The cover to Rome Hero Foxes’ sophomore effort, 18 Summers, is adorned by a picture of vibrant colored houses under a blue sky taped to a white cover. The artwork is a stark contrast to the grey staircase found on their debuts cover and reflects the transition the band has taken. In the past, the band’s sound veered towards post hardcore as they showed darkness and chaos through hard hitting instruments and emotional vocals with songs like “Falling Out“ and “Bad Thoughts”. One would’ve expected that the band would’ve stayed on that same trajectory, refining their sound as they go. That changed with the subsequent release of the mellow-acoustic driven EP I/O and the three-song EP Horoscope, Rome Hero Foxes made it known that they’re not the kind of band to play around with the same sound.
On 18 Summers, the band trades in the urgency of post hardcore for inspiration from genres like surf rock and indie pop to bring some well needed levity to their sound. Take for example the album’s opener, “Lost in a Room”, where the guitars bounce around as vocalist C.J. Burton weaves the theme of love with catchy melodies helped by his falsetto. While the band explores this more upbeat indie rock facet to them, they don’t let their talents go to waste as things like guitar solos and different instruments like synths show up throughout the album in spades. There’s still shades of post hardcore in their sound like in “Don’t Call My Name” and “Break Your Own Bones”, but the focus is on their new sound and how they experiment with it.
One of the more interesting parts of the 18 Summers is the band’s ability to subvert your expectations as they experiment with their own sound. The biggest subversion comes in the form of “Chest Piece”, where the band turns a slow ballad on its head as it transitions into an upbeat punk track. There’s smaller, but just as fantastic and unexpected moments throughout the album like the Dance Gavin Dance inspired instrumental break in “Lost in a Room” or the theatrical sounding bridge to “San Junipero”. It’s these multiple moments that really show how the bands sound needed a change as there was no way for this level of experimentation to be showcased on their debut.
18 Summers is a snapshot of a group of friends starting a band and getting ready to face the world. Taking inspiration from the artists they loved, Rome Hero Foxes make their way through the ups and downs of love and a new sound with a maturity beyond their years. After the chaos that was For When You’re Falling Backwards, 18 Summers feels like the band finding peace and learning to take a step back from everything. It’s why the calm sound of waves crashing that bookend the album make for the perfect conclusion to the band’s journey thus far.