XXIIIXIX is a time machine. Within a minute of Twentythreenineteen’s debut starting up, there’s every chance the Philadelphia outfit will transport you back to the turn of the century, back to the early days of Dashboard Confessional and Senses Fail, and back to the dominance of the Drive Thru and Vagrant record labels. The almost-whispered vocals, soft rock, and sugary melodies are so remarkably familiar it’s like they’ve been created using a weathered emo handbook or a computer that’s been fed the contents of my 2002 iTunes account.
Unfortunately, Twentythreenineteen’s take on the formula is so civil, so insipid, that intimation and impersonation is where the journey ends. They don’t even really sound like one particular genre pioneer or big-hitter, they kind of sound like all of them at once. The band would tell you that there’s “explosive post-rock” here, “math rock melodies” and “surround-sound electronica” too, but it’s all head-scratchingly off the mark. Instead “Losing Touch” sounds like a Something Corporate B-side, “Lost” like Owl City of all things, and if there’s cause for positivity in the layers of “You”, then “Tangled” bops and grins like something the Jonas Brothers wrote and now I’m just trying not to be mean.
This is starting to feel like a real hatchet job but it shouldn’t. There’s nothing here that’s bad, nothing at all to hate, it’s just that there’s so very little to love. It’s all so… plain. Performed by better bands even the quietest acoustic tracks can be compelling but here, even when the decibels do creep up, there’s no push, no power, no heat, no energy. You can hear that Twentythreenineteen are capable but they’re so careful too.
At it’s very best XXIIIXIX sounds like a Dashboard deep cut or maybe, maybe Jimmy Eat World, but most of the time it’s far too polite to make anything like a mark of its own. And, at its worst, this is as vanilla as it gets and instantly forgettable.