It’s a hot summer day and you are sitting on a familiar bank of a river with your friends, drinking cheap beer, when you decide to swim out into the river. The water is moving more quickly than you thought, and you find yourself getting carried down the river, further and further away from your friends. Do you swim against that swift current in an attempt to make it back to somewhere familiar before your energy runs out? Do you let go and hope the water carries you safely to a new shore? How long can you allow yourself to be swept away downstream before you’ve gone too far to hike back to where you started? What if you end up somewhere better but none of your friends follow you there?

These are the central questions at the heart of Driftwood Songs, the record label (through Take This To Heart Records) and full-length debut from Boise, Idaho-based quintet Western Daughter. Except it’s not actually water you find yourself swept away by; it’s a current made by the world moving ever faster around you. It’s the feeling of an in-between existence that is so prevalent in the awkward and anxious years of early adulthood—no longer being a child but still waiting for the day to come when you get your shit together.

This imagery is a thematic through line of Driftwood Songs, starting with the album’s title itself and the very first lines of the album’s opening track, ‘Skinny Water’. Sung by in unison by vocalist Taylor Robert Hawkins (in his distinctively twang-filled yet surprisingly diverse vocal delivery), and guitarist/vocalist Cameron Brizzee, you are immediately filled with the bittersweet nostalgia that the album is bursting with.

“The river’s moving fast, but we still shatter it like glass
Up to my ankles, an anchor in my hand
But by the time we sober up, I’m riding shotgun in your truck
And I’m reminded of the summer before last”

Musically, Western Daughter manages to embody this same sense of drifting uncertainty and change. Brizzee and fellow guitarist Taylor Jay’s work on the album ranges from the shimmering and intricate arpeggios of second-wave emo, to soaring leads and driving riffs reminiscent of fellow Boise natives and indie rock’s definitive garage dads, Built to Spill.

What really pulls the band together and makes Driftwood Songs such a perfectly cohesive journey, though, is the utterly solid foundation created in tandem by bassist Jess Hope and drummer Zach Sherwood (as well as additional percussion at moments by Hawkins). Throughout the album, Hope and Sherwood maintain a steadily driving undercurrent that pushes things constantly forward, crashing from moment to moment. The result of these conjoining parts gives Western Daughter a wholly unique and difficult to describe sound that somehow still remains easily accessible.

The most apt, yet still imperfect comparison I have been able to come up with is a child of mewithoutYou and Modest Mouse that was raised in the still-open country of Western America. A chimera bred of the genre-bending instrumentals found in the best post-hardcore of recent years, fourth-wave emo’s confrontation of mental wellbeing and yearning for personal catharsis, and the small town Americana storytelling of Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen. However, this type of comparison is somewhat a disservice to what Western Daughter sonically delivers with Driftwood Songs, because at no point does their sound feel like anything less than its own unique idea. It takes small pieces from these disparate places and reforms them into something lovely.

Emo’s fourth-wave revival has undoubtedly delivered some of the most memorable and emotionally resonant rock albums in recent years. With each year of this revival, there have been certain flagship albums that have pushed the genre to a different level and in new directions. These albums have shown that, in its current form, “emo” more closely describes the philosophy behind the songs themselves and the stories they tell than how the music actually sounds. Driftwood Songs firmly belongs in that echelon of album, and Western Daughter should be considered right alongside Sorority Noise as the year’s emo standard-bearer.

By the time Driftwood Songs reaches its conclusion, Hawkins’ yearning for some type of catharsis and resolution in a world that has made that quest seemingly impossible is as gut wrenching as it is relatable. It would have been an easy move for the band to lean into this feeling and leave the listener on a note of terrifying uncertainty, and they wouldn’t have been wrong for doing so. They don’t do that, though. Instead, they take a less obvious and considerably more difficult path in search of something more optimistic. Western Daughter’s greatest achievement (among an album full of them) with Driftwood Songs is that they do accomplish this task by the time the final song fades out.

With ‘Control’, the final track on Driftwood Songs, Western Daughter delivers one of the most cathartic musical experiences I have ever experienced. The song itself is a complete emotional journey. Hawkins and Brizzee’s voices combine to perfectly encapsulate hopeless feelings brought on by life-consuming battles with mental health, depression, and anxiety. As referenced by the song’s title, the song builds to its first crescendo with a feeling like you you’ve lost control of everything.

As the song builds back up, however, there is a light of hope saying, yes, you’ve lost control, but that’s ok. You may feel alone, but you’re not. You’re not alone. I could not be less ashamed to say this song has elicited such a strong and palpable emotional response in me that I have cried more than once while listening to it, but it was out of a sense of cathartic relief and optimism. With this final touch, ‘Control’ is truly the perfect summation of the emotional experience Western Daughter delivers with Driftwood Songs, and stands among the highest tier of album-closing songs.

With Driftwood Songs, Western Daughter has delivered something new and unique into the world of music in 2017. It is something that draws from numerous familiar sources and arranges them together in a way that works beautifully. It works so well, in fact, that I don’t see any way that Driftwood Songs will not be among the strongest contenders for my album of the year, and it certainly should end up on many others’ lists as well.