Review Summary: The wait was nearly wasted.
In regards to their earlier material, their EPs, First Contact
is mostly comparable to Underwater Tell Each Other Secrets
, as in this LP is nearly strictly indie pop with some complex and rigid riffs. The jazzy bass grooves are still present, the upbeat drums are still present, along with the easy-to-move-to guitar riffs; however, the arrangement of the instruments isn't as -- and I use this word lightly -- chaotic as their previous material. First Contact
is TSOSIS being more accessible, less frantic, and just overall more... safe
with their debut LP. You'll realize this from the get-go: the first song, "To Kelly Lee", starts off with a soft, subdued acoustic guitar that is eerily reminiscent of the opening track of Sufjan Steven's The Age of Adz
, Futile Devices. The one thing that is the same, and sometimes even better, is the soothing and simply beautiful voice of Damien Verrett that can just catch the attention of anyone, a voice where you can easily fall in love with Damien solely by it (just ask my gay friend who has the biggest
crush on this guy, and it all began by his voice). Once he starts softly singing over the acoustics in "To Kelly Lee", you'll find out that his voice (although absent on some tracks) is the high-point of this album, and the high-point of this band generally.
Strange thing is that my favorite track, and easily one of the biggest highlight songs on this album, doesn't have Damien's vocals, and instead have a newly introduced surprise: Jordan and Luke. "Winter Solstice Baby" is a catchy, fun, indie pop track that contains one of the best riffs in this album, quick-paced and indie pop-oriented. Jordan is the main vocalist for this song, but Luke hops in to do some dueling vocals for this track. Jordan singing "I'll find new warmth and move away, a brighter sun. I'm glad you didn't stay"
is one of my favorite gems lyrically. Another one of the highlights is "Opassa's Grotto", claimed to be written when Damien and Luke were merely fourteen, which is surprising because this song fits in perfectly into this album, helping with the flow. The song has a breezy feel to it, simply relaxing to your ears. This is one of the biggest moments vocally for this album, as the two vocalists trade off, showing off both of their voices. While that may be the highlight vocally, "The Macabray" may be the highlight instrumentally; this song doesn't contain complex musicianship, which kind of makes TSOSIS who they are, but it does contain beautiful instrumental, with many gentle sounds going on making a relaxing tune that ends climatic, speeding up and picking up sound with Jordan "ohh"ing along to the end. As you finally get to the closer, "The Oddest Sea" (Odyssey... haha), you'll appreciate how wonderful this ending track is. If you listen to the song individually, you really wouldn't expect this to be a good choice for a closer, but going through the whole album and going with the flow, you'll realize it was an excellent decision to make it the closer, as it ties everything together. It's definitely one of the best indie pop songs I've ever heard, as the ending will stay stuck in your head for a long while, as Luke and Jordan sing together: "Get in the life boat/Get in the life boat, matey/I'm not lifeguard/But you can get in my life boat, baby"
Unfortunately, this album isn't without flaws. Although this album flows well and its soft and quiet parts are well placed, along with their loud and upbeat moments, the album seems as if it has no direction and that they were just writing a pop album, with only few of there signature elements present. It's as if that any plans or formula they were trying to create were completely thrown out the window, leaving them directionless. Now, there may be a lot of highlights of this album, but none of the songs initially hit you as hard as some of their older material, such as "A Dinner and a Movie" or "You Bite Down"; there aren't any spectacular epics such as the "The ____ Room in the House" series -- maybe a new addition to that series would've been fitting. For the most part, the lyrics are on the level as their old material and in a similar style, but with few weak parts, such as the first verse in "Soulmate 2.1:, which goes:
"Soulmate 2.1" follows the story of "Anyanka", so the lyrics follow through where "Anyanka" ended, but this is the top contender for the worst TSOSIS lyrics to date, despite the joking manner. On the good note, this song has a really captivating instrument section.
Despite the flaws in this album, there's still some value in this release. The BFFs in this band are still very skilled musicians and you can tell this is a TSOSIS release by the signature sounds and vocals; this is them writing more poppy and upbeat songs, them making an accessible release. The hard-hitting songs that catch you from the start and keep you in awe to the end are gone; the non-stop killer riffs are gone; the six-minute "The ____ Room in the House" progressive closing tracks are gone. Not all is lost, though. The first LP from this young and ambitious act will keep you entertained for a while, and the indie pop direction will catch much more attention. The band has found a way to stick to their roots, but was also able to pack progressive rock elements and musical sophistication into these short, upbeat pop jams, not completely abandoning the thing that made them so interestingly originally in the first place.