Review Summary: Will you still remember me like I am here before you now, and I feel the same love?
Will you always think of me like I am six feet underground, and our world is gone?
NOTE: the above line was taken from the album opener Windy City Nights.
The Winter Sounds are an indie rock band hailing from Georgia (the state, not the country that was recently thrown into political turmoil). The band combines elements of new wave, indie pop/rock, and just a little pinch of punk attitude to create a sound that might not be as unique as a snowflake, but is different enough to be refreshing and new.
The Winter Sounds are:
Patrick Keenan - Vocals, Bass
Clayton Taylor - Guitar, Vocals
Gina Aselon - Keyboards
Ryan Durdin - Drums
Porcelain Empire, the debut release from the Georgian indie rockers, is thought provoking, atmospheric, uplifting, and just plain enjoyable. Rather than taking the approach of writing catchy, yet ultimately forgettable songs, which seems to have become the norm for many bands as of late, the band focuses more on making songs that actually strike a chord with the listener, and they manage to do so without falling into using the same hackneyed and cliche ideas that many others have in the past. Sure there are songs about love, death, and and the ills of the world, but rather than trying to incorporate lofty metaphors and over the top wordplay, the songs are written in a very straightforward and honest fashion.
The moods of the individual tracks rely not only on the lyrical themes, but also in the atmosphere produced by the instruments. Rather than employing the upbeat music/melancholy lyrics motif that so many others have used recently, all of the musical aspects of the song are used to convey the mood presented by the lyrical content, and the songs are much more, dare I say, powerful as a result. For example, the song Poor Sailors is basically a narrative about sailors trying to find their way back to their ships, (which is a fairly simple metaphor for people trying to go back to the way things were) and the music is fittingly somber, with swelling synthesizers and a lone violin playing throughout most of the track. The individual instrumental aspects are all surprisingly solid, and not only for an indie rock band, as they hold up surprisingly well against many modern bands (obviously excluding math rock and things of that nature). The drums constantly offer up interesting beats and fills, but never lose sight of the fact that they are there to hold the songs together, and Patrick's bass playing is interesting to say the least. The basslines and fills themselves are quite technically proficient, not only in the confines of the genre but in general, and whenever its necessary for the bass to just take a backseat and carry the rhythm, he still keeps thing interesting by using full chords instead of using single notes. The guitars and keyboards also play off of each other a lot, even harmonizing at points (the intro to A Call To Arms is a great example). The riffs might not be of the highly technical variety, but the melodies employed are slightly complex and interesting more often than not.
The lyrical content, as previously mentioned, is not really overly poetic or packed with metaphors, but it still manages to be thought provoking and maybe even somewhat...touching. Many of the songs are about longing, whether its for a lost love or just to find a purpose in life, but there is an underlying hopefulness to the lyrics that keep them from being overly depressing. I think the chorus of A Call To Arms serves as a good example.
"Always, stay with me no matter what, this is a call to arms
We won’t stand by, throw spinning wheels at long lost years
Walk haunted hills to empty fields
Where you’re right as rain"
Now with lyrics come vocals, and Keenan's performance is far from disappointing. His voice is a bit lower than usual, kind of like a slightly more soulful Julian Casablancas (The Strokes). Even though he mainly sticks to his lower octave, there are a few falsetto "ooh ooh" sections and some tasteful harmonies thrown in for good measure. Guitarist Clayton Taylor also contributes a few vocal harmonies, like during the beginning of Minnesota.
The only thing holding this album back are the few songs in between You Can't Give Up and The Earthworm song. They aren't inherently bad songs, just the quality doesn't seem to hold up to the rest of the content on offer. Even though those songs drag just a little bit, The Earthworm Song and The Tournament of Getting Older provide a great climax that saves the second half from dropping off. All in all, the album is a very strong debut for the band, displaying tight musicianship, solid songwriting, and emotional lyrics that don't get too caught up in the need to be overly poetic.
Highlights of the album:
Windy City Nights
A Call To Arms
The Earthworm Song
You Can't Give Up