Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Little Affair Find Their Light

Review by Andrew Daniels

For as much flak as Saves The Day’s In Reverie received upon its arrival in 2003, the album still had its fervent proponents, albeit a small faction of the band’s existing fans. While many felt abandoned because of the album’s departure from the prototypical pop-punk that had defined the band’s sound up until that point, others hailed In Reverie as wildly inventive and ambitious. Five years later, Saves The Day has arguably reverted back to their old, beloved sound in an effort to satisfy those they lost following the failure of In Reverie, and perhaps to appease themselves. There still remains, however, that diminutive – but growing – group of devotees who swear by the album, and proclaim it as the band’s crowning achievement. Because of its polarizing nature, I always thought In Reverie would begin to seep through as an influence on like-minded bands as the years went on.

It’s taken longer than I expected, but I think that influence has finally begun to manifest itself. The same melancholy, sweet sound that graced In Reverie can be found all over Find Your Light, the ambitious but uneven debut album from A Little Affair.

It’s apparent in the vocals of Ben Hughes, whose tenor resembles Chris Conley’s in the era when he first began singing through his nose. It’s also evident in the style of Hughes’s songwriting; never content to stay with a standard chord progression for too long, his structure takes unexpectedly sophisticated turns.

On “Making Wishes”, which opens the album, a power-pop verse filled with distortion becomes a clean, moody chorus, complete with lilting falsetto. If nothing else, the choice to start off the album with a blasé ballad is surprising. Most bands need to come out of the gate furiously, and deliver immediate satisfaction; these guys are content with making you wait and work for it. It’s ballsy, but with their prowess, it’s a move that pays off. After demonstrating all that their sound encompasses in three and a half minutes, it’s time to backtrack. “Repetition” follows, and it’s an excellent, upbeat song that swiftly darts by, plainly accessible but undeniably smart. “Blurry” is in the same fashion. It’s an exercise in vocal restraint over an immediate background (bassist Tom Cochran and drummer Ryan Buzby are a more-than-adept rhythm section), and I only wish there more songs on the album in the same vein. That balance is hard to achieve, and when they’re on, they’re on.

But too often after “Blurry”, the band never really takes off again. The second half of the album is filled with slower laments that begin to blend in with each other. The music is still smart and melodic, but it becomes harder to pay attention to the intricacies when the songs themselves don’t move forward. It’s hard to distinguish songs like “Radio Station Beliefs” and “Repression” from each other. Even though they are still expertly arranged, the music becomes monotonous, and you’re left wishing for it to pick back up soon.

The album’s biggest downfall, aside from it being top-heavy, is its production. It’s very, very raw and mixed so that the drums tend to be in the front and the vocals are muddy in the back. It can be distracting, and you’re left imagining what it may have sounded like had it been professionally recorded. Still, I can’t even begin to discredit the band, who produced the album entirely themselves. They’ve painstakingly crafted a debut album without the help of anyone, and even if they’re not particularly skilled at production, their songwriting more than makes up for it.

For a debut album, Find Your Light is undeniably promising, if not ultimately impressive. The band is well intentioned with a definite drive (see the documentary on the making of the album on the band’s Myspace page for the full grasp), and it’s hard to pigeonhole them into any particular “scene” because of the left-turns they make, and the overall maturity of their music. Like In Reverie, the album may turn out to be overlooked and underappreciated, but by no means should it be.

Hear tracks from Find Your Light at A Little Affair's Myspace page. The album is available online via their Myspace.

No comments: