The Submarines - Love Notes / Letter Bombs
Record Label: Nettwerk
Release Date: April 5th, 2011
Indie-pop duo, The Submarines have had to endure many assortments of obstacles and turbulent occasions even before their official formation. Both Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti were separate aspiring solo musicians playing early evening shows in and around the independent and underground Boston music scene. Their careers took off simultaneously, and the pair subsequently toured Europe together where love and music blossomed and intertwined seamlessly. Without going into the depths of detail, a break-up ensued until both individuals began writing and recording new music in Dragonetti's home studio. They soon realised that all of their written material comprised of the very same topic - their love faltering, fading and then collapsing. There was a recurring theme of sadness and regret at having broken up, and with that in mind, they decided to write together and form the charming and equally enthralling, The Submarines which lead to sparks reigniting and gorgeous music being created.
Love Notes / Letter Bombs is now the third full-length from the pair and it manages to convey a sense of warmness and intimacy while also highlighting the tensions and insecurities that often linger within relationships. They may now be a married couple, but that certainly doesn't prohibit the lyrical topics from being noticeably direct, genuine and unfiltered. There's no artifice, as there normally would be when bands and artists attempt to conjure topics to write about. It's all heartfelt and sincere even in the uncommon moments when it's not all that well written. Likewise, there's an unmissable amount of emotional immediacy throughout the ten song duration of Loves Notes / Letter Bombs - both in lyrics and the absorbing melodies.
First single and album opener, "Shoelaces" employs a carefree eternalness that exudes from the melodies while also boasting captivating chemistry ridden vocal lines from the two members. Musically it still incorporates irresistible power chords, backing acoustic guitars and bouncy piano notes alongside pulsating electronic synths in order to create an accessible yet energetically upbeat anthem. The flirtatious interplay between Hazard's lovely vocals and Dragonetti's deeper and more electronic-tinged tones is a highlight as the latter sings on the opening verse, "I've had better days than this / words trip like untied shoelaces / still, you're worth falling down for once in a while". The candid honesty provides a compelling element because rather than hide the flaws in their relationship, the duo embrace, highlight and showcase them in a three minute hook-laden statement.
The following track, "Fire" is a little more foreboding and electronically layered. You can hear the unmistakable presence of synth bagpipes and the chorus is once again a strong moment. The lovely ballad "Ivaloo" begins and opens with a delicate ukulele and also utilizes the use of a string section to wonderfully prominent effect. It plays out like a narrative with Hazard assuming control of the light and breezy verses while Dragonetti slows the temp back down with a more sombre rendition of the bridge and chorus. Arguably one of the best songs you'll hear throughout the duration of Love Notes / Letter Bombs is the sensational, "The Sun Shines At Night" for it opens with beautiful acoustic guitar strumming behind urgently chanted vocals and also features accompanying backing harmonies. There certainly isn't anything remotely original occurring lyrically, but it's a track that you're able to lose yourself in due to the conflicting of emotions it's able to generate. In the opening verse Hazard sings solemnly, "We hold on tight, we had the summer of our lives / but your doubts, they hold strong / and my hope, it burns too long" - but then the chorus cascades with vitality while the melodies continually vie for dominance and supremacy as she goes on to sing with urgency and conviction, "The sun shines at night / we're in love and it feels so right".
"A Satellite, Stars And An Ocean Behind You" is a four minute ballad with fluctuating tempos, the guitar parts are endearing and the lyrics are some of the most well crafted you'll find on the record. The songwriting deals with the complexity of relationships and inadvertently distancing yourself from the other when tensions do inevitably occur, as is best exemplified in the opening verse. "Did I break your open heart? / after ten years together we're still ten years apart".
"Birds" is perhaps the first of a few relatively minor setbacks because although Hazard once again sounds lovely, the song suffers from a distinct lack of creativity. As a listener, you're expecting the chorus to soar and blossom beautifully like all those prior to it when it implements multi-layered vocal harmonies, but it never really excels or takes off to any great heights. It's enjoyable while it plays, but soon after you'll more than likely forget about it when it sits alongside so many better crafted tunes. Darker and slightly moodier piano notes are soon welcomed by programmed drumbeats and synths in what eventuates into the opening verse to the catchy "Tigers". It soon turns into an album highlight as the chorus propels itself with the assistance of tambourines and the juxtaposition of dark thoughts over bright and glossy hooks. "Maybe I can never be everything you'll ever need / but I can put my arms around you..."
And if you needed any explanation as to who The Submarines are, you needn't look or search much further. They create sophisticated and charming indie/pop songs that occasionally have moments of calamity and moodiness. Their hooks are compelling, their lyrics often thoughtful, and because they explore the topic of love and heartache, they're bound to resonate with many who give the intimate, Love Notes / Letter Bombs thirty minutes of their time.