The Soldier Thread – Shapes
Record Label: Sea Change Records
Released: February 24th, 2009
The Soldier Thread are a five piece indie/pop/rock act out of Austin, Texas, who are quickly becoming the next big thing after the release of their outstanding debut full length, Shapes. The album was produced by Lars Göransson (What Made Milwaukee Famous, The Cardigans, Johnny Goudie), so you know the mixing is spot on, and the band made full use of their musical talents (and their producers' talents) by incorporating string quartets, horns, bells, piano, and other instruments into Shapes, making it more than your average indie rock record.
The first thing you should know about Shapes is that the instrumentation and composition here is just extraordinary. The bass, drums and guitars all play extremely well off each other, making it clear that the band is well practiced, and the addition of Patricia Lynn’s viola and plenty of strings throughout the album helps elevate Shapes to a level far above the rest of the indie rock ‘scene’ (see “Run Run”, “Northeastern”, “Cherish Me”, “Rock N Roll”, and “In The Sky” for some outstanding string composition). The guitar work is a mix of indie rock and pop, never getting too complex and taking a second seat to the strings throughout a lot of the album. Though I’m usually big on guitar work, the almost-minimal approach utilized here mixes in flawlessly with the strings, piano, and other instruments, and it makes sense within the context of all this complex instrumentation that the guitars are kept simple. On top of these lush instrumentals, the vocals are primarily female, courtesy of Lynn, but are often backed by male vocals by Todd Abels and Justin McHugh. The harmonies and backups are well placed and arranged, and the intertwining of the female and male vocals gives the music a real romantic quality (not cheesy chick flick romantic, but more real life/real emotion romantic). Given their unique vocal techniques, it’s hard to draw comparisons from other bands, but the vocals have a soft tone I’d liken to Benjamin Gibbard from Death Cab, and though this comparison may seem strange, at times Lynn’s vocals had me thinking of Thom Yorke from Radiohead (see “In The Sky”).
I usually go through albums track by track when I review them, but if I did a track by track breakdown for Shapes I would end up saying the same thing for every song – beautiful harmonies and melodies between intertwining male and female vocals over a background of lush instrumentation, all composed to near perfection. The album contains 10 tracks (plus one short instrumental track, “Seven”), making it a solid full length and an outstanding debut from Austin Texas’ (and soon America’s) next big thing, The Soldier Thread.