The Life and Times - Day II b/w Day III 7"
Record Label: Hawthorne Street Records
Release Date: February, 2011
"Post-rock" is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. You might call the Kansas City/Chicago based unit The Life and Times "post-rock." Their single "Day II" backed with "Day III" seems to share the influence of both math rock like the Dismemberment Plan as well as some shoegazers like My Bloody Valentine. To a lesser known end, they do bear the influence of Autolux, another follower of My Bloody Valentine. It's interesting, as there aren't too many well known groups who space out and rock out.
The A-side "Day II" is a kicker. The charging tempo and sturdy bass contrast the airy, chorus-laden guitar and indiscernible vocals. There is almost no melody. It's all about mood, and the band succeeds. It's a driving feeling, and the riffs of the chorus section are powerful enough without completely breaking the spacey atmosphere. There's some light feedback in the mix, among other bits of studio trickery, but the boys of the Life and Times make it work in their favor. The real focus though are the bass and drums, with a relentless syncopated bass line. The arrangement doesn't vary much though, more or less focusing on a simple verse/chorus/verse structure. That being said, the driving simplicity of the song almost seems to suggest that it would make a better album opener than a single.
"Day III," the second side, is a very drippy, reverb and echo drenched little production, sounding somewhere between late era Flaming Lips and any number of shoegazer bands. Here, we can actually make out what vocalist Allen Epley is singing, and singing about. Lyrically, he seems to lie with surrealists, fitting the moody dreamscape of the song. The quality of his voice is somewhat thin, but it floats well in this strange dream. The synthesizers are icy, matching a rather wet, thin-sounding acoustic guitar.
As producers, the band knows what they want, and you can tell on "Day III" perhaps more than "Day II." As they produced this single themselves, they've been able to make their miniature sonic playground everything they've always wanted it to be. Though some groups might go overboard, the Life and Times have a fair amount of control over their impulses here. The two songs focus their production ideas on very different levels, and each succeeds well enough to draw in listeners to what their albums might sound like. Indeed, this reviewer is now curious to hear more, still feeling hungry as something feels missing on this single.
Yes, there is something that feels incomplete about this single, or maybe the two tracks would be much more at home in the context of an album. It could just be that the songs function too much as mood pieces; too abstract for the singles market. The lack of hooks make the songs a little too flimsy, perhaps. Even if there is a niche market for this kind of rock music, the single lacks a statement--not a political, social, or sexual statement necessarily, but it lacks a sense of purpose to latch onto. The style of alternative rock that the Life and Times are making is a difficult area to make a concrete statement in and still be able to garner the spacey qualities they love. That is a dilemma of post-rock and other affiliated subgenres: how do you create music based on mood and texture while still being able to galvanize a legitimate fan base?
The Life and Times may not be well suited for the singles market. Still, "Day II" and "Day III" prove that they have worth as a band that could be better heard on a full length.