Saturday, September 29, 2012

REVIEW: The Winter Sounds – ‘Runner’


With a huge archive of music in my head nowadays, a song/band has to change my life a little bit for me to look into them. Get some headphones. Listen to The Winter Sounds’ latest musical journey – Runner – with me. Now, please.
Beatufitully bright synths swell to the incessent rhythm of a steady drum beat. The melodies seem to unfold before your very eyes and each chorus feels fully-developed. Gang vocals in the chorus really give it energy and a delicate strength. They remind me of a band that no one knows(but everyone should) called Nightmare of You. They’ve developed a similar style with their theatrical indie rock. Unexpectedly, during a full breakdown you hear an organic sound; a piano. Then it’s time to blast off into space again for another glorious chorus. As far as openers go this is an extremely epic and polished entrance to Runner for TWS.
“Devils” hits you hard right away with jarring synthesized band hits. Nothing sounds washed out, but every fraction finds it’s own frequency to shine. They have this worldly feel to their music that displays quite an ecclectic blend of global influences. They manage to build from something so simple into a controlled chaos consisting of the marriage between non-chalant vocals and thick instrumentation. There’s an undeniable Robert Smith aspect to their singer, who I’m guessing is Patrick Keenan(only one random site lists him as a “singer-songwriter” so I thought it was safe to say).
Was that moment awkward? Anywho. Track three, “Run From The Wicked” tones down the intensity, but keeps the rhythm up nicely. If Two Door Cinema Club was a little harder, I’d expect something dance-y like this track. I’m really enjoying the drums actually. This song displays a different genre of rhythm in each part of the song: the intro started with an indie rock anthem, transforming seamlessly into a four-on-the-floor dance beat, which then drops momentarily into an emo-esque breakdown. Turning the intensity knob slightly down again, TWS delivers another toe-tapping anthem fit for a scene from your favorite 80’s movie. “Old Man Old Woman” helps you sink just a little deeper into your chair with delicate use of reverb that is never to the detriment of the vocals. It’s only track four and I’ve already been on such a journey.
Hello synths. “Bird on Fire” delivers this empowering and speedy riff backed by an unrelenting rhythm section – the bass is killing it. This is almost like a Cure song on speed. The violins riding alongside the synth sounds makes for a great team. This feels so fresh to me. Even the vocals have an overdrive to them that separates this from the others on the album. All of a sudden, we’re into “Shoulders Above” which sounds like a cover of a Dookie b-side. The chorus sounds so Greenday it’s crazy. Another great break and build brings you into an epic outro. The switch to a more organic sound makes this track a standout favorite of mine.
Experimenting more, “Young Love” strays further. With their Wombats-esque sound displayed here, they deliver more of a straight up indie rock tune…oh, but with a gang of violins. Did I forget to mention the mob of stringed instruments? And our first real deep breath comes with “Don’t Change At All.” Despite a pretty loud chorus, the rest of the song acheives a pretty relaxed feel. Bringing the strings to the front somehow bring out a folky/country dance track.
The country-infused “Everything Comes Home To Die” is almost too upbeat and danceable for the meaning of the song. “I can’t stay here another hour. Who wants a nightmare?” That’s a Saves The Day move I know well. I’m loving the instrumental break, hitting a pop-punk-infused breakdown for the bridge. Back to what they do best, “You Had a Bad Dream” displays there unique genre-blending with a jarring transition into the jaunty piano rock chorus that’s actually pretty fun and catchy. This is also a great track to show how well the string production is on this album. Sometimes just a single line, and sometimes a large wall of violins, they lift these songs up pretty high above a typical rock sound.
Gradually bringing the tempo of the album down, “Robots Marching” is well-received but the most generic sounding. While I appreciate the slower song, this might be the weakest track on the record thus far; but, at just(barely) over two minutes, it was an appropriate rest for my toes tapping in my chucks.
An instrumental interlude will bring you back to a engaging pace, starting with a simple dance beat is met with a lovely synth line. “Carousel” is just as easy-going as a couple of the previous tracks, but there’s an intensity that makes you move around. It’s the softness a la Passion Pit that they’re achieving with this tune. This is a great callback to some of what I loved about their sound, as they draw out each instrumental part nicely. This is the final track as well, and it’s a pretty lovey-dovey ending for Runner.
I can’t wait to listen to this album again. I had it playing while I was proofreading this review, and while I was emailing it to my editor…and once more after that. I’ll probably be listening to it well into the evening. I’m excited to look into more from The Winter Sound, and you can too here:
  1. The Sun Also Rises
  2. Devils
  3. Run From The Wicked
  4. Old Man Old Woman
  5. Bird on Fire
  6. Shoulders Above
  7. Young Love
  8. Don’t Change At All
  9. Everything Wounded Comes Home to Die
  10. You Had a Bad Dream
  11. Robots Marching
  12. Carousel

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