The Winter Sounds – Porcelain Empire
Release Date: June 26th, 2007
Record Label: Livewire Recordings
The softer side of synth-pop is buoyant and wistful - at least for The Winter Sounds. For Porcelain Empire, their Livewire Recordings debut, a new wave/post-punk texture is fully embraced and given its own barstool. This ensures that The Winter Sounds are always part of the conversation, a humble friend with a beaming personality. I think this because it’s difficult to dislike the Atlanta ensemble, especially when vocalist Patrick Keenan sings with his head above the clouds. Porcelain Empire conflicts two styles of indie pop – floaty/majestic atmospheres and big/fun guitar rock. “Obilivion” is a mass of cheerful chords, funky piano and bass lines, and lots gentle breathers. Ending track “The Tournament Of Getting Older” is plain explosive. Keenan’s vocals don’t change much over the course of the album, but each track has its own level of specialty whether it be instrument choice, sequencing, or the glowing amusement of each guitar part. This gives the album an extra boost of staying power and variation in contrast to some of its other indie-pop colleagues.
Sounds like a winner, right? Well, it is on almost all accounts. The Winter Sounds’ quirk and tweaking synth gives the band a nerdy edge, like on the pushy twinkle of “Gone To Save Mankind.” Keenan flourishes aren’t strained and stick to a smaller scale in comparison to the rest of his band. This gives each song an interesting effect that is non-presumptuous but a bit bland at times, especially when the guitars are spazzing all over the place. There are moments where, even though the band shows their mad skillz at structure, flow and all that important stuff, I am not pulled in as much as I should. I think this is because of a couple things: lyrically, I’m not swept up like a hurricane, even when I try to be. As I’m swaying in my seat, magically magestic poetry isn’t raining significance onto me (except on clapping/rap bash “You Can’t Give Up”). And second of all, it’s the softer songs that are becoming my favorites, which wander in the minority (see "Minnesota"). The album does get more interesting towards the end with festivities (including some trumpet fun) like “The Great Forgotten,” “Sad Reminders,” and “Earthworm Song.” I think the album art - a fire-breathing swan - sums it up quite nicely.
As for overall appeal, this is definitely the kind of synthy indie pop that makes me want to wear a beret and cashmere scarf. This is a good thing, I think. The Winter Sounds’ flow is impeccable as is their structure, and for that they get at least two cookies. And because I’m not a “lyrics person” to begin with, I’m not too broken up over the lack of ultimate enlightenment. The things I would change are water under the bridge and the things I would keep are cheaper than cashmere. Win win, see?
I like it, the vocals could put in a little more to give it a kick, not the quality of voice but just melody wise. That's how the dude from Dismemberment Plan made up for his sort-of-similar-to-this guy's voice. Otherwise it's got an amazing vibe to it. Very chill but fun.