Review Summary: I want to buy you something, but I don't have any MONEY!
Have you ever wondered what kind of indie album you and your friends would make, if given the proper resources? Sure, you’ve always had some good songwriting ideas, but you’ve always been reluctant to make full-blown music out of them. Your friends know how to play their instruments, and they’re nothing special at them, but they don’t need to be. So why not put an album together?
This is an easy picture to imagine upon hearing The Drums’ sophomore album, Portamento
: a cool group of guys, solid musical ideas and a pervading lack of confidence. The indie outfit simply doesn’t believe in itself enough, and when it does it’s for too brief a time. When Portamento
concludes with stellar track “How It Ended,” for instance, it’s hard to not wonder what the album could’ve been if accompanied by the clear confidence the song has to offer. Each time the instrumentation lures in the listeners, the album’s meekness forces them away. And maybe the most blatant example of this is Jonny Pierce’s inconsistent work behind the microphone. Sometimes he paints a vivid picture of a hopeless romantic, one to which we all can relate. “Money” works best in this regard; sure, the vocals are rough in the track, but the quality fits the rough aesthetic. And this is what separates The Drums from the rest of the indie rock pack, the fact that the group wants to be more polished than they really should be.
does offer some exciting moments for indie. The album’s first half is the most solid, emphasizing Pierce’s to-the-point lyrics regarding the usual fare: love, hurt and bitterness. And while the storytelling isn’t particularly original, there’s something alluring about the topics’ familiarity. This makes up for the vocals’ sometimes rocky delivery, and is perhaps even the album’s strongest feature. The truth is that Portamento
would be a bland release without the introspective vocals, which give the tracks a confirmed purpose.
The Drums’ sophomore release, if nothing more, serves as a palette of tested ideas. It’s easiest to view the album as an experiment of sorts, with the band figuring out exactly what style of indie comes most naturally. And what makes this release most appealing is its approachable manner. From the personal lyrics to the lighthearted instrumentation, Portamento
is intimate in nature and meaningful for the introverted. After all, this album could have even been written by your neighbors, because they’ve been experiencing the same woes as you. And would you have ever guessed it?