I wrote about the most recent Armor For Sleep album, "What To Do When You Are Dead", in a larger "Emo Roundup" article a few months ago. At the time, I'd never heard their earlier album, "Dream To Make Believe", and in fact I'd been dissuaded from checking it out by a friend who had, and said it wasn't anything that great. However, last week I heard an opposing viewpoint from another friend. He'd just been through a bad breakup, and informed me that "Dream to Make Believe" was nearly the only thing keeping him sane (along with Lifetime's "Hello Bastards", an album I've long known to be of superlative caliber). This was enough to get me to check it out, and I've learned that my suffering friend was right about the quality of this album. It's not as close to that modern radio-friendly emo/pop-punk sound that's so big right now as "What To Do When You Are Dead" is, and while "Dream To Make Believe" doesn't have the powerful and gripping lyrical content that helped to set that album apart from the pack, I would argue that it is musically superior to its follow-up. A spaced-out guitar sound that descends from bands like Hum and Failure is used frequently here, while elements of the emo/pop-punk sound that were used heavily in the songwriting structures on "What To Do When You Are Dead" are almost entirely absent. This album mixes echoing guitars and melodic vocal hooks into something almost like power-pop, but with a palpable sense of loneliness that doesn't come through so much in the words as in the sound of the music itself. It's something about the ambient texture, provided by the amount of reverb used on the guitar and voice, that makes you feel like you're floating in space, all alone. In the end, this is an incredibly sad album that creates a feeling of sincere emotion, while never resorting to the sort of heart-on-sleeve confessional style that powers the music of a lot of Armor For Sleep's contemporaries. This is good, too, because that sort of style can fail horribly if it's not done well, and for every Taking Back Sunday who pull it off perfectly, there are at least half a dozen Dashboard Confessional ripoffs who nearly drown the listener in cloying sentimentality. Armor For Sleep achieve what they've set out to create with their music, and do it subtly, without overplaying their hand, which makes "Dream To Make Believe" that much more remarkable of an album.