Sprouting out of Denton, TX, in 2011, Record Setter is the rare band that pushes itself to newer levels of sonic invention with each and every release.
Starting out as the sibling duo of guitarist and vocalist Judy Mitchell and drummer Jake Mitchell, Record Setter quickly picked up bassist Kyle Pennington to round out their lineup and issued their first release, Dim, in the summer of 2014. Dim evokes the heady yet breathless atmosphere of melodic hardcore, echoes of bands like Title Fight and Ages forming the base of Record Setter’s sound while retaining a decidedly gritty lyrical and vocal approach. In between recklessly-paced and relentlessly catchy rippers, Record Setter also finds time for more dreamy detours into tangier post-hardcore territory on songs like standout “Sleep,” which balances a more restrained tempo and delicate guitar melodies with the crunch and heft of the rest of the band’s ouvre.
Following Dim, Record Setter took a respite as Judy Mitchell was planning to move out of state and the band seemed to find itself at a dead stop. Although it seemed as though the project was going to be put to bed, the band had several songs that they still wanted to record and share with the world, and so as a farewell, they released Purge in mid-2017.
Showcasing a quick lineup shuffle— including the addition of new bassist Jacob Morrison as well as Pennington’s shift to additional guitar— Purge ups the melodic ante with more intricate guitar work, more insistent hooks, and a newfound vocal and lyrical conviction that worms its way throughout the record, finding spaces to thrive in the cracks between screams and gentle whispers. The record’s centerpiece, the back-to-back emotional annihilation of “We Let Our Youth Fail Beautifully” and “Multiple Attempts at the Same Thing,” sparkles with crisp and technical guitar work, staccato bursts of bass noise, and an effortlessly smooth dichotomy between soft and loud dynamics that defies traditional hardcore songwriting sensibilities.
However, it is on Purge’s title track that Record Setter really finds their voice. Beginning as an ambient interlude laced with atmospheric samples, the song slowly teases itself out in fits and spurts before revealing itself as a barn-burning screamer in the emotive hardcore tradition, with Mitchell’s vocal assault occupying a tender and vulnerable space in the upper reaches of hardcore’s bitterly angry register. The expert tone-setting done by the drum work in conjunction with the rest of the band’s commitment to the dramatic changes in song structure pays off in spades and suitably sets the standard for follow-up and closer, “If You’ve Ever Wondered,” which fulfills the prior song’s promise and then some.
Despite Purge’s high quality and potential, it was still released as a breakup album, coming on the heels of a hiatus and changes in the members’ personal lives. However, it quickly became apparent that fans were becoming extremely attached to Purge, and it was gaining more traction than anything the band had done before. This was for good reason-- beyond its polish and verve, Purge was also a blisteringly personal record, with the kind of lyrics that often show up as wrist tattoos and silently-screamed affirmations in the heads of fans. After witnessing the way that people were clinging to the songs, Record Setter regrouped and decided to push forward and continue to play shows.
Record Setter re-emerged in 2019 on a split with fellow Dentonians Genius Christ and Sylvania Ave. Their two contributions, “Self of Steam” and “This Is Existing,” further the band’s quirky and offbeat approach to their sound and style. There are no shortages of creatively catchy guitar work, coarse yet touching vocal flourishes, and dynamic song structures that move with such queasy and unpredictable rhythms that one feels seasick while listening.
Record Setter is a unique band in today’s DIY scene— a band that can play in multiple sandboxes of genre without sacrificing catchiness nor intensity. As they gear up for an ambitious 2020 release, their first offering is the irresistible and touching “An Explanation.” The song takes a slightly softer approach than prior Record Setter material but is no less savage and introspective on a lyrical basis, exploring Mitchell’s sense of self, identity, and relationships with unflinching candor and aplomb.
I Owe You Nothing is out everywhere on November 6, 2020.
Written by Ellie Kovach
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I Owe You Nothing is emotional, raw, and thrashing in its delivery, making for one of the most instantly invigorating and vital records of 2020.
Your new favorite band.
-Washed Up Emo
Judy shouts during the opening seconds of “Someplace,” guitars revving in place and then dropping out to shine a spotlight on her way out: “How long was that door open? I never noticed it before!” Record Setter then hit the ground running at 200 mph, melding screamo abrasion, pop-punk melody, and molten shoegaze textures, their past decade of musical and emotional repression burned off in an all-consuming blue streak.
-Stereogum on I Owe You Nothing
I Owe You Nothing does indeed feel like an album where absolutely nothing is held back... There's no way to listen to this album other than start to finish, and when you do, it's hard to imagine not feeling swept off your feet.
[E]very new release has been something of a reinvention.