Review Summary: Blake Sennet of the Rilo Kiley fame offers us a frustrating album which has the odd moment of quality but never really delivers.
As the saying goes sometimes a picture can paint a thousand words, and the artwork to The Elected’s second offering review summarises what this album is all about. Warm and mellow guitar tones weave around front man Blake Sennett’s soft croon, it is the very definition of a summer album, delightfully easy to listen to, very accessible but just musically challenging enough to keep the album from descending into The Eagles country. Its soft textures mask an often darker motive lyrically but “Sun, Sun, Sun” is an endearing but at times trying venture into soft indie rock. Since 2003’s “Me First” the band has improved dramatically in song writing and this is a much improved effort on its predecessor. Probably better known for his work in Rilo Kiley than his solo work Blake has managed to convincing come out of the shadow of his better recognised projects to and although this music is not a million miles from Rilo Kiley itself, this is far from a carbon copy unlike Jenny Lewis’s solo album Rabbit Fur Coat.
Sun, Sun, Sun is a blissful ride through pop melodies and catchy hooks, think Iron and Wine with less folk and more indie pop or alternatively if Rivers Cuomo decided to take on more laid back melodies rather than in your face hooks. The main problem is that for an album which crosses so deeply into pop territory there are precious few sing-a-longs or even memorable choruses. “The Bank and Trust” does perfectly what this album sets out to do. A more country feeling effort than most of Sun, Sun, Sun the song is one of the few songs that hit the mark at first listen. Beautiful soothing acoustics are complimented perfectly by an injection of horns and fuzzy electric guitar lines. Lyrically it is easily relatable if not hugely mentally stimulating. Blake sings, “So now the bills have all been paid, and the money's all been saved, you're still as sad as you ever were. Selling' out, to the man you trust.”
The problem is that the next song sounds so similar to this which brings me to the major problem with the album. A real issue here is the huge blur that the album becomes, distinguishing from song to song is not the easiest of tasks and with few changes in tempo, instrumentation or melody throughout the album we are left with a homogenous block which is far from desirable.
The sound that the band have established for themselves is perfectly satisfactory but the fact that he wrote most of this on the road shows and although songs like “Did Me Good” and “Would You Come With Me” go some way to making up for the masses of filler it is too little and is overpowered by the bad. To concentrate on the good however, the latter of the two tracks kicks of this album in fine style, with sweeping chorus and folksy undertones, it should really only set the tone for greater things. The melodies are flawless and reach an almost anthemic quality, but all too soon the album fades away and you are left thinking what might have been.
Part of the problem is Blake’s voice. He is just not a good vocalist. His range is incredibly limited and isn’t an especially unique one. He lacks the power for a chorus but at the same time struggles to really inject some passion into the songs; sure he is in tune and has a pleasant tone but where is the emotion and energy in his voice? Where is the individuality? Until he really develops this I just came see him as front man material.
The story of this album is very simple. The Elected have an interesting and promising sound and let’s just hope they actually write some better songs next time. The polarisation on this album reminds me of The Verve’s “Urban Hymns”, what is good here is damn good and is just enough to warrant me coming back to the band next time round, but there is so much filler here and so little experimentation or differentiating between songs that it at times verges on the unlistenable.
Would You Come With Me?
Fireflies in a Street Small
The Bank and Trust