much better if they weren’t as muddled as they are. Joyride could’ve been an “Album of the Year” contender, even, but it gets tripped up in the painfully obvious pitch correction.
So Joyride isn’t going to be vying for my favorite album of the year, no, but it’s still a good album. Never before has the band written as immediate as on this album, and more than that, Joyride shows that Transit’s ready to bounce back after a slight misstep. It is like the more summery, happier cousin to Listen & Forgive, and the prospect of the band continuing down this path is a great one.