The Narrative – Just Say Yes EP
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Record Label: Unsigned
Sure, there are plenty of bands that are flying under the proverbial radar, but few do it so elegantly as New York City’s The Narrative. Carefully mixing the lo-fi indie attitude of Death Cab for Cutie with the boy/girl pop sensibilities of old Straylight Run or Winterpills, The Narrative are like Penelope Cruz’s character in Vanilla Sky - beautiful, affecting, charming, and above all, guileless and without the least hint of pretense.
Just Say Yes starts off feeling like your favorite old blankie – a bit familiar, but still entirely welcome. From the crisp drum kick, hushed vocals, and sweet harmonies of “Castling,” The Narrative introduce themselves gently, but with an undeniable air of quiet splendor. The same vibe continues on “The Moment That It Stops,” where it is quite clear that these New Yorkers have more than a passing fondness for Photo Album-era Death Cab, which is of course a worthy recipient of an homage. Frontman Jesse Gabriel comes off like a less distressed, less bleeding heart Ben Gibbard, missing only the whispering croons of Seattle’s favorite son, while Suzie Zeldin’s backing vocals on the track sweeten it up with tasteful accents.
While these first two tracks might perhaps fall short of the emotional wallop of Death Cab’s finest, the next number, “Eyes Closed,” echoes the beauty of Transatlanticism’s finer offerings with apparent ease. Between the minimalist acoustic notes and Gabriel’s plaintive vocal delivery, the song paints a vividly captivating scene from the outset, and as Zeldin adds her angelic underscores on the climb to the anthem’s gratifying crescendo, the entire thing just works. In fact, it is the first time throughout the course of Just Say Yes that I found myself saying, “I love this.” Now that is a song that makes a statement.
Thankfully the group loses no steam on the EP’s remaining tracks, ending on a high water mark with the Suzie-led “Waiting Room,” which is an arrestingly honest reflection on health problems experienced by the chanteuse herself. Zeldin is hypnotic and pitch perfect here, contrasting her lyrical subject matter brilliantly with her gorgeous vocals. With fine performances like this, Suzie is sure to invite comparisons to Michelle Nolan, and other scene sirens, but there is still enough in Just Say Yes to stand apart from influences and contemporaries.
Just Say Yes might approach its listener unassumingly enough, what with its indie pop comforts and cartoonish artwork, but time spent with The Narrative’s EP proves it to be much more heavy-handed. The tracks are all well-structured, lyrically and musically poignant, and wear extremely well with time. If you do not love Just Say Yes upon first listen, then odds are you will by your fifth (and onto your thirtieth) for certain, as dissecting these little pop gems is as fun as getting lost in their surface grandeur. While not the type of band that is going to light the Soundscan charts on fire, The Narrative are easily one of the best unsigned bands out there and should find fans wherever they find listeners.