The Stills' sophomore record sees them moving away from the '80s influence that made their debut such a hit with the tight pants crowd. Instead, they are channeling the spirit of the super sounds of the seventies. Without Feathers contains 12 tracks of mellow, melancholy rock. It opens with "In the Beginning," which combines chugging guitars, an organ, and lyrics like "It's just never what it was in the beginning." They retain their British mope-rock influence, but it is tempered with a generous dose of sunshine and bellbottoms.
This album reminded me a little of the Arcade Fire, with its epic, ambitious songs, and intricate orchestration. However, Without Feathers is less theatrical than the Arcade Fire, less David Bowie and more Big Star. The disc is equal parts Kinks, early electric Dylan, Pink Floyd, and '90s Brit rock. The lyrics are solid throughout, capturing a sense of regret, sadness, and nostalgia, and even when they drop dubious lines like "helicopters are chasing our spirits into the sea," it's sung with such passion and sincerity that it works.
If you feel like being cheered up and bummed out at the same time, or you want indulge in some '70s worship without having to dig into your mom's Carpenters albums, give Without Feathers a spin. So does this mean Interpol's next album is going to have a lot of sitars?
-Patrick Sean Taylor
Wantage USA, 2006
Volumen hail from Missoula, Montana, and are doing their best to put their hometown on the map. Science Faction was recorded over a period of several years, and it shows in the radically varying styles on the album. The disc is all over the place, from the Blues Explosiony "Side of a Box" to the Britpop "Lush & Co." to the punk of "Orson Welles Was Right" to the heavy metal instrumentals of "Descolada" and "Dune."
With most bands, this schizophrenic lack of focus might render them listenable. Fortunately, Volumen are good enough to overcome their stylistic experimentations. The only real missteps were the instrumentals - I'm sure they were tons of fun when they were all rocking out in the studio, but for the listeners at home, not so much. Musically and lyrically the band members add a touch of humor and weirdness, but are serious enough that they don't come off as frivolous. They drop some brilliant lines like "I woke up today in my clothes/ Rips in my shoes exposing toes/ In an empty room," and, "I dunno what kind of guys you like, but maybe tonight I can be what you like?" Science Faction is a very good album by a band doing their best to keep indie rock interesting. With a little more editing and self-control, these guys could be brilliant. Go Montana!
-Patrick Sean Taylor
Devised Without a Pla
Tiberius / Phratry Records, 2005
Covington are a Cleveland threesome who play melodic, emotive punk. Their previous band, Ampline, was all instrumental, which explains the tight musicianship and interesting song structures, as well as the instrumental track “Form and Divide.” Thankfully, they avoid the overplayed quiet/loud sing/scream song structure of so many similar bands out there. The songs are all competently written and ably played, and the production does a fine job of getting everything to sound clear. Maybe that’s why it took them a year to release these songs after recording them.
I liked this disc best when the boys strayed away from the standard emo-punk sound and moved into something more interesting, as on “Flight 326” and “Black-Eyed.” Most of the album, however, is pretty standard impassioned vocals over tight guitars. The lyrics are vague, with lack of clarity sometimes standing in for poetics. It seems like they have something interesting to say, and I’m glad they didn’t drop any clunkly rhymed couplets, but I do wish they had been a little less cryptic.
While this isn’t destined to be the stand-out album of the year, fans of the genre will certainly dig it. Hello, Cincinnati!
-Patrick Sean Taylor
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