DAILY RECORDS : Sea Of Bees, Typhoon

by | Jun 7, 2010 | MUSIC

Sea Of BeesSongs For The Ravens (Crossbill Records)

The first term that comes to mind when listening to Songs For the Ravens, the most recent full-length for Sea Of Bees, is “easy”. This word can be related to the album in different ways depending upon the general listening persuasions of each individual listener. For a fan of atmospheric, indie-leaning pop music, the album is easy in the sense of being readily accessible, borrowing liberally from the more compelling aspects of comparable artists – for the most part it falls somewhere between the elfin whimper of Joanna Newsom and the damaged Americana of recent Wilco albums. The problem is that, despite the lack of anything especially unpleasant, there is an overall slickness which can render the proceedings somewhat disingenuous.

Which is not to say that there is much specifically wrong with the album. No notes or instruments are off-key or out of place. The most obvious points of comparison are as au courant as any hip indie rocker could hope to be. The problem is that, where many of the aforementioned influences are unafraid to incorporate a little dissonance or a bit of a challenge to the listener, Songs For The Ravens possesses no real grit, nothing messy, sticky, or otherwise compelling about the album. It’s the sort of Starbuck’s/Muzak version of indie rock – a heavily-crafted nod to Pitchfork-friendly reference points which also won’t alienate anybody’s mom. Which isn’t to say all the songs are bad. Most are pleasant enough, but fail to distinguish themselves from each other or from any number of like-minded acts crowding South By Southwest stages and vying for Myspace friend requests.

There are promising moments, however. Songs like Gnomes and Marmalade show hints of a better-developed version of the Sea Of Bees sound, slightly darker and more country-oriented – not far from older Neko Case but also not a direct imitation. If songs like these predominated, this album would be a far more memorable endeavor. As it stands, however, there is little contained herein which makes a convincing case for repeated listens.

Typhoon – Hunger + Thirst (Tender Loving Empire)

This album is a trainwreck. Equal parts sub-Conor Oberst melodrama and sub-Arcade Fire orchestration, it is difficult to say whether Hunger + Thirst would be a better album if the band decided on a focus or not. While a multifaceted approach to songwriting is a commendable trait in any album, this particular album doesn’t really pull it off. It would be easy to say that it suffers from schizophrenic songwriting – a mélange of mopey sad-boy vocals and occasional uptempo horn sections – but even that descriptor suggests a manic swing between moods. As it stands, this album mixes the moderately sad with the moderately happy, a robotic approximation of joy and its opposite which sells short the spectrum of emotional experiences available to us all as human beings.

As stated earlier, it is hard to say whether this would be any better if Typhoon decided to stick with a singular approach. Their version of sadness is toothless and their version of happiness sounds like they just woke up from a long nap. So perhaps it’s for the best that they attempted to combine these variations on a theme, because their attempt at emotional range seems to be the only thing they have going for them. Even the instrumentation, which supplements the standard guitar/bass/drum rock and roll line-up with horn sections, toy piano, and upright bass often seems under-utilized, as if it’s a sort of window-dressing which exists only to cover up the songs’ inclination towards insipid melodrama.

In a nutshell, this is a tepid, soulless attempt to rehash the sort of sensitive-emo-boy-with-a-guitar thing that was huge ten years ago (a la Dashboard Confessional) in the guise of squeaky clean choir boy indie orchestration (a la Anathallo). Any listener who enjoys music with heart, soul, or originality should stay far, far away from this.



Sea Of BeesSongs For The Ravens (Crossbill Records)

The first term that comes to mind when listening to Songs For the Ravens, the most recent full-length for Sea Of Bees, is “easy”. This word can be related to the album in different ways depending upon the general listening persuasions of each individual listener. For a fan of atmospheric, indie-leaning pop music, the album is easy in the sense of being readily accessible, borrowing liberally from the more compelling aspects of comparable artists – for the most part it falls somewhere between the elfin whimper of Joanna Newsom and the damaged Americana of recent Wilco albums. The problem is that, despite the lack of anything especially unpleasant, there is an overall slickness which can render the proceedings somewhat disingenuous.

Which is not to say that there is much specifically wrong with the album. No notes or instruments are off-key or out of place. The most obvious points of comparison are as au courant as any hip indie rocker could hope to be. The problem is that, where many of the aforementioned influences are unafraid to incorporate a little dissonance or a bit of a challenge to the listener, Songs For The Ravens possesses no real grit, nothing messy, sticky, or otherwise compelling about the album. It’s the sort of Starbuck’s/Muzak version of indie rock – a heavily-crafted nod to Pitchfork-friendly reference points which also won’t alienate anybody’s mom. Which isn’t to say all the songs are bad. Most are pleasant enough, but fail to distinguish themselves from each other or from any number of like-minded acts crowding South By Southwest stages and vying for Myspace friend requests.

There are promising moments, however. Songs like Gnomes and Marmalade show hints of a better-developed version of the Sea Of Bees sound, slightly darker and more country-oriented – not far from older Neko Case but also not a direct imitation. If songs like these predominated, this album would be a far more memorable endeavor. As it stands, however, there is little contained herein which makes a convincing case for repeated listens.

Typhoon – Hunger + Thirst (Tender Loving Empire)

This album is a trainwreck. Equal parts sub-Conor Oberst melodrama and sub-Arcade Fire orchestration, it is difficult to say whether Hunger + Thirst would be a better album if the band decided on a focus or not. While a multifaceted approach to songwriting is a commendable trait in any album, this particular album doesn’t really pull it off. It would be easy to say that it suffers from schizophrenic songwriting – a mélange of mopey sad-boy vocals and occasional uptempo horn sections – but even that descriptor suggests a manic swing between moods. As it stands, this album mixes the moderately sad with the moderately happy, a robotic approximation of joy and its opposite which sells short the spectrum of emotional experiences available to us all as human beings.

As stated earlier, it is hard to say whether this would be any better if Typhoon decided to stick with a singular approach. Their version of sadness is toothless and their version of happiness sounds like they just woke up from a long nap. So perhaps it’s for the best that they attempted to combine these variations on a theme, because their attempt at emotional range seems to be the only thing they have going for them. Even the instrumentation, which supplements the standard guitar/bass/drum rock and roll line-up with horn sections, toy piano, and upright bass often seems under-utilized, as if it’s a sort of window-dressing which exists only to cover up the songs’ inclination towards insipid melodrama.

In a nutshell, this is a tepid, soulless attempt to rehash the sort of sensitive-emo-boy-with-a-guitar thing that was huge ten years ago (a la Dashboard Confessional) in the guise of squeaky clean choir boy indie orchestration (a la Anathallo). Any listener who enjoys music with heart, soul, or originality should stay far, far away from this.

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work: www.majormajor.me




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