Free Throw – ‘Piecing It Together’

By Sean Reid

Having the usual album release-tour cycle put on hold, Free Throw have used their time to write for themselves rather than worrying about their position in the never-ending music rat race. ‘Piecing It Together’ is certainly an apt title for the Nashville quintet’s fourth album.

In the past, Cory Castro has taken a direct and introspective approach to his writing; topics such as broken relationships, mental health, and alcoholism served as the foundation for what has come before ‘Piecing It Together’. However, as was made clear in 2019’s ‘What’s Past Is Prologue’ conclusion, Castro and his bandmates are now content with who they are. Nevertheless, as we hear throughout this new collection, self-doubt is never far from Castro’s shadow.

From the outset on opener ‘Cloud Sick’, his insecurities are highlighted as he sings, “I would find the house all to myself / You’re packed up and gone”, against a steady and plucky instrumental backdrop. As the track drives into the chorus, Cory sounds determined as he chases his dream and wanting to make a loved one feel proud.

‘Worry Seed’ is a heart-pounding follow-up, perfectly complementing the anxiety-ridden lyrics of Castro’s internal thoughts. Yet as the track slows the pace, he sees the bigger picture; “I think this soon will pass”.

In contrast to Free Throw’s previous output, Castro is no longer alone. He has company and a purpose and, naturally, he has matured as a person, becoming more thoughtful in the process. Tracks such as ‘The Grass Isn’t Greener’ and ‘Second Wind’ exemplify this with the latter being a gem – a perfect midpoint. Twinkling guitars segue into a driving carefree section as Castro tries to embrace his youthful days (drinking, watching bands and stupid dances). Despite reminiscing, he accepts a “need to slow it down”, whereas ‘Force of Will’ serves as a lyrical middle finger to anyone who has ever doubted Cory. While they might have advised him to stop chasing an unachievable dream, he shows determination.

As songs such as ‘Dormancy’ show, Cory has a point to prove to those around him, as well as himself. While he occasionally slips back into old habits, leading to others doubting him, he reassures them it’s just a blip, and Castro’s personal growth especially comes through on ‘Trust Fall’. He’s considerate and caring, offering a hand to those in need and stating he knows how low they are feeling.

Away from Castro’s lyrics, he’s backed by a sturdy quartet that doesn’t stylistically stray far from what we have to expect from Free Throw. Throughout, Justin Castro (bass) and Kevin Garcia (drums) hold things tightly together, while rhythm guitarist Jake Hughes provides bright moments especially on the variety of solid choruses on offer. Songs such as ‘Ghost In The Routine’, ‘Force of Will’ and ‘Ocular Pat Down’ thrive, with guitarist Lawrence Warner flourishing with the casual math-rock riff subtly ringing out.

Closing track, ‘Dawn Of A New Day’, considerably sums up ‘Piecing It Together’. It captures Cory’s maturity and accepts that he’s had his ups and downs, and while he knows they’ll come again, he’s untroubled by it having turned a corner. Musically, it’s bright and strong, never taking away from Cory’s words.

Ultimately, Free Throw’s strength comes from their chief lyricist. Castro is unafraid to be upfront, building a narrative that is insightful, and at times, relatable. While ‘Piecing It Together’ doesn’t quite instrumentally develop Free Throw, it’s a perfectly fine continuation of what they’ve done previously. Longtime fans will appreciate how cohesive Free Throw are here, yet others might tire of the routine emo rock that plagues these 12 tracks.

SÊAN REID

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