Review Summary: And this taste of heaven would never be here again
One of my favorite ways to experience music is by listening to it in various settings. Music sounds different to me in the midst of a frigid snowstorm than it does on a hot summer day, and to every season (turn, turn
), there is an album that expresses it perfectly. Regardless of what season it is though, I always seem to do my best and deepest thinking after the sun fades behind the trees. There's something about the darkness - the way it is illuminated by the stars and distant city lights - that draws out the thoughts which really matter. I Could See Midnight Sky
is an album for those precious moments: a 90s-influenced, shoegaze-tinged emo rock piece that shimmers as elegantly as moonlight hitting the surface of a pond.
To a large extent, Domestic Terminal plays to many of the standard emo/shoegaze qualifiers: the rhythm section is tight, the instrumentation is beautifully layered, the vocals are awash in a dreamy haze, and the guitars complement the melodies at all the right times. However, that merely represents I Could See Midnight Sky
's floor. Opener 'Nickels and Dimes' is Exhibit A, supplying us with a healthy dose of sparkling acoustic guitars and a refrain just memorable enough that you basically have
to keep listening. It's gorgeous and iridescent, even if it doesn't necessarily jockey for breathing room between itself and the thousands of other emo/shoegaze acts who've conjured up similar atmospheres. At its best, however, I Could See Midnight Sky
slowly creeps up on you with wonderful realizations - like the fact that the lyrics reside at an enviable intersection between the existential and romantic, or that the album simply gets better as you wade further into the tracklist - and it's these slow-to-unravel ideas that make Domestic Terminal's debut worth revisiting again and again.
For as aesthetically pleasing as the album's first half is, things really take off when you reach 'The Second Chicago Fire', where Jack Mancuso's voice sounds distinctly awakened compared to earlier efforts ("Now you levitate toward me / Look in your eyes and feel free!") as his drumming and Tim Hotchkiss' guitar work assume a much more dynamic role in driving the song (rather than cyclical-sounding default atmospherics). The band never really loses this harnessed momentum: 'Sunset Hymn' features some of the record's strongest percussion (Mancuso) and bass (Kyle Waggoner) , 'Indiana' implements a hazy, tripped-out guitar effect which is a noticeably unique and entirely welcome curveball, 'Amped' is simply too catchy for its own good (and ends too soon), and 'Worms' settles into this insane groove that persists for nearly the entire length of the song. The penultimate track, 'Capo 3 Song', tempts the assumption that Domestic Terminal is finally about to settle back into quiet elegance, but then the final minute swells with Mancuso's emotional distillation of the loyalty, comradery, and friendship that comes with being part of something bigger than yourself: "Start a band and stay together, hope and pray that we’ll succeed / Even if nobody listens, you’re still always who I need."
'Saint Mary's Road' is one of those songs that deserves its own paragraph. It's a breathtaking closer both musically and lyrically, floating on a sea of gently pattering drums while the vocals shift from pensive and singular ("The warm air felt just right / The slow buzz of street lamps gave off the purest light") to a triumphant group harmony ("The wind blew across my face / And this taste of heaven / Would never be here again"). This is the sort of song that seems like it was written with the same kind of urgency and finality which accompanies life's most notable goodbyes: graduations, breakups, funerals. It feels all-encompassing in its scope, as if it could be about any of those things without naming them specifically. Rather than dwelling on the wistful and melancholic, however, it's a nod to these once-shared perfect moments: "And this taste of heaven / Would never be here again". It's a fond look in the rearview mirror which simultaneously acknowledges that a specific phase of life has reached its zenith, but is now over - and the future is coming on.
Appropriately, it's Domestic Terminal's future
that excites me - perhaps even more than this stunning debut ever could. I Could See Midnight Sky
is about as solid of a foundation as any band could lay for itself, but there is still plenty of room to grow. There's so much sonically and instrumentally yet to be explored, and an infusion of new energy - no matter what form it comes in - should prove to be the launching pad that gets Domestic Terminal out of Bandcamp's basement and onto the radars of a grander audience. Even if that happens - and considering the skill on display here, it's not an outlandish bet - I'm still glad I'll always have I Could See Midnight Sky
in my back pocket. It'll be their Whenever, If Ever
, or perhaps even their Clarity
. Regardless of what happens tomorrow when that damned sun rises, though, I'll still return frequently to this little gem - if only to lay out under the stars and get lost in thought one more time.