Think of a musical. The musical is based somewhere in Europe, the time period isn't specific and doesn't play a major part. The plot is based around a young man. The story revolves around innocence, love, and good old fashioned fun. This
is the music that would accompany that musical. Wisconsin based Pale Young Gentlemen have created one of the few genuinely fun albums I have ever heard. Do not let the length fool you, this covers everything and more of what you would expect from a barely half hour record.
While the uniqueness of this band prevents me from categorising them too specifically or making comparisons that won't do their sound justice, the band could almost be defined as a more energetic, more piano-based Arcade Fire. The orchestra arrangements, including a cellist in their line up, are intricate, majestic, and fitting to the songs, adding an entire different dimension to the compositions. The most noticeable elements of the band however are the leading piano and the deep, melodramatic voice of Matthew Reisenauer, who brings the stories to life. The piano riffs are crafted beautifully, with the lead in 'A Shadow on The Wall', accompanied by the cello, inducing the feeling of a playful child. The vocals range from soft, emotional crooning, effortlessly contrasted with a high falsetto tone, that can just as easily be shifted straight back to his cheerful, smooth, and deep singing voice.
That's not to say the rest of the band don't hold their own. The cello adds a feeling of loneliness and sorrow in the slower songs, as well as accompanies the piano with teasing strokes in the upbeat songs. It adds that deeper feeling to the songs and the band certainly aren't afraid to highlight it, making the cello as audible as possible for the listener in many of it's parts. The drums keep the beat steady and solid; or as a drum beat can get as it seamlessly graces through the various odd time signatures in the songs.
You don't have to look far to find examples of the theatrics in this album, as the band uses the piano, orchestra, and crooning to reach climactic points that are nothing short of magnificent in songs like 'My Light, Maria'. If you want those sometimes quirky, always catchy, dance anthems, look no further then 'Fraulein' or 'Clap Your Hands'. If you want an emotion-packed, slower, more Coldplay-esque melody, give 'As A War' a spin. More straightforward pop songs can be found in the form of 'Up North' and album closer, 'Single Days'. If you're looking for the more obscure and the different, let 'Me & Nikolai' or 'Saturday Night' grace your ears, songs that would not sound out of place at an Oktoberfest beer hall. The piano and the cello come together at their finest in 'A Shadow on the Wall', crafting one of the albums highlights. 'An Appeal to St. Peter's chanting back up vocals and joyful piano beat make it yet another great tune in a great album.
Pale Young Gentlemen craft a different sound in the world of indie music and this debut album is nothing short of magnificent. If I was to identify a flaw on this album, it would not be on the performance, the production, or the music because quite simply, they do what they do wonderfully. I only wish they would've done it longer. This half hour tour de force will leave you yearning for more. Do yourself a favour: buy this album.