Falling for someone hurts. Wondering whether they feel the same way about you, the crushing realization that they don’t, and the steps to return to a normalcy that can never be recovered are painful. These pile up into an ugly blob of anxiety, fear, and self-loathing that can be overwhelming if not managed.
Antarctigo Vespucci, a collaboration between pop punk rockers Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock, takes that disgusting accumulation of pent-up feelings and shapes it into 13 infectious, energetic, and sometimes too relatable to be funny tracks on “Love in the Time of E-Mail.”
Instead of looking past heartbreak and finding confidence through independence, the album finds Antarctigo begrudgingly trying to force unreciprocated romances that obviously won’t last. Lyrics like, “I barely even thought about you today / I’m getting better in the worst way” on “So Vivid!” benchmark the stubborn steps they’ve taken to live a healthy post-breakup life. While there is hope for them at the end of the day, the wounds are too fresh and their outlook too grim to move on, as Farren cries out, “Why did they leave me here / Underground and overwhelmed by fear / That one day I’ll love someone who’s not you?”
Melodrama is packed tightly into each track, but Antarctigo is sure to inject a healthy amount of bittersweet self-awareness to balance it all out. While so much of the project finds the two in the passionate throes of missing a former partner, “Not Yours” takes a huge step back and puts themselves in the shoes of the person they’re pining for. Farren kicks his lovesick persona in the teeth with opening lyrics, “Why should I apologize? / I’m just trying to live my life / Did that ever cross your mind?” For all the misery they put themselves through reminiscing about their past, Antarctigo is aware of the toxic nature of seeking validation through others, hammering home the message with, “My heart’s not yours just because you need it / Just because you need me.”
The tightly composed tracks keeps the project engaging and fun despite the heavy subject matter. “White Noise”’s warbling synths, hand claps, and crunchy guitar riffs are accompanied by one of the album’s catchier hooks, and is a must-listen track. “Do It Over” uses a smaller arrangement to create a more intimate atmosphere as Farren almost whispers his anxieties about his stagnant life and actions. It’s a very tender meditation on the self-destructive tendencies of depression, and the pulled-back instrumentals perfect the personal, human concerns it discusses.
“Lifelike” is the album’s most brutally relatable song, forcing Antarctigo to address the terrifying unknown of the future despite all the expectations and successes of those around you. The track builds up from a single track of Farren’s somber vocals and a two-chord piano into one of the most impassioned cries for help I’ve heard in the last chorus. Antarctigo’s ennui is on full-display as Farren sings, then screams, “I do my best to keep it all in frame / Wipe those tears from off my lifelike face / But I don’t have it in me today,” acknowledging the difficult yet unavoidable hardships one can go through while trying to maintain a positive mental attitude.
My favorite track on the record, “Freakin’ U Out,” is a not entirely romantic love letter framed around the hope that Antarctigo’s interest in the person doesn’t end up scaring them away. It can be tough to show affection for someone without coming off too strong, and they nail this uncertainty with the frantic, optimistic delivery of lines such as, “If you ever wake up / Would you wanna waste some time with me? / ‘Cause all night I stayed up / Trying to shake how much you mean to me.”
Of course, this album is not perfect. Some of the tracks feel lyrically underdeveloped, a shame considering the songwriting achievements of Rosenstock and Farren outside of this collaboration (Rosenstock’s “WORRY.” is easily in my top five albums of all time). “All These Nights” features a ton of rhetorical questions that are directed to a character we’re told too little about to process. “The Price Is Right Theme Song” is based around a lonely hospital stay with death looming around the corner and no loved ones in sight, but isn’t efficient or clever enough in its writing to convey the fear of dying that Rosenstock has discussed on other projects.
If you’re crushing on someone and need to have a laugh at your exaggerated fears, turn on “Love in the Time of E-Mail.” It sits around a 7 out of 10 for me, packing fantastic compositions and heartfelt lyrics into its tracks, but disappointingly missing the mark on a few midway through the album.