It’s exceedingly rare that I’ll feature a record I myself am yet to be entirely sold on at Sleeping With Headphones, but this particular record, House of Heroes’ thematic rock opus The End is Not The End (yeah, ponder that one!) is an intriguing selection. Listening now, the reason I feel that I am yet to be sold is for one simple fact; it is a record that requires patience on behalf of the listener. It is a true selection of individual stories, each worthy of several reads in attempt to make thematic sense of the entire work. Given this, with my incessant need for instant gratification perhaps it is I who is to blame for not warming up to the record much sooner.
You see, the record itself boasts a number of positive attributes that many a band would covet; it is a loud record, brimming with soaring musicianship and sonic layers compounded not once, but several times over. Basically, if walls of sound are your cup of tea, welcome to the fucking castle that House of Heroes has built. Additionally, the production on the record is nothing short of amazing, continually providing the listener with rich textures and clean transitions throughout.
If anthem based rock n roll is what your little heart desires, then surely you will be more than satisfied with this effort.
The End is also an incredibly diverse sampling of pop/rock/pop/punk tunes, breaking the formulaic mold that many of their predecessors and contemporaries have remained mired in. Think Gatsbys American Dream sans Nic Newsham’s nasally delivery. The GAD comparison actually works on two fronts however, as a pseudo concept album The End is very reminiscent of, and just as admirable as, Gatsbys Volcano. In terms of diversity, not only is each track a sonic journey in its own right, the record clocks in just under the full hour mark. Like I said, it’s a lot of meat for one single bite.
Truthfully, this wouldn’t be the first time I had quickly turned my back on an artist or album, only later to mention that same band or album in the ranks of my personal favorites. Whether or not these particular circumstances progress in a similar fashion remains to be seen, but as this gradual warming trend continues I felt the need to challenge other listeners to give this record warranted listens. Part Gatsby’s American Dream (for the album’s undeniable technical appeal - songs that continually break down in overall structure only to be rebuilt in entirely different forms), part Fall Out Boy (for multi-layered pop songs with GINORMOUS hooks), House of Heroes might truly be worth all the effort. While whether or not the end is or isnt really the end, perhaps with this record we might not want it to be.
Check out the above track, “By Your Side,” which is arguably one of the record’s highlights. A little ballad of sorts (if Hey There, Delilah can be a hit, I see no reason why this couldn’t be), this track serves as a great midpoint for the entire record. After a listen or two, check out the video below for some great insight into the making of it. For a more rocking representation of the band I’d suggest checking out “Sooner or Later (You’ll Want it All).”
Never since the release of Acceptance's "Phantoms" have I been so taken aback by a select collection of songs. "Wake," the long awaited debut LP from Portland, Oregon's Brightwood, is an album that overwhelms - both sonically and emotionally. At times downright heartbreaking, at others astoundingly optimistic, it is an effort that displays music's ability to shake the soul and leave the listener entirely vulnerable. A true testament to the spirit DIY, this is the way music should sound. Slightly more layered and experimental than many similar pop-rock collections, the album carries a far greater shelf life than many releases of their contemporaries. To think that a band having only released on prior EP could put together one of this year's best releases is an awe-inspiring feat - even more so when one considers the self reliance that the band epitomizes.
A fan such as me can only hope that a record of this stature will find a way to reach so many unaware listeners.
"Wake" is everything I've waited for and more.
Pull me in. Don't let me drown. This will not be easy, you'll have to hold me down. Tie me up, don't let me run. Because another day without you is another lifeless one.
One would be hard pressed to say Brave New World didn't make out like bandits in signing RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas's Indie Rock quintet Deas Vail. After releasing what was easily one of last year's best records, the band has returned after months of intensive touring with the release of White Lights - an EP encompassing a subtle, yet fantastic progression from 2007s All The Houses Look the Same. A far more accessible and focused collection of songs, it would seem as though Wes Blaylock and company have truly started to come into their own - expanding on or improving upon nearly every aspect that made the debut shine. Don't misconstrue, everything that made the debut so incredible is here, its just louder, tighter...better. From Wes Blaylock's soothing melodies and unthinkable range to the driving and rhythmic percussion of Kelsey Harelson, if White Lights is the precursor of what is to come with the upcoming LP fans sure have a lot to be excited about come the new year.
In comparison to the All The Houses, White Lights features a much more full sound; both in production and instrumentation. In a sense, it is a more diverse release, as the band clearly makes it appoint to offer a distinct offering with each track. Not only do many of the songs have a little more teeth this time a round, with said improvements, the songs really get a chance to soar as they were always destined to. This notion really proves evident in the EP's more brooding opener "Under Cover." The addition of semi-frantic strings and Andy Moore's solo really give the song character, while the chorus packs more of a punch than anything the band has ever recorded. The EP's title track offers fun gang vocals and a distant alt-country tinged guitar that fits incredibly well with Blaylock's falsetto delivery.
As the listener moves into the heart of the release, It becomes exceedingly difficult to describe songs like "Last Place" and "Balance" because simply put, they are easily two of the best songs the band has ever created. The vocals truly shine in the more stripped down "Last Place" until the song swells into a great orchestral gem with slight electronica nuances. The ever somber "From Priests to Theives" is truly a heart wrenching number when the listener lets it sink in. While the song carries the listener smoothly through the verses with a blend of relaxed mid-tempo drums, keys, and distant guitar, Wes's delivery in the chorus evokes true feelings of defeat and despondence.
To round off the release, in a word, "Balance," the EP's closer is simply astounding. Equally as inspiring as it is downright beautiful, the accompanying strings and lyrics make it my favorite Deas Vail track with lines like: "You are the Balance/and you are the Fold/You are the sails that bring me home." After the emotional toll "From Priests" will surely take on listeners, "Balance" is an exceptionally optimistic and hopeful endeavor. All in all, White Lights is a step up from the debut, encompassing the intricacy and grace of the last LP while truly realizing the band's true sonic potential. Great things are to come early 2009.
In the music industry, relying on the intangibility of an up and coming band's potential can prove an extremely risky endeavor. While there are surely a great deal of bands that arguably reach "their" initial promise, the vast majority of them get lost in a sea of insurmountable expectation. And yet, in preoccupying themselves with what a band could accomplish in the future, those in the industry tend to overlook the quality of a product that already exists. To this end, I could waste ample time telling listeners about the incredible promise Australia's acoustic/indie pop duo Ellington possess for future releases. Be that as it may (and it is most certainly the case) I'd like to focus on what has already been accomplished thus far - More Like a Move, Less Like Real Life - one of this year's best EPs.
The six song collection corralling the efforts of well respected producer Matt Malpass (Copeland, Lydia) and the various vocal stylings of Matthew Thiessen (Relient K), Jeff Turner (Say Anything) and Leighton Antelman (Lydia) is a heartwarming effort blending catchy acoustic indie - pop and shimmering ambience. While it's amazing to witness what a little help from some friends can provide, it in no way diminishes the fantastic work of the record's primary proprietors - Jake Bosci and Michael Beatson. Not only does the release show significant strides from 2007's The Joy We Keep In, it is a far more intricate and layered sampling than what many fans would expect with the over-simplistic indie-pop characterization.
Though quite similar in overall structure, each track on the release is executed exceptionally well, providing listeners with variations of Jake Bosci's breathy, yet effective vocals accompanied by slight traces of piano, electronic drum samples, and atmospheric guitar play. Sound wise, think Rookie of the Year meets Lydia meets JamisonParker.
"Between Faith and the City Lights," the EPs opener, serves up not only a great synopsis of what to expect from the rest of the release both sonically and thematically, but easily the EPs catchiest sampling. The song carries the pop sensibility of a Rookie of the Year song, while adding much more depth with distant alluring guitars and keys throughout. Here, while never straining far from a wisper, Bosci's delicate delivery shines with an undeniable sense of optimism; something characteristic of much of the EP. Like many of the tracks on More Like a Movie, "Love" starts off relatively slow with midtempo drums and simple acoustic strums, but then builds into a much more fulfilling pallet of sound with prominent electric guitar and driving drums. More so than anywhere else on the disc, the JamisonParker vibe seems evident.
"Radiate" serves as the album's highlight, taking relatively stripped down verses and building into a huge chorus and bridge:
"I know you know your a gorgeous girl and you dont need me to tell you that but I'll do what i can
until you finally crack a smile/We finally spent the summer waiting for the sunset, watching it together/This is as good as love gets when im by your side!"
While "In a Lonely Place" suffers lyrically, the addition of Matt Thiessen's vocals are a fantastic touch. It's actually quite shame that the interplay between Thiessen and Bosci didn't continue past his initial entrance. "The World Through Weary Eyes" is an effective closer, featuring a wonderful piano melody, dream-like chorus, and down-right fantastic ambient build in the bridge. Consistent with much of the release, the song soars post bridge, but descends back down to a somber conclusion with the help of Lydia's Leighton Antelman vocals and soft strums of the acoustic.
If any issue is to be taken with More Like a Movie, its that the constant boy-girl theme throughout may tire on listeners looking for a more diverse offering. To this degree, what truly remains to be seen is if the band can offer up enough diversity both in lyrical content and in sound to sustain listeners with a full length release. Regardless, Ellington is the surprise band I've patiently waited for in 2008 and More Like a Movie is a perfect autumn album brimming with optimism and introspection.
And because of that I've decided to start my old blog Sleeping With Headphones up again. I know staff wasn't crazy about the shameless self promotion that occurred last time so I figured I'd keep any and all links and things pertaining to the blog in here.
I just posted a small review for Brightwood's Wake and Deas Vail's White Lights...
If anyone reads this (I highly doubt it) and feels like they would be at all interested in contributing some content (recs, interviews, reviews etc.) in an entirely informal way - please please by all means send me a message. I'd love to get more lesser known artists covered and get some alternative voices on the site.