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Horizon: Sebastian Brkic / Pyne / Dead Sea Sparrow

September 13, 2012

It’s been a while since I did a horizon column, but this is where I put all the bands that are just a few steps away from being great. These bands have potential, and I’m looking forward to seeing them recognize it.

Pyne’s Songs that Start With ‘C’ came to my attention because Jaymes Pyne is also the lead singer in the chaotic post-hardcore band Heavier Than Air Flying Machines, which I enjoy. Pyne’s solo work is acoustic-based, sort of in the folk genre, so it’s a departure from what I first heard from him. The biggest strength and pitfall is the vast number of things going on in the album: opener “Corpus Luteum” has a ominous mood and acoustic riff that calls up Tom Waits or The Black Heart Procession, while following track “Right Time” is an upbeat folk strummer with a shuffle snare and airy sung vocals. Third track “Life” is country-esque fingerpicked tune. Several songs are piano-based, to great effect.

“Resolve” has an anthemic cast to it that is exaggerated by Pyne’s best falsetto impression of Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons). It’s the falsetto that he sticks with most throughout the album, and that makes this a divisive listen. If you’re on the side of theatrical falsettos, you’ll love the tunes where it happens. If not, you’ll be more on the side of tunes like “Holden’s Song” or “Indentured Together,” where Pyne sings full out against forceful strums. (I find the latter style far more appealing, but that’s a personal aesthetic preference.) But the experimentation is always interesting, so I’m looking forward to where he goes next.

I gave Dead Sea Sparrow‘s Hymns EP its own post because I was intrigued by its ambient elements. For the three-song Love and Lovers EP, the duo turns toward more traditional folk/pop song structures. This is a turn I like, since I cover mostly folk. “The Amateur” is a vocals-heavy tune that has the melodic structure and sway almost of a lullaby; “On Your Way” has an emotional desperation despite its calm sound that recalls Damien Jurado. Opener “The Gun” is the most complex track here, but it’s also the least engaging, as it obscures the simple joys that make the next two tracks so memorable in a morose mood. But Dead Sea Sparrow is definitely working with a good set of ideas here, and I look forward to see what they do with a little more than three songs in seven minutes–if this is the genre they stay in for a while.

Swedish songwriter Sebastian Brkic is a prolific artist, recording 38 songs over 7 releases in under a year. I came across his latest three-song EP 3, which features tunes that are all exactly three minutes long. The tightly constructed tunes fall into a genre that’s tough to peg: the high drama and soaring vocals of pop punk take center stage, but the soundscapes are darker and far more lush than those of three-chord mashers. He also throws in some synths and electronic work for good measure. That leaves Brkic’s songs somewhere between Coheed & Cambria, The Decemberists, and Dntel, which is indeed an odd mix. If that’s an intriguing idea, you should check out Brkic’s work.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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