Review Summary: A little-known gem of an album that deserves more attention.
On this album, Days Away was:
Keith Goodwin - Vocals, Guitar
Matt Austin - Guitar
Chris Frangicetto - Bass
Tim Arnold - Drums
Bryan Gulla - Keyboard
Days Away is a surprising band in that very few people have been exposed to their music, despite a fairly long career and a wonderful sound that deserves far more attention than it has garnered. The band formed in 1998, went through a series of line-up changes and released a handful of EPs before releasing Mapping An Invisible World
, their only full-length, in 2005 (they disbanded after releasing a final EP in 2007). This record is reminiscent of bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Death Cab for Cutie, but manages to find its own voice despite clear musical influences. On Mapping
, Days Away makes no attempt to experiment much with the formula of their influences, but rather, allow their own character to seep into every moment of the album. The result is an all-around excellent, catchy, indie-rock album filled with intelligent songwriting, clever lyricism and and enough energy to make the formula sound fresh.
A short drum intro kicks the band into “God and Mars,” energetic album opener and first standout track of the album. The song features a subdued verse and a big-sounding chorus a la SDRE, featuring singer Keith Goodwin giving one of his better performances on the album. This song is memorable mostly because it is faster-paced than the rest of the songs on the album and really shows off a louder Days Away than is present elsewhere. As the album goes on, the band rarely retreads ground they have already covered, giving each of the songs a different enough feel that they never get boring.
The rhythm section shines throughout Mapping
, the bass and drums locking in together to create some interesting grooves and textures, while the keyboardist adds to the general consonance of the band’s sound without ever really being very noticeable (apart from the odd bridge or piano line here and there). The band as a whole, but particularly the drummer, seems to pay a lot of attention to dynamic contrast to help songs move forward. The drummer does an excellent job playing sensitively, subtle and technical in all the right spots, and his style works wonders for the songs on Mapping
. While not technically impressive by any stretch, the guitarists do a great job of getting the most out of the different sounds they utilize. Featuring moments like the distant lead guitar in the background of “Mirrors,” the quirky, underwater sounding verse of “It’s Not Over,” or the Circa Survive-esque noodly guitar line of “Stay the Same,” the guitars never bore, but never really get the chance to truly shine, mostly playing the part of support for Goodwin’s vocal melodies.
Vocalist Keith Goodwin elevates what would a great, but overall unmemorable album to an exceptional one. His wistful voice complements Days Away’s sound perfectly, and his melodies soar over the band and easily holds the listener’s attention through the album’s 42 minute run time. His melodies are catchy enough to stick in your head (I’ve caught myself humming “God and Mars” at least once a day since I got the album), and while he’s certainly no Anthony Green, he is a more than capable frontman, and he proves it consistently on Mapping
. Lyrically, the album doesn’t end up being anything special either way. Goodwin’s lyrics are definitely not bad, but they are in no way remarkable; the album has its fair share of memorable lines, but I get the impression that the lyrics stand out more as a result of Goodwin’s sincere, powerful delivery than the words themselves. The lyrical content of the album covers mostly typical topics (relationships, loneliness, etc.), but something about Goodwin’s voice helps the words feel more profound than they should.
This album is consistently awesome, and although certain parts of the album tend to drag a bit, the highlights far outweigh the very few missteps Days Away make here. This effort is fresh, clean, sunny, and immediately likable, and has enough subtleties to make it rewarding beyond its initial catchiness. Overall, Mapping An Invisible World
is a magnificent release in it’s genre which, for the most part, is totally overlooked. Well, now might be time to start paying attention.