Blue October is a band that took me straight back to middle school. This alt rock outfit was picked by fellow DFL librarian Karen Hahn who heard one of the tracks on the television show NCIS and really liked it. She chose their fifth studio album Approaching Normal, released in 2009, and I was really impressed. Formed in 1995, the band sounds very much like millennial alternative bands like Lifehouse, Tonic or Creed with a bit more of an edge (and less religion). Their lead singer Justin Furstenfeld is all over the vocal spectrum at times sounding like Chris Martin on tracks like “Been Down” and more like Frank Turner on songs like “Kangaroo Cry” (one of my favorites on the album). Overall the tone of the album is very negative with most of the songs dealing with subjects like kidnapping, marital affairs, death, and depression giving the band an almost emo sound, but it works well with the variety of instruments and the sporadic tempo changes which make the album really fun to listen to. The only real positive song on the album is “Blue Skies” which is a fun, poppy track which sounds like a more rock oriented Guster. Of the two singles released off the album my favorite is “Say It” which received pretty heavy radio play at the end of the 00’s. The song has a crazy catchy chorus which gets stuck in your head for hours (which can be a good or bad thing). The other single “Dirt Room” is a great song albeit rather macabre focusing on the abduction of a person and their subsequent imprisonment in a hand dug dirt room. The strangest track, but also one of the best on the record was “The End” a nearly five minute tune with an incredibly haunting tone which sounds like someone reciting a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. The track has my favorite chorus and is the heaviest on the record dealing with the emotions of someone walking in on their wife having an affair. Overall, Karen’s pick was top notch. An album and band that is diverse in both their choice of instruments and their vocals which makes for songs that are really only connected by their subject matter. Definitely check out more by Blue October. I know I will as several of the songs off Approaching Normal have already made their way on to my playlists.