Survival Guide begins their new album, Way To Go, with dance beats reminiscent of the 80s on “Ugly Side.” Emily Whitehurst’s vocals are impassioned with descriptive, bold lyrics, illustrating the idea of keeping people at a distance with an electronic splash of pop. By relating someone to a virus, Whitehurst weaves together a bittersweet tone, layering vocals that add an interesting harmonic effect, which can be seen on other tracks like “Remembered In a Song,” that packs a punch and allows the lyrics to really be felt. From the get-go, as well as throughout the album (“So Super Slow,” “Nowhere Anywhere”), Whitehurst showcases similarities to Blondie; in fact, a few tracks feel as though if Pat Benetar, Joan Jett, and Blondie’s Debbie Harry had a child, this is what it would sound like.
“Prohibition” is softer in tone, holding an innocent feeling to it at the start, with a ensue of eeriness, like The Shining in sound waves. The vocal distortion adds to the overall “trippy” feel, slightly repetitive, but it makes sense when she’s driving home her point of “how to solve your problems choosing alcohol.” However, she makes up for it when the track builds towards the end, bringing the track to a sensational close that feels like a cliff-hanger…of pessimism at its best on “Get Your Don’t,” which rocks with the bitter energy of someone that’s been there, contrasting with the upbeat rhythm and melodics of a beachy top 40 track.
That “expecting the worst” attitude seems to follow up on “January Shock,” but then just when you least expect it, Whitehurst turns it around, reminding listeners that even when you make silly mistakes or do things that you shouldn’t, “the sun will rise again, it happens over and over, because it’s not the end.” The rhythm on this track is stunning, acting as a brilliant precursor to the title track, “Way To Go,” on which the rhythm truly makes the song, especially when acting as an accompaniment to the vocal play that Whitehurst utilizes throughout the song. Featuring a mesmerizing, rich string instrumental, Survival Guide is entrancing. The lush addition settles over the song like the blanket of heat on your skin when you lay in the sun.
However, it is the two, more soulful additions to the album that are so striking. “One To One,” a bold, piano-driven, track features a soulful, pop-rock element to it, allowing Whitehurst to showcase her killer abilities, with brilliant lyrics, deep instrumentals, and an overall mystique. The song builds and it hits like a sonic boom; over in a flash, but you still feel the presence of it, which stays with you long into “Shrouded In Steel,” with its cabaret-like vocals. The track is a beatiful, startling addition to the album, and Whitehurst’s vocals soar on this track, with pure power. She proves herself to be an original, irreplaceable artist as the track picks up, showing two-sides to her persona.
If this is your first time listening to Survival Guide, Way To Go is the perfect place to start.