Review Summary: sad bastards.
While I'm most certainly a sucker for genre labels, it just so happens that sometimes I'll come across a record that will make me avoid categorising at all costs - while it's so very easy to label a band or record, putting a box around something simply means that that particular thing cannot venture beyond the boundaries of that box (at least in the boxer's mind). This sort of discussion is usually up in the air, and while it's easy to 'box' almost any type of music, sometimes it's just better to forget your critical faculty and enjoy the emotive side a piece of music has to offer. For the first time in a long time I did just that with Red Nightfall's debut LP, and I like to think that it fostered a stronger connection with the music. Initial listens of the album made me realise that if I were to write a review talking about how they're an indie rock band and how they either fit in or deviate from the typical tenets of the style, I would not be doing the Toronto based quartet any justice.
The band label themselves as both 'sad bastard indie-rock' and similar to 'early Pink Floyd or King Crimson'. While I believe the former description fits perfectly, I personally do not hear any Floyd or Crimson at all. Maybe I'm listening out for the wrong things? Regardless, I'll be taking this review down the sad bastard track; Red Nightfall as a record consists of 9 stripped down and sombre songs which more often than not build up in intensity as they progress. Generally speaking this is an indie-rock record, but there are folk, slowcore and perhaps even loose post-rock elements thrown into the mix, all which collude to give Red Nightfall a distinct character.
Instrumentally, this record is immaculate - rather than give a detailed description of what each member does and sounds like, I'm going to point out two particular elements which stick out to me as defining facets of Red Nightfall. Firstly, Addison Siemko's vocals suit the solemn and often melancholic atmosphere perfectly, and his ability to convey a completely different mood with the slightest change in his voice allows a great deal of introspection on the listener's behalf. The second notable thing is Patrick Illian's bass lines. The way they give life and urgency to the songs needs to be heard rather than described, so I'll just say that the bass' prominence in the mix is dearly welcomed.
I've done nothing but praise this album so far, so I'd like to end things on a more realistic note. I really enjoy this record, and I can state with no inhibitions that Red Nightfall are definitely onto something. Nonetheless, I think the band could spend a little more time fine-tuning their 'album-craft', if that makes any sense. Individual songs on the record are great - in fact, I don't think there are any that I didn't care for (double negative deal with it), but writing a collection of songs and putting them in an album is different to writing an album. I feel that Red Nightfall could very easily construct a highly cohesive record which oozes thematic continuity, but that's not quite the case here. All 9 songs have their own emotional 'rides', but when I pop this into the player, I feel that I'm sitting there listening to a song at a time rather than all 9 in a row.
All of that aside, this is a great record and being their debut it's a bit much to criticise them for such minute details. If artists such as The National, Vic Chessnutt or Jeff Buckley are your thing, if anyone has ever used the term sad bastard in referring to you or the music you listen to, then you should probably listen to Red Nightfall.