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Album Review
The Working Title - Bone Island Album Cover

The Working Title - Bone Island

Reviewed by
8.6
The Working Title - Bone Island
Record Label: self-released
Release Date: May 9, 2009
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Charleston, South Carolina is a particularly enchanting place. The cannon blasts at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 marked the start of the Civil War and it's an event the city wears with pride. There are a myriad of walking and carriage tours that can take you down alleyways and past antebellum mansions while unraveling the complexities and intricacies of this hallowed city. In hearing these historic tales, it is almost assured that in some way shape or form, the notion of ghosts and hauntings is bound to pop up. So it's no surprise that Bone Island, the latest album from the Holy City's The Working Title is filled with haunted sounds, loads of eerieness and a deep sense of pain. In many ways, the very traits and characteristics of Charleston are woven into every aspect of this album, from the songs to the artwork.

Bone Island is the The Working Title's first full-length studio album since 2006's About-Face and marks the first album made without any of the original members, save for vocalist, lyricist, founder and songwriter Joel Hamilton. Now released from their contract with Universal Records, the disc finds the band at a level that's startling, supreme and wholly self-assured.

Bone Island
begins with the laid-back, lo-fi indie pop of "Physical Love," a song with ample keyboards, slightly trashy guitars, lusty lyrics and an undeniable hook. As the song progresses, it careens towards clangy but never forsakes the melody. As it finishes, the vocals are carried forward in a vortex of sweat and sound that really is quite remarkable.. It's a solid opening track and a direction that's unexpected but perfectly executed.

As a vocalist, Joel Hamilton is an incredible talent and he proves exactly that on second track and first single "Dead Inside," a ringing, chiming gem ladened with keyboards, and dense, layered guitarwork. There's a slow drag on the verses that allows the song to crawl methodically towards the indelible Brit-inspired chorus, that sounds not unlike something Travis might have written.

Hamilton takes it down a notch on the brooding piano ballad "Love Make Me Free," in which his vocals sound woozy, weary and defeated.. Of the first three songs on the album, this is the one that sounds most like About Face and that's not exactly a bad thing. Vocally, Hamitlon rises like a wave and soars towards the latter half, even ascending to a brief falsetto.

The haunting organ intro of "Followed," marks the beginning of what is unmistakably the album's best song. There's a hollow fogginess to the song that drifts along like a Lowcountry wave and finds Hamilton gliding his vocals in a manner that's smooth and sexy despite the stark reality painted in the lyrics. The feel of the cut is that of a tortured confessional and/or a desperate prayer. Once the four minute mark hits, the sentiment changes and the song coasts along in a way that's symphonic and powerful. Whether music fans admit it or not, every album has a song that stands above the rest. Whether it's a hit single or a poignant ballad, there is always one song that packs it all in and leaves it all on the table. "Followed" is that song, and it can be argued that it's the best song The Working Title has ever released.

The percussive and hollowed "Wolf," is a peculiar follow-up to "Followed," as it finds Hamilton crooning over a pair of bombastic drums and ambient tinkling noises. There are times the vibe meanders a bit and feels a bit self-indulgent, and it's almost as if Hamilton is trying to execute some kind of vocal gymnastics routine. But all that pithiness is washed away by the abrupt and pointed finish. It's not often the finish of a song defines it, but that is the case here.

The album's next homerun is "You Should Know" a triumphant ballad that finds the band fully confident, totally in control and soaring towards a glorious future. There's an old adage that one song can change a band's career and there's an arresting force that overtakes this song that gives the impression, this might be that song.

Bone Island
's boldest moment is "Darkness," a sensory song that's sparse and tinkling, chilled and subdued, and moves along like a dirge/march. In the lyrics, Hamilton sets a stark landscape, as he sings about California and Georgia and paints a very Duritzian portrait of a sad America. And yet somehow, without doing all that much, there's a sensitivity to this song that is unrivaled by any other on the album. Whether it's the weariness in his voice or the haggard and downtrodden gait of the music, "Darkness," manages to hit at all of the senses, stirs the emotion and strikes a chord that is resonant and illustrious.

The rousing, acoustic-fueled singalong "Someone Else," is a jangly, folk song that bustles and strums its way as Hamilton howls about consistency and finding his place. It doesn't sound much like anything The Working Title has ever done and it even sounds a bit lost on here. That's not to diminish the song by any stretch, but one does wonder exactly what it's doing here.

The last noteworthy track begins with the fuzzy guitars of "Listen Read Decide," another hollowed vocal effort that gives way to a ringing chorus, percussive drums and guitars that burrow themselves into the ground, sounding more angry, disappointed and disaffected as the seconds roll on by. The last minute of the songs kicks and spits and claws its way to the end, before retiring abruptly, and it's a simple trick that seems to really work wonders. Whether he realizes it or not, Hamilton has an uncanny ability to finish a song with a force and emotion that is unrivaled by most of his contemporaries.

For a city whose biggest claim to fame is Hootie and the Blowfish and Edwin McCain, Bone Island is a welcome, breath of fresh air that pumps new life into this haunted city and stands firm as a career-defining, star-making performance. Though many have been impressed by the band since their 2002 debut Sincerely and 2006's About-Face, Bone Island puts the band on a pedestal and vaults their status to a whole new level. Armed with college-radio rockers and ambient, quirky laments, this is an album that's a testament to hard work, perseverance and inherent skill.

Recommended If You Like Mason Proper's Olly Oxen Free, Pedro the Lion's Achilles Heel, The Working Title's About-Face, My Morning Jacket's Z


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Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 34
08:49 AM on 04/22/09
#2
blebbio
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Can't wait to hear this.
08:56 AM on 04/22/09
#3
jusscali
EMO REVIVAL IS FOR BITCHES
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Really just not interested. Nothing like About Face if you ask me and that's a bad thing. Sure if this dark, psuedo weird indie folk is your deal you'll sop this fucker up, but for me its taking the band backwards. If you truly feel the way you do about Followed than I know I won't enjoy this album at all and truth be told I'm heartbroken over it. I don't know what caused the band to collapse and what led to this change in sound but I'm super sad over it.

Great write up - a little long winded but I've never really been well suited for brevity myself. I do find myself slightly at odds with your contention that this "vaults" the band to new heights cause I don't find anything very redeeming in the new sound, but hey different strokes.
09:08 AM on 04/22/09
#4
zachff
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I really liked their first EP/album, picked it up when I saw them open for Hidden in Plain View back in the day. They fell off my radar for a long time, maybe I'll give this a listen.
09:34 AM on 04/22/09
#5
owiseone35
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I just don't kind of get this whole like folk movement thing. Seems like a lot of bands that mature all of a sudden get more folk-like. I would've liked another similar to about-face but I guess not. Don't get me wrong though I do like some bands that are considered rock/folk.
09:37 AM on 04/22/09
#6
Everiggs
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I'll have to preview this before buying...I was way into About-Face when it first came out.
09:40 AM on 04/22/09
#7
Ryzenfall
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Nice review. I'm glad you like it... I'm not sure how I'm going to react since I loved everything about About Face and most people who liked that album are condemning this one. I think that Joel's talent will probably get to me eventually, whether immediatly like A-F or gradually.
10:00 AM on 04/22/09
#8
michaelk08
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anticipating this one aton.
10:18 AM on 04/22/09
#9
bleed me bleu
is the encore.
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Your Charleston metaphors were cute at first but i mean, "haunted" city?
We got Stephen Colbert, you yank!
11:12 AM on 04/22/09
Tony Pascarella
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Really just not interested. Nothing like About Face if you ask me and that's a bad thing. Sure if this dark, psuedo weird indie folk is your deal you'll sop this fucker up, but for me its taking the band backwards. If you truly feel the way you do about Followed than I know I won't enjoy this album at all and truth be told I'm heartbroken over it. I don't know what caused the band to collapse and what led to this change in sound but I'm super sad over it.

Great write up - a little long winded but I've never really been well suited for brevity myself. I do find myself slightly at odds with your contention that this "vaults" the band to new heights cause I don't find anything very redeeming in the new sound, but hey different strokes.
You know you won't enjoy it but you're making your decisions off of what? One song?

I just don't kind of get this whole like folk movement thing. Seems like a lot of bands that mature all of a sudden get more folk-like. I would've liked another similar to about-face but I guess not. Don't get me wrong though I do like some bands that are considered rock/folk.
It's not a folk album by any means, hahaha. In fact, Greg used the word folk about one song in the entire review.
11:33 AM on 04/22/09
Chancetobe
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See, I'm one of those people who adored about-face. And usually I hate "evolution" in music, because that really just means it's less accessible. But I really liked the new sound. I'm excited for this album.
11:48 AM on 04/22/09
updownleftright
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Can't wait to hear this.
likewise.

loving the o' bro avatar too.
12:04 PM on 04/22/09
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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Your Charleston metaphors were cute at first but i mean, "haunted" city?
We got Stephen Colbert, you yank!
Stephen Colbert isn't a touring musician. I was referring to the city's music scene.
And you honestly don't think your city is haunted? Are you kidding? I'm not a Yankee unfamiliar with Charleston. I've been going down there since I was a child. I've spent more than 20 summers in the Holy City.
12:07 PM on 04/22/09
jusscali
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You know you won't enjoy it but you're making your decisions off of what? One song?

It's not a folk album by any means, hahaha. In fact, Greg used the word folk about one song in the entire review.
Based on THREE songs, and the fact that he feels that one of those three songs, one that does absolutely nothing for me, is the albums crowning achievement.
12:15 PM on 04/22/09
Tony Pascarella
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Based on THREE songs, and the fact that he feels that one of those three songs, one that does absolutely nothing for me, is the albums crowning achievement.
It's a 13 song album, and personally, I'm not that into Followed but a friend of mine is. It's an album that will offer a lot for a lot of different people.

So jussrelax and give it a chance. I could pick three songs on the album that are a little "stranger" and give you one impression of it, and then pick 3 others and give you a totally different one. There's a really interesting variety of music.

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