Gem Club



by Usheen Coleman USER (10 Reviews)
March 21st, 2016 | 8 replies

Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Now I'm not one for genre bias, I like to keep my mind open to all forms of music and at least give everything a chance which has been nothing but rewarding in my music listening experience. However if there's one genre I struggle to find solid interesting releases in it's ambient pop. You've got your gems like Air's Moon Safari but most of the time I find myself bored to tears in places I feel I'm supposed to be emotionally moved, most bands in this particular genre don't do much interesting and their music usually includes elements such as prominent piano, airy production and light vocals with not much variation leading the genre to sorta blend together (as a matter of fact the reason Moon Safari works so well is its mix of downtempo with the genre).

The particular band of the genre we'll be discussing today is Gem Club, an American band formed by singer-songwriter Christopher Barnes and cellist Kristen Drymala in 2009. The band released an EP in 2010 titled Acid and Everything and shortly after were signed to Hardly Art records, gained a new member and released the album we'll be looking at today, Breakers.

The album starts off promising enough with the song Twins, a gentle song consisting of atmospheric haunting piano, delicate vocals and airy production, all the aforementioned elements of an ambient pop record but here it sounds pretty good, the piano playing is very melancholy and melodic, and as the song goes on more instruments get added building up the atmosphere, so it looks like we're off to a good start. However, on just the second track I noticed a problem, one that it shares with many records of its kind, this track sounds strikingly similar to the last, however the song still keeps up the atmosphere and is of decent quality.

But from here on out, every song just sounds more same-y, and the album gets exhausting to listen to. Some tracks will try to add some variation like the stomping distant percussion on Lands or some strings but these just sound more like after thoughts thrown on to the songs. The song Red Arrow (John) starts off promising with some very nice melodic piano playing and a slightly more upbeat tone but is ruined by some forced lifeless string sections. And of course you gotta throw in some female vocals on Black Ship, look, to any one who makes music that's main goal is to be emotionally gripping don't throw opposing gender vocals onto a track just for the sake of it, it's a cliche done to death and doesn't work anymore.

And on top of this the lyrics on this album are clearly trying hit you emotionally in some way or another, but they're so vague at times and at others so specific that nothing really leaves an impact at all. It would be okay if these lyrics were sung with some passion but nope, Barnes vocal style is the equivalent of a 'spooky' ghost in a cartoon. What is meant to come off as heart-breaking really just comes off as a hollow, weightless whimper with no personality.

I found as the album went on it lost all of its effectiveness and got harder to pay any mind to. I can appreciate the effort that went into this and maybe this just isn't for me, but it comes off as just another faceless name in the scene. Skip this and check their next album In Roses, it's a lot more melodically pleasing and interesting and overall a more solid effort.

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user ratings (5)

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March 21st 2016


Album Rating: 2.5

[This review is part of a "50 Album Review" challenge where I took 50 album suggestions from the users of Sputnikmusic and will be reviewing over the course of the next few months, link to the list is here:]


Suggested by: Dylan620

March 21st 2016


yah this needed a review

breakers is good

Digging: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Luciferian Towers

March 21st 2016


Album Rating: 2.5

Someone should make a positive review too though

March 21st 2016


Album Rating: 4.5

Bummed you didn't enjoy this as much as I did, but this is a great review. I plan on writing up a counterpoint review when I can find the time

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

March 21st 2016


Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks man, appreciate it

March 21st 2016


I enjoyed this a decent amount as well, but I will admit it is quite repetitive.

Contributing Reviewer
March 22nd 2016


"formed by singer-songwriter Christopher Barnes"

So that's what Chris Barnes is up to these days, brutal

Great review although I have no desire to hear this

Digging: Saltvind - Saltvind

March 22nd 2016


Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks guys

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