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Origami Angel’s The Brightest Days is a Quick, Joyous Ride
Origami Angel’s The Brightest Days is a Quick, Joyous Ride,D.C. emo duo Origami Angel's new mixtape 'The Brightest Days' is over as soon as it starts, but it comes alive with a core ethos: appreciating the present moment.

Origami Angel’s The Brightest Days is a Quick, Joyous Ride

“Gami Gang” is not just a phrase used among fellow Origami Angel fans; it is a way of life. Given the Washington D.C. duo’s steady, prolific output since their debut album, Somewhere City, in 2019, there’s plenty to digest. 2021’s aptly titled Gami Gang upped the ante, doubling the ambition and punny song titles alike. Just last fall, they released two back-to-back EPs, the indie pop-centric re:turn and the hardcore pastiche DEPART, both of which were brief distillations of two key elements of their sound, as disparate in style as their lowercase and uppercase titles suggested. Although they were undeniably fun, these EPs played like bite-sized pieces of a much larger puzzle; they explored facets of their sound but not the full thing. The emo duo corrects their course with The Brightest Days, an eight-song mixtape that barrels forward at a faster pace than a chaotic 200cc race in Mario Kart 8.

Whereas Gami Gang may overwhelm new listeners with its sheer magnitude of material, The Brightest Days feels like a proper crash course for those new to the emo outfit. It packages most of their core signifiers (halftime breakdowns, tender earnestness, melodic yet showy guitar shredding) into a succinct unit. The Star Trek-referencing “Kobayashi Maru” is pure, eager kineticism with its double-time speed, vocalist-guitarist Ryland Heagy’s ebullient delivery and chiptune synths that recall Minneapolis pop-punkers Motion City Soundtrack. As per usual with this duo, there are hooks on hooks on hooks. “Thank You, New Jersey,” a song so indebted to the Garden State that it’d make Bruce Springsteen proud, switches from Heagy’s syllable-laden verses to a surf-rock section, replete with vocal harmonies and a winsome chord progression, reminiscent of pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys.

There’s still a sense of novelty to The Brightest Days, too. The title track opens with a gentle ukulele, right before seamlessly switching gears into a distortion-heavy pop-punk breakdown that showcases Pat Doherty’s drumming chops. Even from a lyrical standpoint, Heagy discards the Pokémon allusions for occasional topicality. “My PG County Summer” chronicles the two friends’ upbringing in the D.C. area, where teachers often told them “to be grateful” despite the nefarious right-wing protestors who visit the city and “travel to be hateful.” It’s hard to appreciate the history of your city and country when all that history is, well, fucked up as shit. On Gami Gang, they waxed nostalgic about the halcyon days of youth: watching Pokémon anime, playing Game Boy and eating Taco Bell at 3 AM. Contradicting the otherwise sunny atmosphere of The Brightest Days, “Second Best Friend” jettisons the rose-tinted glasses. “Staying up all night now I wish I’d slept in / And maybe I’m wrong for not reminiscing / But it’s been too fucking long to be missing / A time where I felt so stupid and out of touch,” Heagy sings.

Origami Angel’s latest is far more interested in the present and appreciating what you currently have, rather than what you once had. Closing track “Few and Far Between” brings back the ukulele from the mixtape’s first song and stresses the importance of not taking everyday experiences for granted, even when it feels difficult: “I still say I love it here, behind clenched teeth and constant fear / ’Cuz one day it’ll disappear and we all know that.” Like the mixtape’s ethos itself, The Brightest Days is a mere glimpse of where Heagy and Doherty will go next through these eight songs that are over as quickly as they begin. But that’s a vital part of the appeal. What’s fleeting can also be memorable. Impermanence is, ironically, a permanent fixture of life. As Origami Angel put it so well just a couple of years ago, you may as well get caught in the moment.

Grant Sharples is a writer based in Kansas City. He has contributed to MTV News, Pitchfork, Stereogum, The Ringer, SPIN and others. Follow him on Twitter @grantsharpies.