PS I Love You – For Those Who Stay

written by: July 3, 2014
Album-art-for-For-Those-Who-Stay-by-PS-I-Love-You Release Date: July 22, 2014


In only 9 tracks, Ontario-based indie punk duo PS I Love You, consisting of singer/guitarist Paul Saulnier and drummer Benjamin Nelson, rifles through a plethora of moods and atmospheres without employing lengthy lyrics or relying on flashy instrumentation.

On its third LP For Those Who Stay, PSILY takes a stance for minimalism in experimental, jam-based rock with drawn-out drone notes in high-pitched keyboard sections (“Bad Brain Day”), unyielding basslines (“Advice”), and tortured choral voices (“Afraid of the Light”). Minimalism also appears in the duo’s lyrics; some songs contain only a few stanzas (“Bad Brain Day,” “Friends Forever”).

PSILY’s characteristic, ambitious musicianship sets For Those Who Stay above its peers.

Bypassing the traditional verse-chorus setup, Saulnier and Nelson opt for their own inventive, texture-governed song structures. In the gentle “Bad Brain Day,” a serene acoustic guitar happily fingerpicks its way into For Those Who Stay’s sonic universe. After Saulnier’s fragile vocal line tells the short, sweet story of a depressed narrator cured by the comforting presence of a loved one, a shrill keyboard note pierces the song, leading an instrumental parade of lofty synth chords and crooning falsetto voices to a step-clap rhythm across the entire second half of the song.

Though the cleverly constructed tunes are plagued by consistent, monotonous distortion (“Limestone Radio,” “Friends Forever”), Nelson’s attentive ear for dynamics and rhythm prevents For Those Who Stay from losing its flare and exemplifies how heavy, distorted rock — a five-decade old style — can still captivate listeners for extended periods of time (“Advice,” “For Those Who Stay”). Nelson’s attention to musical detail is a key element in PSILY’s ability to make impressive emotional jumps (like from the noisy “Advice,” to the subdued “Bad Brain Day”) without feeling jolty or disjointed.

Still, Nelson’s ear for compositional embellishment would be useless without Saulnier’s well-written songs to intensify. The frontman holds up his half of the duo masterfully, with poetically pained lyrics like “I think it’s real, I know it’s real/’cause my dead friends tell me truth in my dreams” (“Afraid of the Light”), bright, emotive guitar solos (“For Those Who Stay,” “More of the Same”), and a fiery vocal delivery that translates as both passionately desperate and peacefully knowing.

Leaning more toward desperate than knowing, the energetic opener “In My Mind At Least” bears a striking resemblance to the Cure with its combination of distressed lyrics, deceptively cheery guitars, and poppy drums. Saulnier’s flustered vocals enter with a frustrated cry of “I’m sorry I forgot!” that seems to surprise the singer as much as his audience. Continuing the upset-yet-upbeat attitude, “Advice” adds feedback and distortion to the mix.

With persisting distortion, the earsplitting, Weezer-esque guitar solo that opens “More of the Same” wails expressively for a full 90 seconds.

To its narrator, “More of the Same” may be about a glorious, eye-opening new love, but the opening lines (“More of the same/Watch out for it/Sneaks up on you/This time it’s new/I just can’t believe/I’m amazed at all this”) are also an accurate description of an artist satisfied with an unorthodox creation.

By the time PSILY reaches its album closer “Hoarders,” For Those Who Stay finds its way back to upset-yet-upbeat. Saulnier cries desperately “How do you live like this?” over a driving punk progression that seems unstoppable until the song’s tumultuous coda, in which ominous keyboards set a dark harmonic background for the guttural bassline that accelerates the album to a hurried, apocalyptic end, leaving listeners eager to restart the record.

PS I Love You’s third LP is a dark-but-fun, indie punk spectacle with an experimental orientation. Fueled by Saulnier’s minimalistic lyrics and passionate performances, and equipped with Nelson’s sharp ear for dynamic songwriting, For Those Who Stay’s 9-song tracklist makes the case for this exceptional duo and for rock minimalists everywhere.

PS I Love You – For Those Who Stay tracklist:

  1. “In My Mind At Least”
  2. “Advice”
  3. “Bad Brain Day”
  4. “Limestone Radio”
  5. “For Those Who Stay”
  6. “Afraid of the Light”
  7. “Friends Forever”
  8. “More of the Same”
  9. “Hoarders”