Given the current average age of the emo rocker, Audio Learning Center are what would be considered an old band. In blunter terms, they are an ancient rock corpse, left to float aimlessly in a sea of fresh-faced pretty boys who have the band beat in fans and following. Their place in the modern-rock landscape is that of the old-men-out, sticking out like a sore thumb on Vagrant Records' kiddie-emo roster of the Get Up Kids and Dashboard Confessional. It's really a shame, considering that Audio Learning Center are still very much alive and kicking, proving themselves as a viable force of talented musicians with a knack for penning a personal song or two.

Their new, second album, Cope Park, is just that--a selection of songs that showcases the band's heart-on-sleeve persona, but without tainting their emotion with the error of youth.

Cope Park begins like all records should: with an attention-capturing opening song that draws you in before the hook and chorus ever bother showing up. "Waking Up with Eyes Still Closed" kicks off the record with a simple piano line and quiet lyrics--"Waking up with eyes still closed/Sunlight against my lids/Half here/Half-awake"--before erupting into an all-chorus crescendo of instrumentation and vocals. Much like an early-morning, half-slumbered haze, the song is unsure of itself as it begins, only to rise in volume and confidence as time progresses. The rest of Cope Park stays true to that path; songs start out with unsure footing, only to unwaveringly progress along the way.

With age comes wisdom, and Audio Learning Center know how to present both well. Their musical direction has been long coming, with singer/bassist Christopher Brady formerly fronting Pond, and guitarist Steven Birch a member of Sprinkler. While their awkward position of being the elder statesmen in what is a young man's game might be an inopportune fit, Audio Learning Center seem comfortable where they are. And if Cope Park is a sign of a band aging gracefully, then all bands should be so lucky.

Audio Learning Center's new CD, Cope Park, is out now in stores.

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