Merci is more than just Save Face’s debut full-length. The follow-up to Save Face’s first EP, 2016’s Folly, it’s also a highly thought-out concept album, part of what vocalist/guitarist Tyler Povanda calls an “ambitious multi-media art project.” Don’t be misled by that description, however. This record contains some of the most vital and immediate music you’ll hear all year, all of which combine to tell the compelling story of an addict. After a stint in rehab, the album’s protagonist Caleb feels himself slipping back into old drug habits and decides to leave his fiancée to spare ruining her life as he once again ruins his. “He has to make this choice,” explains Povanda, “of ‘If I do fall, not only am I going to bring myself down, but I’m also going to bring down this person that I love so much and who is pure good in my life.’ He has to question whether he can live with himself if he does that, and so makes the decision to leave. But in doing that, both of them end up in the hospital and they both die.”

It’s the tragic consequences of that decision which form the thematic core of this narrative, which takes place in France, hence the album’s title and three songs (“Merci”, “Pour” and “Rien” – “Thanks”, “For” and “Nothing”), and which provides these catchy-yet-off-kilter tracks with the dramatic tension that elevates them to being more than just songs. At a base level, the story was inspired by Povanda’s own break-up – “I thought what I was doing by ending the relationship was in both of our best interests,” he says, “but looking back, it wasn’t that black and white” – but this urgent, visceral, playful, indie-tinged album has been carefully crafted to tell a story that can be much bigger than that. “At the end of the day,” the singer says, “we’re a fucking rock band, but we’re also more than that. I’m a big fan of drama and theater – I love Broadway and Queen is my favorite band of all time – and we want to make diverse, multi-faceted art. It’s not just a bunch of songs. You can listen to them that way and if you like it that’s cool, but there’s more there if you want to go there. I think the biggest challenge is writing something that has merit in an artistic context while still palatable and digestible for an average listener. I want someone to put these songs on while they’re having a great day the same way they can listen to it while going through a crisis.”

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