Review Summary: Hey wait, this isn't loud at all...
The sound of So Many Dynamos has always been somewhat of a difficult to pin down. The band's 2006 release, Flashlights, displayed aspects of a variety of different genres: the inherent catchiness of indie rock, the complex rhythmic structures of math rock, and the lush keyboard textures of post-rock/punk to name a few, but what made the album a truly
interesting listen was the band's own quirky energy that seeped into the songs and bubbled subtly just below the surface. However, the way in which the album blended the approachable aspects of indie rock with the aspects of much more challenging genres left it teetering dangerously on a fairly fine line, so it seemed as though a significant progression in either direction could potentially alienate a good portion of the band's fan-base. So, how does a band like So Many Dynamos avoid alienating any listeners and simultaneously manage to make noticeable progressions? The answer, obviously, is to progress in both directions.
On the surface, The Loud Wars seems to be just an expansion on everything that made Flashlights an enjoyable and rather unique album, pairing incredibly infectious melodies with impressively tight musicianship, but underneath the surface, some pretty significant changes have been made. Rather than sticking with the same method of using catchy melodic sections to provide a contrast to the more complex and dissonant passages (a motif that has really become all but played out as of late), the band has found a way to blend the two together in an almost seamless fashion. Basically, instead of using stark contrasts to make the songs themselves more interesting, the contrasting elements are blended together in varying degrees; this creates moments of simple melodies that either naturally progress into thick, angular walls of noise, or swell into vibrant, soaring climaxes.
However, the revamped songwriting style isn't the only thing this album has going for it. What really ends up driving the album is that same energetic quirkiness that was present in previous recordings, except now, instead of stewing just below the surface, that quirky liveliness has broken through and really taken over the band's sound. Album opener (and highlight) Artifacts of Sound really serves as a picture perfect example of this. The pseudo-dueling guitar riffs, frantic drum patterns, fuzzy, synthesized basslines (all of which are provided by Aaron Stovall's various keyboards), and clashing keyboard melodies are all glued together by this inexplicable, oddball sense of infectiousness, and topped off with Stovall's distinctive, not completely spoken, not completely sung vocal delivery. The truth is, nearly every song on offer here is worthy of the title "album highlight". From the driving beats and constantly evolving melodies and textures of New Bones, to the jaunty instrumentals and quirky storytelling of The Novelty of Haunting, to the synth filled eccentricities of the 6 minute closer The Formula, and everything in between, there really isn't a portion of the album that disappoints.
With The Loud Wars, So Many Dynamos has really proven that they can consistently churn out unique and inventive music that manages to be both challenging and accessible, and with the recent support of a larger label in Vagrant Records, they might finally get the recognition they truly deserve. If the progression from 2006 to the present is any indication, the Dynamos really have the potential to become a huge force amongst their contemporaries.