Aaron Gillespie is an emo Renaissance man. He's best known as the drummer for Christian screamo superstars Underoath, but he has a decent voice and can play pretty much any instrument that falls within the realm of this almost played-out genre.
Southern Weather is very good third-generation emo. It lacks the anguished screams of Underoath, which is a welcome relief. The songs are strong, but mostly don't stand out as being better -- or different -- than the music from most of Gillespie's peers.
But Gillespie has a couple of tricks up his sleeve. On "Dirty and Left Out," Jeremy Enigk (Sunny Day Real Estate) contributes backing vocals that add heart to Gillespie's devotion, and the pedal steel brings in a traditional country flavor that helps the song transcend emo's very limited boundaries. "Amazing, Because It Is" begins with a somewhat faceless acoustic shell, but it builds into a crescendo of music and voice -- based around "Amazing Grace" -- that reaches far beyond the constraints of what Gillespie normally creates.
Pretty much every track, particularly "Everyone Here Smells Like a Rat," could be a minor emo hit. Few of the songs have the potential to reach a broader audience, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. "Dirty and Left Out" and "Amazing, Because It Is" prove Gillespie has a broad musical vision. He might make some incredible music in the coming years, particularly if he chooses to stretch his musical wings.
Parker Young's photos convey a mood reasonably well, although they border on generic images of Christianity mixed with generic images of loneliness. It's nice that the lyrics are here, but Southern Weather's words aren't so amazing that they needed to be reprinted. The design is clean, and everything -- even the extremely cluttered credits page -- is easy to read.
Listen if you like: Taking Back Sunday, Sunny Day Real Estate, Underoath, the song "Amazing Grace" (Bob did an interesting post a few years ago, where he compared several versions of the song).
If it were food, it'd be: The cup of cheap, black coffee that helps you recover from an anxious Saturday night, but leaves you feeling a little restless during church on Sunday morning.