Forming in 1998 and starting only as a side project when founders Zach Smith and Rob Crow decided to use their free time to collaborate on some songs, and eventually with all the interesting new material they've come up with came the birth of Pinback. "Excuse me?" Yeah, you heard me right, Pinback. This talented, fine, young pair from San Diego are still small dots in the indie scene, but have one heckuva resume, taking part in and gathering influences from yesteryear acts such as Physics, Heavy Vegetable, Three Mile Pilot, The Black Heart Procession.
By the release of Blue Screen Life the duo already have 2 EPs and an LP under their belt, but it wasn't until the surfacing of this album that more listeners actually paid attention to them. Zach does the bass, Rob plays guitar. Both take turns in vocal tasks and adding percussive and electronic textures; Tom Zinsor, also of Three Mile Pilot, plays drums on 3 of the tracks.
While they are far from being phenomenal or groundbreaking, it leaves me in awe everytime I listen to them. First thing you'll notice about this album is that it's very softly mixed. Some tracks will sound like they should be cranked up a lot more, but it fits nicely into their style. Pinback take the word "subtle" and give it new meaning, to mold it with other sonic concoctions and create their own sound that is not entirely original, but unmistakably theirs.
On to the album. The songs have that warm, familiar quality to them despite the rather alienating titles. Offline P.K.
immediately sucks you in with its groovy, fluid guitar opening; it's an easy tune to get into and it exudes the band's childish quirkiness that is apparent with most of their work. This is also true with the next track, Concrete Seconds
, which emphasizes even more of those feel-good beats that they're able to come up with. Don't let those two songs mislead you however, from their usual forte. Boo
suddenly turns the world around with its mournful watery guitars and less organic drums(this goes to show how the guys like to tinker around the drum machine a lot), coupled with lyrics that tell of undying love:
"If the line snaps and there's no air, will you hold me?
If I'm asleep, will you wake me?
If this rises and we hit the waves, will you dive back down?"
This makes for a wonderfully weird and affectionate pop song that's pleasing to the ears. X I Y
showcase the band's prowess in making groove-heavy compositions without exactly taking in the "wave your head, jump around" cheesiness that other bands seem to glorify in their happy songs. The former having a *gasp!* cheery reggae-like premise to it and the latter being uplifting and soaring. It's a nice contrast and a break from all the lonely bits going on. The last two tracks, West
are for me, the high points of this record. Both are beautifully piano-laden ballads that could almost jerk a tear from you, and that they hold a sense of longing and belonging accompanied by the rather dreary but innocent vocals.
The only major gripe I can think of is well, the production. Although a large improvement over their previous releases, you can't help but expect more polish from it, which sometimes sound like it was made on Acid or on Fruity Loops. Well that has been an issue for me on my first few listens, but over time I understood and appreciated how it works wonders on and fits perfectly with the songs.
If ever you feel like reminiscing through your childhood years or just want to get away from all the noise, listen to this. It will keep you safe in its own protective covering filled with dreamy, hypnotic, and at times upbeat textures. Consider this to be your warm little blanky that tucks you in your little 'ol bed, or a simple story that puts you to sleep, but is far from being one-sided and boring. With that said, this album really is not for everyone. Rather, it touches those who extend their ears to its quiet radiance, to give them a soft 12 song journey through the lullaby that is Blue Screen Life
Recommended for fans of Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse and similar bands
Many thanks to Kazoo(Ornery Cephalopod) for getting me into them:)