Review Summary: Generic indie-pop mixed with annoying vocals just doesn't seem to cut it for me.
This album always manages to strike an interesting chord with me. But just like the album how the album sounds as a whole, the chord is out of tune and enjoyed by people who are obviously listening to something different than what I must be listening to. Several of my friends have recommended me this album, and I just don't see the pleasure they get out of it. Generic indie-pop mixed with annoying vocals just doesn't seem to cut it for me.
The band's sound as a whole is somewhat difficult to explain. I can best describe them as a more eclectic mix of The Shins and Interpol with an incredibly whiny Ian Curtis' vocals. Granted, this sounds like a very promising and winning combo (as they are bands I adore), but it really isn't. I actually enjoyed the vocals of Jeff Magnum from first listen of Neutral Milk Hotel, so I know I can enjoy singers that many do not, but these vocals do not seem to lock in with the music whatsoever. Like pond scum, it just congeals at the surface, and when you dig past the surface you are just given incredbily watered-down pop music. Songs that seem to wear thin with repeated listens, instead of growing upon the listener.
None of the instruments seem to stick out. They all seem to just be more of an atmospheric background to the vocals. It is entirely understandable that they might want to have that effect, as many indie-pop bands aim for this. When the vocals are so unenjoyable, though, it needs a bit more technicality to fall back on. I swear to God if I hear a drummer that relies on the tamborine so much again I will do something nasty. At least the guitar-work is different enough to keep things a little interesting and give somewhat of a change between songs. That is still not enough to save the album from it's most glaring flaw present.
The album feels so FORCED. The interplay between instruments and the vocals just never really seem to lock in place. Songs like "Over and Over Again" and "Heavy Metal" very well driven instrumentally but when the vocals are present it ruins the entire feel of the song. If the band wasn't so compelled to make their music so overly-eclectic there might be some wonderful gems. In fact, the only song that seems to flow well, and is possibly the saving grace of this album, is "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth,” one of the least eclectic on the album. It opens with a sugary-sweet synth line, a dancy drum beat, and when the vocals come in I am actually not cringing (much). For the next 5:44 I am almost blinded into thinking I am fully enjoying this band, until the next song comes in, and I realize that nothing really fits together anymore.
This certainly isn’t an album for everybody, and I might have been unfairly harsh in my rating. Personally, though, this album is just not enjoyable whatsoever. Overrated in every sense of the word, IMO. It should still be given a try. I know many a music fan that does fully enjoy this album, some going so far as to call it a modern classic (God-forbid). If you do enjoy the overall sound of the band in the songs to try, then you will probably enjoy the album as a whole. If you don’t really like this sound (like I don’t), then stay away from this album at all costs, as it will be a fairly large dissapointment.
Songs to try:
The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
Over and Over again (Lost & Found)
Overall Score - 2.5/5