Review Summary: If Prince & Beggar surface at zero they soar at The Sapling Dossier.
I will admit that I have been in a rut these past several months when it comes to discovering and latching onto new music. It has even been difficult for me to listen to new albums by bands that I have been a fan of for years. This phase that I’ve entered is probably my fault as I’ve had friends and family members make inspired recommendations. The issue is I either find myself growing bored after listening to a couple tracks or I create a mental reminder for myself and fail to follow through. That being said, shouldn’t some of the blame be placed on the industry？ Maybe I am caught in my old ways as I approach thirty and continue to play the same dozen records that seem to be immune to time and repetition. Fortunately, I am ready to allow most of those feelings to depart.
Prince & Beggar stepped onto the scene early last year when they released an EP titled Surfacing at Zero
. They made a strong impression on me as they possessed songwriting tools that could have led them in several directions in the alt-rock genre. Never drawing their sound from the same inspiration twice, they return now with a full length effort that is masterfully steered through its ten tracks.
The intro song explodes with admonishing lyrics against a genre that has lost its edge. "If a heart beats in a sea of flat-liners, does it make a sound? You drown me out like honks of geese that all sound the same. Do I make a sound?" The singer wastes no time in expressing his gripes in a system that stifles indie bands. The latter end of the track goes on to feature a high-pitched cooing amidst a furious breakdown. The band hints at their ability to create original layers which rears its head more than a few times throughout the album.
Even though the band revels on their ferocity they prove they can be comfortable with smooth rock numbers as well. 'Of Avowals and Muses' is likely the most accessible track of the bunch with its warm guitars and a lightly-bouncing chorus. This is a catchy love song that allows the album to breath between some of the dark and heavy pieces.
On an album that has so many great songs The Sapling Dossier
includes two standout tracks that beg to be lauded. The first, 'In Loathing', depicts a fraught buildup which suits the lead singer’s voice perfectly. The initial slow tempo makes the listener anxious as the singer describes a struggle with internal demons. Only when the "deadbolt unlocks" does the track finally open up with a breakdown of slashing guitars and snarling drum fills.
Then, perhaps the crown jewel of The Sapling Dossier
is the penultimate track, 'Aunt Lydia'. The song takes on religious radicalism as the singer wails, "I don’t fear God, just His transcribers" The heavy track chugs along with vicious time signature changes and vocal layering that is expertly designed. Although it is the longest song on the album at over six minutes, it still manages to leave the listener craving sonic satiation by the time the acoustic outro fades off.
Keeping with the theme of religion, but addressing it in a different way comes the final entry into this magnificent record. 'Nobody Speaks' is completely stripped down with mostly acoustic guitar and vocals that touch on people’s reliance on faith only when it suits them. While it initially gives off a depressing feel it manages to grant the listener a better sense of self-awareness after several spins. It truly serves as a wonderful pairing with 'Aunt Lydia' as they take on the same theme in stark contrast of one another.
Can one album pull me completely out of my funk？ I am optimistic as I feel like there is fresh material out there for me to consume with a sense of excitement. Being active in the community goes beyond seeking out new music; making musical recommendations is the truest form of engagement. The Sapling Dossier
has seeped into my now baker’s dozen of favorite records and I am all the better for it.