Review Summary: An impressive album from a criminally overlooked group of musicians.
Over the past couple of weeks or so, I've come to realize just how many things there are in this world that make absolutely no sense to me. Vacuum packaging, Fox News, Microsoft Points (why can't you just use money?), and the popularity of things like autotuned vocals are just a few of the things that confound me on a daily basis, but the main
quandary that's been plaguing my thoughts recently is this. Why in the world haven't The Winter Sounds been scooped up by a major label yet? On paper, they have everything that seems to be necessary for success in today's "indie" scene; lush keyboard atmospheres, soaring vocals, occasional quirky drumbeats, memorable melodies, and, of course, lyrical themes that involve love, death, and growing old. So forgive me for being a bit perplexed as to why a band that now has two incredibly
solid albums under their belts is still being largely overlooked by the musical community.
Church of the Haunted South is the second album from the Georgian quartet (soon relocating to Chicago), and it's arguably one of the best releases to come out of it's respective genre so far this year. Instead of simply taking all of the aforementioned elements and hastily throwing them together in a lackluster collection of ultimately forgettable radio-friendly pop tunes like so many other bands have done recently, The Winter Sounds manages to tie everything together with strong songwriting and an almost impeccable balance of substance and "catchiness". Another thing that sets the album a bit above the rest of the pack is the fact that the album actually has a well thought out structure in terms of song placement. Instead of grouping songs into sets of upbeat catchy numbers and ballads, which seems to have become par for the course as of late, the songs are set up to give the album a sort of "peaks and valleys' kind of feel to it. For example, the album starts off strong with the upbeat Trophy Wife, which ends up being one of the album's stand out tracks, with its soaring choruses and numerous infectious instrumental hooks, before dipping into the fairly somber (yet oddly uplifting) O'Fear, and subsequently rising back up into the toe tapping Candelight.
Another interesting aspect of the album is the way in which climaxes come about. Perhaps one of the best "climactic" moments comes after the first chorus in Candlelight, when everything abruptly drops out except for a very distant vocal line and a soft (heavily reverb laden) guitar melody. It doesn't sound like a moment like this would be even remotely climactic, but the effect it creates is almost jarring (in a good way). In addition to the climactic moments, there are also quite a few ear catching moments within the songs that sort of draw the listener back in if they happen to zone out during one of the albums slower ballad-esque numbers, like the odd combination of violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin, synth, and a quirky dance beat in the outro to Marry Me. However, there are a few moments where the slower songs almost
run themselves into a slight rut and kill the momentum, but they're almost always salvaged by the inclusion of a bubbly synth line, or a wavering falsetto line to contrast with vocalist Patrick Keenan's usual warm tenor voice.
If The Winter Sounds continue to pump out more material of this quality, and
continue to be overlooked by a wide margin of the music community, I will be nothing short of shocked. What Church of the Haunted South accomplishes is to take all of the most enjoyable elements of their contemporaries within the genre, and add enough of their own flavor to it to make it sound original and refreshing, but still retain enough familiarity to make it instantly memorable and enjoyable. With the way things are looking now, I would hope to expect much bigger things from the band in the near future.