No Matter Where You Are album review

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ustheduo

Republic Records

The concept of a two-person band is nothing new. The White Stripes heavily influenced alternative music, and Twenty One Pilots’ “Blurryface” is played constantly on nearly every radio station. However, Us the Duo brings something new to the table—marriage.

After meeting in 2011, Carissa and Michael Alvarado immediately hit it off, and in 2012 they got married. Initially, they had no intention of creating music together, but as each of their careers developed, they produced an album side-by-side entitled Us, which did not get much publicity but was instead for their own enjoyment.

In 2013, the couple uploaded a video of themselves singing acapella to Vine, a popular video sharing service where clips are limited to six seconds. After only 30 days, they gained one million followers, and the next month received one million more. This brought them to the attention of record labels, and in that same year they got signed to Republic Records, making them the first band ever to be signed from Vine. Out of this record deal came the album No Matter Where You Are, which reached No. 19 on the Billboard Heatseeker Chart.

The first song on the album is simply titled “Intro,” which describes it perfectly. “Intro” is an instrumental intro to the rest of the album, setting the mood with mellow guitar and a simple drum beat. There is not even a break between it and the next song, since “No Matter Where You Are” does not have any instruments in the beginning.

Even though their sound is technically folk pop, the only song in which this is super obvious is “Smile and Keep Your Head Up.” The guitar riff is straight out of a country song, and the drums variate from the album’s basic beats and add a little folk flair. It is a foot-tapping country song that will have you bobbing your head along every time.

The next song on the album “Make You Mine” escalates from acapella to guitar and drums in a way that makes it sound like an entire band came in, despite it just being the two of them. It highlights their entire relationship in one song, with lines like “this is the part where you check yes or yes”, referencing how Michael asked Carissa out. In contrast, “Final Bow” takes it slower and touches on the fights in their relationship, showing how no couple is perfect. This track elevates the album to a new level of maturity, ensuring that it is unable to be labeled as an album filled purely with sappy love songs; the angst and despair brings to light how, despite what the rest of their songs say, their relationship can be less than ideal.

The title track “No Matter Where You Are” may not have the incredible instrumentals like the rest of the album, but it was a good choice to tone it down. The song has so much feeling, so much meaning, that it would be a mistake to distract listeners from the lyrics. “No Matter” is actually the couple’s wedding vows, which they sang to each other at their wedding, and have not changed it since. This is the song that defines their sound, and really shows just how much their relationship affects their music. The raw emotion is what makes this song one of my favorite songs I have ever listened to. (That, and the fact that their music video was shot at their actual wedding makes me want to cry every time I hear the song.)

Even though the concept of a two person band has been done before, Us the Duo is unprecedented in the highly personal relationship between the band members. With lyrics highlighting every single part of their relationship, their songs evoke an emotional response that most bands are unable to produce because Us the Duo are singing for each other and not the fans. Although at this moment they are on tour with Pentatonix, they have promised new material soon, and it cannot come quickly enough.
The Pathfinder gives Us the Duo’s No Matter Where You Are a 9.7/10