The Assembly Line – Graves Like Oceans
Release Date: February 10, 2009
Record Label: Unsigned
”Graves like oceans swallow me whole.”
With a sea of sound and the same dynamic (and a few of the same songs) that made me love the EP so much when I heard it last summer, Graves Like Oceans has enveloped me in its folds and drowned me in its sound. I’m already doubtful as to whether I’ll hear a better album all year.
The album comprises the 6 tracks from the Explodes Like Fireworks EP, one of which, “Recovery,” has been re-mastered, and other 8 songs entirely new songs. I wasn’t sure if the all-round quality of the EP could be matched, but it may even have been narrowly beaten with this record. Every new song adds a fresh dimension to the music and each one is larger than life, engulfing me with wave after wave of brilliance.
The introductory track reminds us that “Hope And Expectation Are Not The Same,” i.e. while I hoped that it would be good, I, as a general detractor of intro tracks, did not expect it to be good. At first listen I didn’t entirely understand, but then I realized that it did exactly as it set out to do; all it is is a song comprising a couple of loops and a few sound clips in order to form a purposefully semi-coherent mish-mash of pleasant noises. Of course, this means that it can sound as if it were just a poorly-put-together piece at first, which is a shame. In short, it is an unnecessary addition to the record, but by no means a bad one.
Placed at track numbers 2, 3, 5, 8, 11 and 13 are the songs that made up the EP that was released last summer and even now these tracks hold the same power over me that they did back then - no mean feat in itself. One of these, “Recovery,” has been re-mastered for an even bigger and more powerful sound.
Each of the new songs is just as good as anything on the EP before it. The first of these is “Twenty Thousand Leagues.” Catchy, lyrically astute, and wonderfully pieced together, it makes for a great introduction to the new material. The song comes into its own two and a half minutes in, leading into a powerful and moving finish.
Following on from “Chasing Ghosts” is "11:11," a song that you can listen to more than just the two times a day that the title might suggest. Succeeding this is probably what many will consider to be the hidden surprise on the album, entitled “Awake.” It begins in a way that you might not even notice, before slipping into a soft, sleek piano ballad that I can’t help but love – I’m not even usually a fan of songs like this, but this band has changed my outlook on music so much over the past year that I’m no longer surprised by this.
“Heart to Life” is the next new song to feature and this, again, is one of my favorite songs on the record. In fact, it may even prove to be one of my favorite songs for the year, although to say for certain now would be premature by any standards. It has absolutely everything that makes this album what it is: big sounds, big choruses, good lyrics, and the singalongability factor (it’s a word if I tell you it is). The strings towards the end really bring it all together and make it that much more cohesive.
The next song is the one that gives the album its name, although its title, “Floating Fur And Feather,” doesn’t immediately lend itself to that thought. It starts a lot bigger than a lot of the songs on the album and continues on its way through, even adding horns (usually a pet peeve of mine), but, surprise surprise, I like it.
The penultimate new song to be featured on the album is “Sinking Ships,” a somewhat upbeat and catchy melody accompanied by the mellow, warm, and comforting vocals that permeate the album, before leading into the re-mastered “Recovery” and then the album’s closer, “These Hills And Valleys.” The latter is filled with symphonic strings throughout, teasing out more of the mood that dominates the album and makes it what it is. Interestingly, it also ends in chaos, in a way mirroring the opening of the album, wrapping everything up perfectly.
So, what has been achieved with these fourteen tracks? Well, for a start, a wonderfully cohesive whole. Nguyen surely knows how to put a song together (with the help of his producer, Mark Lewis, of course) and with this comes the huge, warm, and well-rounded sound that, hopefully, will make this album similarly big in terms of sales. Nevertheless, this could not have been accomplished without Nguyen’s voice; it sounds so relaxing, smooth, and warm, yet every time I hear any song on this album, old or new, my heart races and I still find it impossible to skip a single track. This is most definitely the first essential album to be released this year.
i have this album as well as the ep and i def have to say that not only does the music move and inspire one to realms that could only be hoped and dreamed of but it connects to the soul with sweeping smooth melodies that brings a serene sense of completeness. Kudos to the band and the music they have given to us :)