A combination of American Football, Sunny Day Real Estate, Taking Back Sunday and strong, emotionally lucid music, Harborland of Toms River, New Jersey has re-released their second album, “A Father’s Joy” to expose their music to a wider audience.
The group, consisting of vocalist and guitarist Jimmy Mura and drummer Joey DiStefano, has made waves on the New Jersey music scene over the past few years with performances at a number of popular local venues, including the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, The Saint in Asbury Park as well as venues throughout the city.
Frontman Mura recently spoke about the writing process for the album.
“The bulk of the album deals with a particularly difficult two-ish week span of my life,” Mura said. “I had gone through a super rough break up and that brought to light a myriad of mental health issues that could no longer be ignored. I spent about a week in a mental hospital after a failed suicide attempt. In that time, I noticed how you can be completely surrounded by your loved ones and still feel completely alone.”
For Mura, being able to channel his emotions into music turned his struggles into productivity.
“I find it almost therapeutic to piece together the most horrible things I’ve ever felt in to something like a song and have the ability to say, ‘Here. I was able to make something from this awfulness,’” Mura said. ” And that’s incredible.”
The album starts off strong with “Prologue,” the first of three intermission tracks. It begins quietly, with melancholy guitars as Mura sings, “Every morning I catch myself in that six-foot mirror I bought you.” The track conjures up feelings of nostalgia and distant but still stinging heartbreak, setting the tone for the rest of the album.
The drums kick in, and the track swells. “Prologue” gives way to “Five to Places,” the first full track, which kicks off this album’s array of guest performers with vocals from fellow Toms River group, 18th & Addison. It is punchy, angry and full of huge pop-punk hooks.
“Gave It Away” immediately surprises with its acoustic palm-muted strumming and harmonica, sounding earthy and folksy.
“Cabin Song” is instantly memorable, especially Mura’s emphatic cry of “I have to face myself.” It sounds very much like classic Midwest emo — as does the next track, “I Am the Astronaut.”
“Interlude,” the next intermission track, makes an impression with its spoken word poetry delivered with genuine emotion: “Now I’ve spent another day up way too late perched on the side of my bed contemplating the next steps to take.”
“Lifeboat” sets itself apart from the other tracks with its ominous piano chords, saxophone by Megan Brenner and guitars by Ian Horahan. The fresh sounds create a somber mood. With its eerie tone and almost operatic vocals, it is the least conventional track on the album, making it one of the most memorable.
It is followed by a track that could not be more unlike it. However, “The Catch” compliments it nicely with its speedy and garage rock sound.
“Meet Me in Montauk” is completely drum-free, featuring only Mura’s guitar and vocals. The song is beautiful, simple and poignant.
“The Manhattan Project” starts off with this great post-punky beat that evokes Metric and The Killers. It features a duet between Mura and Sandra Ferreira. It is definitely one of the album’s strongest tracks.
The penultimate track, “Epilogue” is more spoken-word goodness. It offers a cathartic conclusion to the album’s narrative of heartbreak and reflection. There is a callback to the mirror mentioned in “Prologue” that brings everything all full circle.
“St. Nowhere” ends the album on a high note — both musically and lyrically. In the outro, Mura sings, “Let this record serve as a guarantee to those I love that while I tear my heart out from my chest, I will only ever attempt to do so in a metaphorical sense.”
“A Father’s Joy” is great. The album is loud and passionate within the vein of several beloved pop punk and emo acts of the past 20 years. Mura sings with heart-on-sleeve confidence throughout. It is free to stream on Spotify and is certainly worth a listen.