Genre : Indie Pop/Electronic/Acoustic/Baroque
Year : 2010
Label : Independently Released
A friend once shared these pearls of wisdom through an SMS; it read, ‘The longest distance on earth is not from North Pole to South Pole, it is when I stand in front of you and you ignore me!’ Though the message had a mischievous tone to it, it had darker connotations; a stark representation of the times we live in, aptly summarising the isolationist streak due to strained relationships, disgruntled pasts, the constantly depleting time for loved ones and being a non-participant in their lives, the surfeited madness resulting from over indulgence in materialistic woolgathering and the excessive time spent in achieving monetary security at the cost of the very needs one is so desperately achieving this moneyed blanket for - mental peace and familial happiness. Though the reasons causing it are very personal and painful (some accept the reality and move on, a lucky few struggle initially and later triumph over it and others complain all their life of being stuck in a rut) there are umpteen explanations provided to give self-satisfaction as to why one is a victim and why one’s hands are tied and fists tight. Literati, preachers, psychologists and common people like you and me have extensively investigated this contrast and irony and its deep foothold in our society and why we are a victim of it too; the problem however remains as unsolved as always and most of it can be blamed to inaction, fear of losing it all and just plain ignorance. Many records have tried to address these pertinent and life altering issues with dramatic effect; but, it is mostly from the perspective of the affected person – the self-pitying, the loathing, the loneliness, the pain, the claustrophobia, the insecurities and the subsequent addiction to drugs and alcohol (The National’s Boxer and High Violet serve as near examples) and there are a few that are with respect to the affected individual’s ability, vigour and attitudinal shifts towards life, bringing a positive impact on relationships with friends and family (and the surroundings). It is the latter theme where records mostly falter; they sound cloyingly artificial and insensate and hence do not penetrate the stone hearted psyche and emotionally dead persona. But, when you have boy-next-door but grounded-in-reality and yearning vocals similar to that of Ben Gibbard ( the vocalist’s name is Ben too)that remind one of Death Cab for Cutie, literate lyrics that pack a punch like LCD Soundsystem and some electronica thrown in, the message gets ingrained and the persuasive effect – a hundred percent.
‘What Happened’ is a minefield of messages; every few steps into each song, they burst like bombs in your mind and impact the psyche, but leave you something to enjoy and cheer about with the candy like sweetness of Ben Vrazo’s vocals and the non-overbearing ambiance of the record. The record sends the socially charged messages across, muses about the repercussions and exalts and inspires you to think humanely, but, never cracks a whip or bosses around in the form of tempestuous behaviour. In essence it is a catchy and atmospheric pop record that is laced with good intent and it makes no bones about it. Baroque ingredients embellish the tracks and aggrandize the ambient touch. Also, the record has a structure and tracks have been placed in order such that they meld effortlessly into each other. ‘Love Make’, the album opener, proclaims triumphantly with a pseudo-crescendo of brass, piano notes and scattered gear changing sounds and xylophones, “You have love to give, so give it away and let go of the wrongs you’ve done! You’ve got today, so make your life your own”; asking you to stop inhabiting a world of lies and to start living in a real world. The message is a simple one, but, sung so convincingly that you really want to follow in his footsteps. ‘On My Friends’, a jovial track about refraining from needlessly blaming your friends for your downfalls and the unbreakable spirit of not giving up in life, riding on a wave of war-like drums, warm and frolicking guitar chords and Tuba notes and Ben’s wordless falsetto exultations, wonderfully words, “Losing my mind is never easy; on my friends. Focus your thoughts, pretty deeply. Make it through the dark. No more living alone, no more running away. Singing one last note, before I walk off stage”. Psuedo-crescendos adorn the track again, as if to highlight the messages being sent out. The record does not have skyward pointing Sigur Ros’ like build ups but those that plateau in correspondence with the vocals.‘Else’ takes pokes at a female who is not ready to forego her freedom and her wild ways to settle down in life and then compares her to his mom. ‘The Hungry’ a stellar clanging boom bap track on the album deftly features an interplay of surging atmospherics of charging acoustic guitar chords, synths and brass and pensive deadening passages of scattered xylophones and desolate piano stabs and pads. It muses, “ The shadow’s controlled by the light. But, I live, between day and night. We fool ourselves, the hunger’s in our minds. The mess we’ve made, for ourselves!” how astoundingly it uses words to send a message of how we sometimes complicate our lives to achieve something beyond our control. ‘Hurry Hurry’ has a tension building instrumental prelude signifying the distance between our loved ones and right around the 3 minute mark it excoriates this juvenile behaviour and enunciates, “Let us all be friends, we’ll put aside the TV sets, we’ll hold each other’s hands, we’ll wipe each other’s tears, we won’t go blow it with simple human fear! Hurry Hurry can’t we go for our hearts, we’ll all die young, or minds will fall apart, our jobs will consume us, we won’t be known apart from the others!”. At this point of time, this statement takes the listener by surprise but leaves a hard hitting and insanely lasting impact. Track after track of goodness; this band is on a roll. Dropping another bomb, on ‘Hollywood’ this time, it animadverts and pities the state of affairs in public life and celebrityhood and takes pot-shots at people who are opportunistic, “Look at the coffin with golden handles, look at the flowers already withered, isn’t it great being dead! Look at the mourners; they are all hypocrites, look at the preachers needing attention! Let’s not have a sniffle, let’s have a good cry home.” It is messages like these that abound the cinematic brilliance and the substance of the record as you can both revel in the cherubic wholesomeness and the awe inspiring enthusiasm of the trio – Ian Sigmon, John Katona and Ben Vrazo.
Till the end of the record which is at the beautiful ‘Skin Cloud’, full of digital reverb, comely strings, uplifting falsettos, it shines like a diamond and pierces like an arrow straight into your heart. The songwriting is superb, the lyrics outstanding and the vocals contingent on these elements. It is really refreshing to hear this record. Also, there is something that needs to be cleared out – this is no Postal Service; this music is original and a lot better than Postal Service.