Review Summary: For me, Think Aloud in 2010 is a bit like Kidcrash's Jokes was in 2007 in that I pretty much can't find anything wrong with it.Note: Think Aloud
is available for free download from the band's MySpace page: www.myspace.com/quietsteps
For me, Think Aloud
in 2010 is a bit like Kidcrash
was in 2007 in that I pretty much can't find anything wrong with it. To begin with I should probably lay my cards on the table and say that Quiet Steps
has, over the past three years, become one of my favourite bands in the world. I'm sure I've seen them over a dozen times at this point and I hold a number of those shows as some of my best memories of live music at this early stage of my life. What Quiet Steps shows occasionally lack in polishedness is more than made up for in sincerity, which is one of the defining marks of quality screamo anyway. I say all this to point out that it's near impossible for me to separate the final product of Think Aloud
with my experiences of the band as people and as a live entity, and even if it were, I'm not sure I would want to. The record's sincerity in its songwriting and production bleeds into the personalities that are responsible for it.
Most obviously, Quiet Steps' brand of screamo follows in the footsteps of indie guitar rock-influenced groups like Sinaloa by utilising shouted vocals over the top of moderately catchy and recognisable riffs. But while the aesthetic is at least similar, the songs of Think Aloud
are far more effective at conveying urgency and desperation; partly due to the more jagged rhythms, partly due to the ability of the bass and drums to drive the parts forward, but mostly due to the tense interplay between the instruments and the vocals. The band's influences are apparent throughout the record, but never once does it feel as if they're just playing to a template. Hot Cross
-styled pull-off riffs, for example, are used to great effect throughout the record, but rather than being smooth and fluid they are played with a tight, straight feel that serves to increase the urgency of the music. The band approach their techniques with a 'whatever works' approach: the guitar utilising chunky chords, slides, pull-offs, droning notes, busy changes, palm-muting, and tight rhythms; the bass using chords, arpeggios, driving notes, and complex patterns; and the drums playing everything from start-stop patterns to dance beats; often within the space of the same song.
The songs work by building up multiple moments of catharsis within short spaces, all of which dart in and out through each song in a way in which each parts builds on the previous the one. Rather than building riffs and patterns up dynamically and growing the listener's expectations through restraint like in post-rock, the songs use riffs and sections as building blocks to create larger pieces. The approach doesn't always have the immediate gratification of dynamic explosions, but it's certainly more satisfying on repeated listens. The album's most cathartic moments are generally its most moving, like the heavy riff that closes out "Assimilate"; the plodding, melodic build-up to the brutal start-stop section of "Measure Reaction"; or the final busy chord progression of "Mirage".
The most satisfying song of the record is, however, "Dead Sea", a piece that comes in just short of 7 minutes but feels less than half that length. It's one of those rare tracks where everything comes together perfectly: where no melodic, rhythmic, or dynamic choice is out of place; where the lyrics and group vocals slot into each section effortlessly; where the instruments trade off roles, weaving in and out frome each other; and where the final riff (the heaviest and best on the album) is both subtly emotive and ballsy as all hell.
When I reviewed Quiet Steps' first EP in 2007, my chief complaint about it was that the production made the whole thing feel slightly sterile. I'm happy to report that this has been entirely fixed. In fact, the production on Think Aloud
couldn't be better; the vocals move between the foreground and background of the mix, the drums are tuned beautifully and sit in the mix perfectly, the bass sounds smooth and fat, and the guitar is perfectly crunchy with smooth, glassy overdrive dominating the loud parts and a thick clean tone sitting in the quieter moments.
is one of, if not the
, best screamo records since Jokes
in 2007. If I'm perhaps a little biased towards the record, it's only because these songs have defined moments of my life for the past few years, and really, there's no higher compliment I can pay a record than that.