Sunday, September 14, 2008

Review: Bound Stems - The Family Afloat (* * * *)

I don't have the time or energy to write one of my longer reviews here, but I wanted to at least mention a band that has impressed me this last week with their latest release. I've heard Bound Stems refered to as a "math-rock" band, though I have to be honest and say I've never been 100% clear on what "math rock" is. So, I'll classify it as classic indie rock with some punk and folk influences, though labeling these guys is tough. Whatever you call it, The Family Afloat is an impressive and unique collection of tunes that covers quite a bit of territory in ten tracks.

Starting with "Taking Tips From the Gallery Gang," a song that doesn't have a verse/chorus structure as much as three distinct sections, you'll know that you're in for a ride. Beginning with a mess of guitars, keys, and earnest vocals, the track eventually evolves into a chanted chorus with a joyous horn arrangement. It's weird, wonderful, and unexpected. As the album progresses, Bound Stems slow things down, speed them back up, briefly introduce a choir of children, and manage to keep the whole project somehow connected and relevant. Whether playing folk-rock on the banjo-led "Winston" or raw punk on "Passing Bell," the band sounds comfortable and proficient.

Bottom line; The Family Afloat is a showcase for a talented band with a remarkable ability to combine their influences and ideas into something exciting and fun.

Favorite Tracks: "Taking Tips From the Gallery Gang," "Palace Flophouse Grill," "Winston"

Listen to: "Happens To Us All Otherwise"