Album Review :
Sophia - My Morning; Migration

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Artist: Sophia
Album: My Morning; Migration
Label: Independent
Buy: Your Very Own IVM Store

1. Vanity, Remember the Peacock
2. Cry, the Seagull’s Greed
3. Mockingbirds After The Picture Show
4. Suffocating the Magpie
5. Providence
6. A New Song For This Vulture
7. Raven, Digging Up The Grave
8. Desertification
9. Sultans and Swans
10. The Dove’s Solemn Hymn
11. The Nightingale’s Darkest Night
12. A Flock of Geese

Listening to this record, My Morning; Migration by Sophia, I have suddenly become aware that, in the grand scheme of things, I am much more important and influential than you are. This may seem a pretentious thought and an even more arrogant way to open a review, but there’s really no getting past it: Sophia must have written this CD entirely to suit my liking. I must have inspired this CD. There is really no other explanation for the way every single aspect of the hardcore Sophia plays corresponds to what I like about hardcore in general. They must have written it with me specifically in mind, because if they didn’t, it’s literally frightening how incredibly freaking good they are. In any case, My Morning; Migration is a lock for a spot in this humble staff writer’s Top 5 or 10 CDs of the year.

At this point, either you’ve stopped reading because of the faux-arrogance of the previous paragraph, or you’re wondering exactly what kind of hardcore Sophia plays to get me this hyped. Good question. I answer it with one of my own: have you ever read reviews talking about how amazing “atmospheric hardcore” is? Hopesfall’s The Satellite Years was almost certainly mentioned. Maybe Poison the Well made an appearance. Well, atmospheric hardcore sounds like an inferior version of My Morning; Migration — I think Sophia can take pretty much anyone else in the genre (though Life in Your Way is up there). And yet, there’s something missing from that comparison…we’ll come back to that.

(By the way, before I go on, I’m sure you’re all also wondering what exactly the concept of this CD is. Why are all the tracks named after birds (except the two interludes)? The simple answer is that I have no idea. But Ryan, Sophia drummer and all-around amazing person, frequents the site. If you ask nicely, he might whisper softly in your ear, and you might finally understand the meaning of life.)

I don’t think that a track-by-track breakdown would really do this record justice, so instead I’ll tell you everything that made it so incredible, so far beyond my expectations. Honestly, I bought My Morning; Migration not because I expected it to be one of the ten best CDs of this year, but because supporting independent music is a good thing, because the members seem to be great guys, and because the music would almost certainly justify the $5 purchase price. This is, of course, proof that I am an idiot. Let me explain.

One of my problems with hardcore in general is that it tends to be long on power-chords and “tough-guy” lyrics and short on interesting musical passages and diverse songs. And this is where I began to fall in love with this CD: Sophia don’t just play hardcore; they play very diverse and interesting hardcore. Their angular and technical guitars immediately call As Cities Burn to mind, and there’s really not a higher compliment this side of Dream Theater. While we’re on the subject, Sophia manage even to make their synthesizers angular, a truly unique achievement. Keyboards add so much to Sophia; songs like “Cry, The Seagull’s Greed” and “Raven, Digging Up The Grave” really wouldn’t be the same without them. And “Desertification,” a departure from the hardcore in favor of some truly glorious vocal harmonies, while seemingly only an interlude, is one of the best tracks on the CD. Set against a doleful piano backdrop, guitars meander chillingly as the listener’s headphones are flooded with pleas of “Will you come and rescue me, or is the peace that passes understanding something that we have to work for?” The track is earnest to the point of being heartbreaking…on a hardcore record, no less.

The vocals are quite well done. The screams and barks are, admittedly, rather typical of the genre, and a bit more variation in pitch could make the music even more interesting, but the intensity behind them never falters, which is more important. And now we come to a truly intriguing dynamic of Sophia’s music: the clean vocals. They are a dead ringer for Anthony Green, making the best comparison to Sophia’s music Circa Survive fronted by Tim Lambesis. This is every bit as interesting as it sounds, as exemplified on the near-ethereal “Mockingbirds After The Picture Show.” The beautiful bridge — another occasion where piano adds greatly to the sound — can flow seamlessly into anguished screams and a wailing guitar solo, which then flows into another Circa-sounding section. “Sultans and Swans,” which clocks in around six and a half minutes, opens with a dramatically building guitar line, which leads into these soaring vocals. With an intro like that, how can you get bored? The song continues to be a highlight, with lyrics like “Forgive us our trespasses…sometimes we don’t know when we step on each other’s land, but the funny thing is that we claim to own any of this at all.”

And Sophia saves their best for last; from the opening ACB-esque dual-guitar solo till its fadeout into the ambient sounds of nature, “A Flock of Geese” twists and turns, showing off musical technicality galore and tuneful ears for, of all things, a remarkably strong chorus hook. Something like pitched screaming is tried for the first time, to great effect. And when the clean vocals are layered over the screaming layered over the driving guitars in the bridge, the result is nothing short of breathtaking. The CD is worth buying for this song alone; it’s one of the best hardcore songs I’ve ever heard.

Any further compliments I pay to this CD may seem like overkill at this point. This probably already seems completely exaggerated, but I can’t help that. Listening to Sophia still feels like the most important, even the most enjoyable thing I did today. Is that pathetic? Maybe, but I doubt it. Intelligent and technical hardcore, hardcore to experience and not to dance to — because let’s face it; you can’t understand how truly great this is while trying to circle pit, and it’s probably not fast enough for your hXc m0vez anyway — crushingly heavy music that is simultaneously crushingly beautiful…that’s a masterpiece, isn’t it? All I can say is that if you’ve ever loved or even tolerated any hardcore band, you need My Morning; Migration. It’s embarrassing not to support independent music when it is this astoundingly good.

The Headless Horseman

Rating: 9.5/10
Standout Tracks: “Cry, The Seagull’s Greed,” “Mockingbirds After The Picture Show,” “Suffocate The Magpie,” “Desertification,” “Sultans and Swans,” “A Flock of Geese”
RIYL: older Hopesfall, As Cities Burn, Circa Survive, Life in Your Way, Poison the Well