Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I Hear Sirens - I Hear Sirens EP
Artist: I Hear Sirens
Album: I Hear Sirens EP
Label: Self Released
01. This Is the Last Time I'll Say Goodbye
02. Like a Leaf From a Tree in It's Dying Season
03. September Isn't Too Far and I'm Not Sure I'll Return
04. Everything Was Black and White Except the City Lights
05. Ashes Fall Like Snowflakes, Burning the Sea
Any sensible music critic realizes that while it may benefit his or her analysis of a given album to situate its achievement within the history of a particular genre, it does the band a disservice to emphasize its context rather than personal identity. This is assuming, of course, that the artist’s record demonstrates some commitment to innovation and doesn’t use a certain “sound” as a crutch.
However abstract this opening is, it feels like a necessary disclaimer when reviewing a post-rock record, arguably one of the hardest genres or modes of rock music for a band to garner recognition. It seems counterintuitive that even sans the relatively limited capabilities of the human voice, contemporary and independent instrumental rock music has proven somewhat formulaic, though that’s not to say not enjoyable or effective. With their self-titled debut EP, Salt Lake City, Utah’s I Hear Sirens demonstrates that an artist can remain consistent to its default genre, be unsigned, have relatively cliché song titles… and still write excellent songs — ones which balance atmospherics and hooks better than many of the band’s peers.
Post-rock aside, I Hear Sirens is what bands like Mineral or Penfold would sound like without the distinctively emo vocals (I use the term in the sense also labeled “post-emo indie rock” according to the reputable Fourfa). To my knowledge, little criticism has been written about what constitutes emo music. Why does emo only refer to bands with vocalists? Why is a separate genre (post-rock) needed to designate its vocal-less counterpart? But here I go not heeding my own pontifications in the opening paragraph. The point is that, damn the pejorative connotations of the word, largely due to ignorant mainstream media, I Hear Sirens purveys glorious yet perfectly restrained emo, divested of out-of-tune (though no less brilliant ) vocalists. The fact that one of the record’s songs, “September Isn’t Too Far and I’m Not Sure I’ll Return,” takes its name from a track by former D.C. neo-emo act Fairweather evinces I Hears Sirens’ influences.
I Hear Sirens demonstrates the reasons for and benefits to an EP: cohesiveness and brevity. Every song belongs here and works here. There is no extraneous material, no pointless buildups or anticlimactic crescendos. This is a record too successful as a whole to be dissected by track-by-track critique, but a few elements deserve mention. There’s the distorted guitar/synth synergy in opener “This Is the Last Time I’ll Say Goodbye”; the relaxed, assured beauty of “Like a Leaf from a Tree in Its Dying Season,” which truly is one of the best instrumental tracks I’ve heard, a veritable symphony; the ghostly piano opening of interlude-esque “September”, previously mentioned, in which vocals do briefly appear; the simplistic yet driving piano line in second best track “Everything Was Black and White Except the City Lights”; and the fact that “Ashes Fall Like Snowflakes, Burning the Sea” expertly conjures the sea without even needing the track name. Their reference to Mineral in this final song, whether intentional or not, is so subtle and seamless that I grin upon hearing it rather than experiencing the violent nausea of Norma Jean aping Botch.
If you’re a fan of abbreviated post-rock done well (think Signal Hill) check out I Hear Sirens. With a label budget and its concomitant production capabilities, this talented foursome could easily craft a full length worthy of five stars. -Stephen Chamberlain(decoymusic.com)