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  • Writer's pictureSammie Starr

Album Review: Off Road Minivan - 'May This Keep You Safe From Harm'

Off Road Minivan explores permanence and loss within their second nostalgia-rich full-length album, May This Keep You Safe From Harm.

Sometimes as an artist, you need a different change of pace musically to fit the concept of the feelings and emotions you are trying to put into words and instrumentally, for bands like Off Road Minivan, nostalgia and being present in the feelings of those memories means everything to these time-capsuled alt-rockers. Consistently bringing in the flavors of early-2000 emo resonance with a wave of baroscopic guitars and elegant drumming cadence, Off Road Minivan launched a sound with their 2018 EP Spiral Gaze and 2020 album, Swan Dive, that opened a gateway to an infectious musical past while still keeping the 21st-century perspective in mind. Their full-bodied throwback sound is channeled into their second album, May This Keep You Safe. An emotionally charged experience surrounded by a nostalgic and nuanced lyrical vision filled with 90's alternative rock soundscapes, Off Road Minivan creates a journey that transcends time and emotive instrumental vibrations with each track.

May This Keep You Safe is not just a magical instrumental experience but one that makes the listener feel every last bit of emotional turmoil and pensiveness till the very end.

From the beginning, Fit For A Kings vocalist Ryan "Tuck" O'Leary's multi-dimensional vocals hit home with first track experiences "Fade Out" and "Basement." With captivating piano melodies, misty production, and fuzzy guitar elements, Off Road Minivan deep dives into what it means to make that emotionally painful journey of losing a friend through one's tear-jerking memories and keeps the listener hooked within this world for the remainder of the album.

"The Beacon" continues its sweet and mellow vibes, interwoven with beautiful, hypnotic high notes that only heighten the emotional intensity before going steadily amping things up with "Pity Sex." A sharp-tongued experience that focuses on toxic one-sided friendships, Off Road Minivan bears it all while still maintaining the melodic framework that works so well within the record.

The songs "The Breakdown" and "Karma" maintain the fiery and passionate energy of the album through their powerful instrumentals, emotive lyrics about troubled relationships, and beautiful, melodic bridges. Wistful moment "Cheerleader" memorializes O'Leary's friend Victoria McCarthy with sonorous shoegaze guitars before descending into another vaporescent and cut-throat experience, "Victim Complex." Exploring the ups and downs of a friendship that lasted for 18 years, songs like "Victim Complex" continue to impressively change up the lyrical energies within May This Keep You Safe From Harm while keeping the core of the record raw and vulnerably focused.

Other junctures, such as groove-laden and eurythmic "Out Alive" and the illusory acoustic experience "Billy," boast a mesmerizing opalescent quality that is maintained throughout the record. Its moody guitar tones beautifully complement the heart-wrenching vocals, resulting in a unique, emotionally charged listening experience. The final two tracks of the album are especially impactful, leaving a lasting impression on the listener.

Closing May This Keep You Safe From Harm are introspective tracks, "Commitment Issues" and "It's Nothing Personal."Throughout May This Keep You Safe From Harm, there has been a message of the fragility of permanence and struggling to keep that within friendships, family, and life. Both closing tracks bring everything forward with a beautiful denuded richness within their instrumental energy that encapsulates melodic and ruminating energy throughout the album.

Ultimately, May This Keep You Safe From Harm is a well-crafted and meaningful album that prompts the listener to reflect on their personal relationships and value them more deeply. Using real-life recordings juxtaposed by dusky, propulsive instrumentalism and sentimental lyricism, OffRoad Minivan proves once again with their new album that they remain in the limelight of the scene when it comes to embodying nostalgic emo muse with deeply felt messages behind such gorgeous musical backdrops. May This Keep You Safe From Harm is not just a magical instrumental experience but one that makes the listener feel every last bit of emotional turmoil and pensiveness till the very end.


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