I’ve had a difficult time finding anything by Portrait. Supposedly one of the more interesting emo bands around (due to their use of a viola), I kept it in the back of my mind to check them out some day. I could never get a hold of any of their material, and instead had to settle on listening to a band who had many comparisons drawn to said Portrait: I Would Set Myself On Fire For You. While I cant draw any comparisons to Portrait yet, what I can say in brief about Believes in Patterns
is they sound like a folk-ier version of Circle Takes the Square and Joshua Fit For Battle put together. In short, they should kick incredible amounts of ass.
"Twelve" certainly starts everything out right. A tender viola/acoustic guitar intro done by Lindsey (Vocals/Viola) and Stephen (Guitar/Vocals) leads into something you would expect to hear off of As the Roots Undo
. In fact, the vocal interplay is undoubtedly strongly influenced by CTTS, with Lindsey’s screaming (admittedly, she is a much better singer than Kathy) intertwining well with Stephen and Justin (Bass/Vocals). The viola isn’t as present as it could be here (truly doing something interesting), but Stephen is an interesting enough guitar player to make up for that.
For all the comparisons made to CTTS and Portrait, IWSMOFFY do manage to create their own overarching sound. The album shifts constantly from viola lead interludes to screamo outbursts into strange, folksy intermissions replete with the occasional sax. While the band is at its best when they’re imitating CTTS or City of Caterpillar, these other sections do manage to make those better parts all the more interesting. If it weren’t for “Let the Jazz Band In” and its mellow atmospherics, “Six” would lose a lot of the impact it has. While going from a lull into intensity is nothing new and fairly common in the genre, IWSMOFFY at least does it well.
“Seven” is the inarguable pinnacle of the album, a slow ascent into rage where the bottom suddenly falls out and the entire band starts shouting. As lame as it sounds, its extremely emotional, and the band goes into this section with enough conviction to turn anyone onto the song. The chorus of “49531 583 6713” is surprisingly catchy and catches you off guard, and the return to viola based indie folk at the end is a perfect end.
For how cool all of this is, the album has some major flaws. For one, its really just not very exciting or new. Yeah, I’ve never heard a viola in emo before, and although it may have been done (better perhaps) before, it was neat to hear. Thing is, they never truly utilize it in song. It’s one thing to throw in a keyboard or sitar in an interlude; its an entirely different thing to actually incorporate it into your core songwriting. Hearing perhaps a complimentary viola to Stephen’s guitar riffs would have been a unique way to try and capture the listeners attention.
Then there is the matter of how…unimpressive it all is. I didn’t hear many new ideas in all of this, except for maybe bongo’s in “#” which barely added to the overall experience at all. Sure, they use voicemail messages, dual vocal interplay, soft-loud dynamics, and other assorted hogwash that’s plenty cool enough, but they don’t use any of it to great effect. A lot of the time they sound like they’re actively ripping off Circle Takes the Square, and the other time it sounds like they’re substituting CTTS’s electronic interludes for sax/viola interludes instead. Its one thing to take influence a band, its another to sound entirely too much like them.
Believes in Patterns
is a very enjoyable album. The only bad song here is “So this is Our Home,” a track only redeemable by Lindsey’s beautiful vocals. Everything else ranges from awesome (“Twelve, Seven, Three) to pretty good (The last three tracks) to okay (Six, Terrible Noise). It’s just that nothing here is new, and you can just go ahead and listen to other bands who do what they do better in the first place. I Would Set Myself On Fire For You are undoubtedly a talented band and I can’t wait to see what they do next, but Believes in Patterns
is just highly enjoyable recycled ideas.