Review Summary: Idaho releases an album that reacts its full potential for the most part.Random Album Submission:
Idaho – Hearts of Palm
Idaho is an alt. rock band formed in the early nineties by Jeff Martin and John K. Berry, and since then they have been making a unique brand of piano-centric alt. rock with some slowcore influences. For years now, they’ve been making excellent music that should have been catchy enough to hit the alt. rock radar, especially in the 90s, but due to under promotion from their labels, they failed to catch much attention. Jeff Martin changed members, got rid of Mr. K. Berry, replaced him with Dan Seta, and eventually replaced both of them and Idaho would become Jeff’s solo project. However, looking back to 2000, the band’s fifth album Hearts of Palm
, Jeff Martin made some truly heart breaking and excellent music back in the day.
Some things that make Idaho unique for their genre is the major focus on the layers. Most of the songs on Hearts of Palm
blends piano and guitar to create a soothing yet bleek mixture of layers, creating an obscure, blackened atmosphere . It’s somewhat an oddity for the alt. rock genre, but it definitely gets the job done. Nearly all of the songs incorporate this in a good way, like in “To Be the One”, which starts out with a very hypnotic rhythm and some soothing piano playing, and then everything just halts and the song suddenly centers all on lead singer Jeff Martin. Just a few songs later, the ironically depressing “Happy Times” comes along with some slow paced acoustic guitars, and leads into a chorus with a sludgy sounding lead guitar. while it may be too slow or depressing for some people’s taste, the piano perfectly fits the atmosphere Hearts of Palm
Where the album truly gets its atmosphere, though, are lyrics and vocals of Jeff Martin. Throughout the record, Martin’s saddening swooning is akin to that of an angel. A very sad angel, perhaps, but an angel nonetheless, and with such a clean and accessible vocal style, just about anybody can appreciate his voice despite what their opinion may be towards the music. Another great feature of the album is his lyrics. On Hearts of Palm
, lyricist Jeffy just writes about his life and issues that he deals with, or maybe writes some humorously sarcastic lyrics that make him sound like he’s happy (“Happy Time”, “Dum Dum”).
If there is an issue with the album, it lies in how repetitive it becomes. Though the songs do try to sound unique and different on their own, each song sounds sort of the same with a couple of exceptions. “Happy Times” stands out due to its much slower, sludgy rhythm and its somewhat joking nature. The final instrumental track “Under” is a stand out, but in a bad way. The song sounds beautiful for the first four minutes, but then eventually drains out, and consistently bores for three minutes. As the album fades out, Martin tries his hand at creating an ambiance by incorporating the sounds of crickets chirping. It’s a misguided attempt to infuse an unnecessary aesthetic into an album that works perfectly without it.
By centering the album around his melancholy and light piano-playing, Marting Freeman allows his album to reach its full potential. However, the only places the album starts to lack a bit is songwriting, and at times, his ability to draw out his post rock influences to the point of boredom (“Under” in particular). I would recommend this album to fans of both post rock and alt. rock, but be warned; the album may eventually grow tiring by the end.
What’s good about Hearts of Palm
What’s bad about Hearts of Palm
- Happy Times
- The atmosphere
- Vocals and lyrics
- Jeff Martin
- Songwriting could be taken up a notch.