Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Spend some hours with Thistle

January 6, 2009

The guys in Thistle rock the indie music scene, and they’ve been doing it for longer than most people in the business. Formed in 1994, these guys have patiently developed their sound into something so formidable any mainstream band should be honored to share the stage with them. When listening to them, I drew parallels to Emery mixed with a little Jonezetta. There’s also a hint of the Hives, maybe even a bit of Weezer. Their most recent album is called The Small Hours, and it merits some serious attention.

Thistle is Toby Weiss on bass, Rick McCarty on drums, and Mike Montgomery rounding out the group with vocals and guitars. After playing with each other for so long, these guys have developed an incredible sense of balance, with none of them ever overpowering the others. Their sound is full and rich, a foundation of pounding drums and bass over which Montgomery’s guitars and vocals float perfectly.

Ironically, two of the songs I really liked on the album were “The Ground Begins” and “The Distant Talk of Brothers,” both instrumental tracks. I found them absolutely fascinating, entirely in keeping with the rest of the album’s sound, but reminiscent of work from post-rock ensembles like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You. Members of Thistle: if you’re reading this, I think an instrumental album would be really cool.

“Year of Frozen Limbs” is one of the better songs on the album – it seems like there are moments of clarity on this album, and this is one of them. The vocals seem clearer; they’re powerful without losing control. Frankly, I enjoyed Montgomery’s vocals on this song much more than on “Coffin Notes” (which is saying something, because that song was pretty good). Pounding, insistent refrains provide the perfect counterpart to the vocals on this track.

The last track on the album is the aptly-titled “The Departure.” An awesome guitar lick opens it, and bass and drums have a good intro point. Unfortunately, it feels like the vocals came in too early, subduing what could have been a really powerful build into the song. Overall, though, this seems more thought-out than the other tracks, and it’s a great way to end the album. It feels as though everything up to “The Departure” was just to prepare for this song. None of the parts are particularly complicated, but they’re pulled off perfectly – the blend is exquisite between bass, drums, guitar, and vocals. This is the sum of the album.

Thistle is one of those bands that grows on you. The first time I listened to the 2008 album The Small Hours, I was unimpressed. The more I heard it, though, the more I liked it. If you want to hear a great contribution to the independent music scene, I recommend looking at The Small Hours by Thistle.

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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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