Review Summary: EndSerenading can be summed up with four words, "crushing power" and "explosive emotion".
EndSerenading is Mineral's second album. And it is a whole lot different than their debut The Power of Failing. At the same time though, it shares a lot with the debut. The soundscape has evolved, the mellower parts are more mellow, and the loud parts are louder and there aren't as much D-A-Hm-G chord progressions. But the music still moves in that special Mineral way, and Christopher Simpson still sings interesting stories about everything and nothing. The songs are all Mineral, but they're not The Power of Failing.
First of all - I've noticed many people calling Mineral Sunny Day Real Estate ripoffs, and I don't get it. In SDRE's case, it's apparent that they owe a great deal to what the media in the early '90s described as "grunge", because SDRE use their guitars to create interesting chord progression with powerful riffs. Mineral's guitarists on the other hand rely on twinkling and more sensitive playing. Especially here on EndSerenading. People also say that Chris Simpson sound too much like Jeremy Enigk, something that I could never even begin to fathom. Though Enigk has the same fondness of harmonic vocal lines as Simpson, Enigk strikes me as more reserved. Yes he shouts - almost like Kurt Cobain - at times, but there's usually a fair amount of minutes between every shout. Simpson on the other hand gives everything he has at all times, and doesn't seem to care at all if he's missing the note by a thousand miles. Simpson sings with all the emotion of the world, all at once. And it's touching.
What separates Mineral from many a band (including SDRE) musically is how EndSerenading's songs all progress, like the songs from The Power of Failing also did. Though they don't stray all too much from typical song structure, there is no apparent verse/chorus/verse structure to it. All the songs progress and have some sort of gigantic climax. But despite following this formula fairly strict, the songs are so vastly different that it in no way gets predictable or repetitive. You never really know when a climax is coming. The climaxes do not rely sorely on quite/loud dynamics either. There are also breaks, guitar solos, change of pace and other things. But no matter how these climaxes choose to manifest themselves, the key to them is how they are delivered - with sensational power and intensity.
The lyrics all fit the driving nature of the melodies. Simpson is no raconteur, nor is he a preacher. Instead he presents snippets of a life in his lyrics. The lyrics often focus greatly on a single event or two, or maybe three. These events are described in depth, with details. They are sung with the beforehand-mentioned vocal performance; with emotion. Consequently one can't help but be moved by Simpson's stories. Simpson also has a way of singing "slowly", i.e. with unusually long vowels. Combine that with a bright off-key voice, and you have him. It's sort of Daniel Johnston without the lisp.
The thing that makes Mineral so special is how everything is so thoroughly done. Everything we are presented with on EndSerenading seems thought through very carefully. Even the track titles are cleverly made up. Like in "LoveLetterTyperwriter", where Simpson definitely is a love letter typewriter and in "Unfinished", where you're just sitting, waiting for the sentence ("and the two shall become") to become finished. But it's not the track titles that are the most important aspect of EndSerenading. It's how Simpson tells his stories, how the guitars come crushing in at unexpected moments, how the drums and bass ensures that no track follows the same rhythm or style. It's the sheer emotion and power, how everything is made unforgettable, and the impression it all makes.